The Astrology Brouhaha

EDIT:  Something I should make clear, and meant to, was that this whole ordeal was caused not by anything new but rather by a media taking a well known and established scientific fact and reporting as if it is news.  There was little to no fact checking in the reporting and little effort to distinguish astronomy (which cares not a whit about your horoscope) and astrology (which insist the planets control all).  This is yet another example of horrible reporting and zero rigor in mainstream media.

I’m sure that by now most of you have heard about the “your zodiac sign has changed” fiasco running rampant right now.  This mess seems to have been started by an article written by the Star Tribune.  Let us first understand something that people get wrong far too often.  Astronomy and Astrology are two VERY different things.  Astronomy is the science that deals with studying the Universe and the objects within it.  Astrology is a belief system that is based on the notion that the position of celestial bodies can affect events on Earth and even the personality of every person.  Also the fastest way to get on an astronomer’s bad side is to confuse the two.

In the Star Tribune a story was run where astronomy instructor Parke Kunkle said that the constellations had shifted so that the Sun was not in the constellation of your sign on the day of your birth.  He further said that there are in fact 13 constellations on the zodiac (the line traced out by the Sun’s position in the sky over the course of the year).  The Serpent Bearer, Ophiuchus, also lies on the zodiac.  He is correct on both of these counts.  However, the movement of the constellations is not something that happens overnight and in fact this “news” is a couple thousand years old.

See astronomy is interested in the apparent movement of the sky (the changes we see in the sky are of course actually due to the movement of the Earth) which is this case is caused by the precession of the equinoxes.  We all know that the Earth rotates on it’s axis with one rotation equaling one day (almost).  We also know that the axis of the Earth’s rotation points at the not-so-bright star Polaris, the North Star.  What many people may not realize is that the Earth’s axis is drifting or precessing itself.  For most of the next 26,000 years Polaris will not be the North Star.  The period of the precession is 26,000 years.

The fact that astrologers ignore the “inconvenience” of the Earth not holding still and have not updated their methods for the past 2,000 years is one of the reasons people use to point out that astrology is complete and total trash.  Astrologers have not updated their methods.  They have not changed your sign.  The point of all this mess is that if astrology had any validity then your sign would be different than it is now.  But this change would have happened a very long time ago.

Perhaps one day I’ll do an article on the reasons why astrology is total bunk but for today astrologers have changed nