What Hard Aspects Are in Astrology: Struggles or Fuel for Personal Growth?

In life, not everyone sees eye to eye with everyone else. The same can hold true for the planets on a birth chart. In astrology, a challenging relationship is referred to as a “hard aspect.” But what exactly is a hard aspect and what does it mean if you have one on your chart?

Hard aspects in astrology are specific angles between planets on a natal chart, or between transiting planets, that indicate that the two may struggle to cooperate. There may be friction between the planets, or they may compete for control. Two major hard aspects are oppositions and squares.

If you’re wondering if you may have hard aspects in your natal chart and curious what this may mean for you, keep reading to learn how to spot them, what type of hard aspects you may have, and how to deal with them.

a woman sitting outside and thinking, illustrating struggling with hard aspects in astrology

Hard Aspects Explained

There is a lot of geometry used in astrology. Because a birth chart is circular, the units used for measurement in astrological charts are degrees, just like you learned in math class. Aspects are simply angles between two planets on a chart that are a specific number of degrees apart.

We are talking about hard aspects in this article, but some of these angles are considered to be soft aspects, meaning that the planets have a harmonious relationship. Hard aspects, on the other hand, indicate that there is some kind of struggle between the two. This information comes from years and years of observations made by astrologers throughout the history of the craft.

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Hard aspects don’t indicate doom and gloom or some kind of tragic destiny, so don’t worry if you spot them in your chart. That isn’t to say that in a hard aspect the planets will always play well together, but as you will read at the end of this article, understanding where your hard aspects lie on your chart is actually a great first step to using them to your advantage and turning these challenging relationships into a benefit in your life.

How to Find Hard Aspects on a Chart

If you haven’t gotten a copy of your birth chart yet, go to Astrodienst and pull yours up. It’s free to use, has many options to customize your chart how you like, and the site even stores multiple charts for you.

When you pull up a birth chart in Astrodienst, you will see something similar to the screenshot of the example chart below.

birth chart showing hard aspects

Right away, you see many blue, red, and dotted lines jutting this way and that through the center of the chart. These represent aspects in your chart. Astrodienst makes it easy by drawing the hard aspects in red and the soft aspects in blue. The green dotted lines are considered to be minor aspects that you will learn about more later in the article.

detail of a birth chart with an arrow pointing to the hard aspect between the moon and saturn

In the chart above, you can see a hard aspect between the Moon and Saturn. This indicates that there will be some kind of struggle between the goals and motivations of the two. However, once we know what specific type of hard aspect it is, that will give more information about the type of challenges the Moon and Saturn will face.

So how do you know what type of hard aspect it is? Luckily, Astrodienst makes this easy as well because there is a table next to the chart that offers this information.

A closeup of the aspects table for a natal chart that is using arrows to point out that the hard aspect between the Moon and Saturn is a square

The aspects table can look a little overwhelming but is actually quite simple to read. We are looking for the hard aspect that exists between the Moon and Saturn. If you follow the column that the Moon is in down until you reach the row that Saturn is in, you can see that the symbol shown is a red square. That aspect is actually called a square in astrology, but below I am including a table with all of the symbols for the hard aspects so that you can easily find their names.

*Get more information on how to read aspect tables in our article all about it here.

Hard Aspect Symbols in Astrology

SymbolHard Aspect

The Major Hard Aspects

Now that you know how to determine which hard aspects you have in your chart, the next step is understanding what type of relationship that aspect symbolizes.

Astrologers place a different amount of attention on different aspects. The aspects that are considered to be more influential are referred to as the “major aspects” and those with less importance overall are called the “minor aspects.” For hard aspects, there are only two that are considered major, the opposition and the square.

Opposition ☍

The aspect called the opposition represents a relationship where planets are 180 degrees apart. This means that these two planets are on completely opposite sides of the chart.

a birth chart with arrows pointing out an opposition between Jupiter and the Sun

In the sample chart above, you can see that there is an opposition between Jupiter and the Sun. There is actually another opposition between Jupiter and Mercury, as well.

Planets in an opposition are on opposite sides of the chart and in a game of tug-of-war to get their needs met. This creates a place of tension in the chart.

Looking at the chart above, Jupiter in Cancer is in an opposition with the Sun in Sagittarius. The Sun wants to bring vitality to this person’s life and personality through (Sagittarius) having as many different experiences as possible and traveling the world. Jupiter wants to expand this person’s faith through (Cancer) taking care of their home and family. As you can see, this opposition could cause some tension!

An opposition could result in a power grab where each planet tries to exert itself and overpower the other, leaving the individual to continuously switch their attention and energy back and forth between the two.

The two planets don’t necessarily want to silence or destroy the other, they simply want to make sure their needs are met. I think of an opposition like two siblings vying for the attention of their parents. As long as they feel satisfied, they are ok with the sibling getting what they want as well.

In the example above with the opposition between adventure-hungry Sagittarius Sun and homebody Jupiter in Cancer, this type of response to the opposition could look like a person who can’t make up their mind about where they want to plant themselves. One day on a whim they may decide to uproot themselves and embark on a months-long tour of Asia, only to get there and feel homesick the entire time, scrapping the last leg of the trip to come home.

man sitting on his couch with his hood up and hands over his face in stress and frustration, illustrating an opposition hard aspect

Oppositions can feel like knee-jerk reactions that pull a person one way, and then the other. The individual struggles to grow in that area of life because, rather than forward movement, they move sideways being pulled and tugged between the two opposing planets. This can be both confusing and frustrating. But, it doesn’t have to be that way.

If we don’t look at oppositions as unfortunate aspects in our charts, but rather as areas that just need extra attention, we can actually use what we know about our hard aspects to try to avoid their pitfalls and fuel personal growth.

For an opposition, a compromise must be struck. When looking at the needs and motivations of the planets in that aspect, it is important to try to figure out some common ground and a way that both can “win” at the same time. The reaction to both planets must blend together in a duality. When this happens, the strengths and struggles of each planet can balance one another out, resulting in a stronger response to both with less confusion and competition between them.

To look at our example chart one more time, to find a compromise between our domestic Jupiter in Cancer and restless Sagittarius Sun could look like the individual creating a life where their family travels with them. Or, shorter trips could be planned if they are traveling alone, recognizing in advance that home will be calling them back sooner than they think. While home, this person could also double-down on reading about different cultures or watching documentaries about different places in the world, making sure they are not neglecting their Sagittarius Sun when home.

This is where the creative and intuitive aspect of astrology comes into play. With an opposition, brainstorm and ask yourself how many different ways the two planets could have their needs met at the same time. This will offer a long list of ideas to try and different ways to try to find a good balance between the two.

Square □

The other major hard aspect in astrology is called the square and it represents a relationship where planets are 90 degrees apart.

birth chart with arrows pointing out Cancer Sun square Aries Mars

Looking at our same example chart, we can see that there is a square between the Sun in Cancer and Mars in Aries.

In a square, the planets can’t see eye to eye in any capacity and they prefer to completely eclipse the other. Like an opposition, each is fighting for attention, but what is different with a square is that they see no room for compromise. They are out to squash the other.

For the square in our example chart above, the Cancer Sun is looking to find vitality and a sense of identity through taking care of family and nurturing others. It is dead set on keeping the emotions of itself and others at the forefront of life and seeking stability for its family. At the same time, Mars in Aries is ready for action and to assert itself and isn’t too concerned about how others feel about it. It is comfortable risk-taking, acting alone, and being independent. With these planets squared, these two very different voices are acting out loudly in the mind of that individual at the same time. Talk about inner-conflict!

A square can cause stress in an individual in the areas of life that the planets are affecting because of the constant turmoil. It could be difficult for this person to grow in these areas because of it.

Another outcome could be that one of the planets in the square succeeds at eclipsing the other. While the individual may excel in the areas of life the dominating planet is influencing, the needs and strengths of the other planet have been silenced. In that scenario, the individual will completely miss out on the lessons and gifts that the planet had to offer.

In our Cancer Sun square Aries Mars example from the chart above, this could play out with the Sun overpowering Mars completely. The individual could put all of its energy into domestic tranquility, but miss out on the opportunities for growth that their assertive and pioneering side could have brought them.

woman lying on a couch with her hand over her eyes, illustrating Taurus Moon square Virgo Saturn

But, even though it may not always be easy, it is definitely possible to find a positive outcome from a square aspect.

One way to think about resolving an issue with a square is to pull both along at the same time, kicking and screaming. They may not like it, but they aren’t given a choice. Give both planets equal energy in life, even if it can’t be at the same time. This must be a conscious effort, but with this approach, neither planet is allowed to overshadow the other and the strengths and gifts of both can shine.

Again, looking at our example chart and our Cancer Sun square Aries Mars, this individual may be happy being a stay-at-home parent or selfless social worker by day, but by night that same person may need to plan in a mixed martial arts class, join a paintball club, or learn how to free climb up a cliff face.

In working with a square, two very different things can be true about the same person. An individual doesn’t need to pigeonhole themselves into being one “type of person”, and definitely shouldn’t if they have a square in their chart. They should put energy into both things.

Just like with the example above, this individual can be a warm, cushy person that others can count on for comfort and affection, while also being a person who is an aggressive powerhouse ready to run full speed toward the next adventure.

While the two planets may not be able to work together at the same time, they can definitely both be woven into the same life.

The Minor Hard Aspects

Minor aspects are generally not one of the first things an astrologer would look to in a chart for clues or guidance. They are thought by many astrologers to not be as influential as the major aspects but could offer more detail in a reading. There are 4 minor hard aspects I will explain here, the quincunx, semi-square, semisextile, and sesquiquadrate.

Quincunx ⚻

What many astrologers feel is the most important of the minor aspects is the quincunx which describes two planets that are 150 degrees apart. This is also an aspect that astrologers don’t all agree on if it is considered hard, soft or neither.

In a quincunx, the signs involved have nothing in common, such as sharing the same element or modality. This makes for a situation where the two planets involved have a very difficult time understanding one another and finding common ground. This can be very frustrating, but when enough attention, time, and energy is given to the situation, with a quincunx the planets can figure out how to work together and the relationship can improve and actually become a beneficial one.

Semi-Square ∠

The semi-square is a hard aspect where two planets are 45 degrees apart. A semi-square has a similar effect on planets as a square, but simply less intense.

With a semi-square, the tension between the two planets can be an irritation, but a minor one that may not feel imperative to deal with. Even though the frustration level is less with a semi-square, it still indicates an area of life where improvement and growth can be made.

Semi-Sextile ⚺

In a semi-sextile, two planets are 30 degrees apart. In this relationship, the two planets are in two signs that are right next to each other.

I think of the semi-sextile like a teenager and parent relationship. The planet in the “more advanced” sign is like the parent that looks back at the planet in the sign behind them as immature and irritating, even they were there themselves once. The planet in the “less advanced” sign is like the teenager that rebels and resists becoming like their parent, even though it is inevitable.

It is a minor frustration, but another area where, when thought and energy are given to it, there is room for personal growth.

Sesquiquadrate ⚼

A sesquiquadrate is an aspect where two planets are 135 degrees apart. This relationship may be challenging, but the issues it causes may be completely off of the individual’s radar and they may not be consciously aware of it. It may take an outside event or situation to bring awareness of the tension between the two planets or the struggles the aspect is causing for the person.

Orbs and Aspects

Not every aspect is created equal. The strength of the aspect is determined by the size of what astrologers call the orb. This simply means how close the planets are to the exact angle of the aspect. The smaller the orb, the closer the planets are to creating the perfect angle of aspect, the more power lies in that relationship.

The size of orbs is also measured in terms of degrees. If two planets are 181 degrees apart, they are in opposition with a 1 degree orb. If the planets are 93 degrees apart, they are square with a 3 degree orb.

Each astrologer has their own opinion on what size orbs constitute an important aspect. But, as a general guideline, for major aspects, 5 degrees and less is considered highly influential with anything less than an orb of 3 degrees thought to be especially important. Major aspects with orbs greater than 7 degrees may not carry much influence in the chart.

For minor aspects, many astrologers don’t consider them if they have an orb larger than 2-3 degrees.

One of my favorite astrologers, Steven Forrest, wrote in his book, The Inner Sky, that the Sun and Moon are generally allowed a slightly larger orb when considering their aspects than the other planets.

Astrodienst makes it easy to see the orbs of the aspects in your chart and include them in the aspect table. You can see in the table below that Mars is square Uranus with an orb of 4 degrees.

a natal chart aspect table showing a hard aspect of a square with a 4 degree orb between mars and uranus

Can Only Planets Have Aspects?

Planets aren’t the only parts of a natal chart that can have aspects. Angles in the chart, such as the Ascendant and Midheaven, can also aspect planets.

Aspects involving important angles, such as the Ascendant, may be hard to determine from simply looking at the chart, but in Astrodienst charts, they can be found in the aspect table.

a picture of the aspect table of a birth chart with arrows pointing out a hard aspect opposition between the ascendant and sun

In the table above, you can see that the Sun is in opposition with “AC,” which stands for the Ascendant. It shows an 8 degree orb for this aspect, so not incredibly strong, but still influential since it involves the Sun.

Also, we can’t forget about the transiting, or moving, planets. Transiting planets can aspect one another and can also aspect with planets or angles in a natal chart.

To find out what transiting planets may be making aspects to your natal planets, turn on transits in Astrodienst. Click the button shown below.

astrodienst show transits button

Astrodienst will pull up the current transiting planet positions for that moment and show them in position outside of your chart in green. This will look something like the chart below.

a natal chart with the transiting planets shown in green outside the chart

Finding the transiting and natal aspects can be tricky on Astrodienst, but not if you know where to look! Above the chart, click on the button that says “PDF Additional Tables.”

astrodienst screenshot showing the PDF Additional Tables button to get to the transiting and natal aspect table

A new tab will open with a PDF that has a table showing your natal chart aspect table on the first page and the table with the natal and transit aspects on the second page. It will look something like the table below.

natal and transit aspect chart from astrodienst showing natal saturn square transiting mars

The transiting planets are shown along the left side (they have “tr” next to them). and the natal planets are shown across the top (they have a “nat” next to them). This is read just like the natal aspect chart. You can see that for this individual, at the moment this chart was drawn their natal Saturn was square transiting Mars.

Aspect relationships between your natal planets and the transiting planets can have similar implications as the aspects in your natal chart. However, depending on the planet, they may be much shorter-lived and will only be influential as long as they are still within a tight enough orb.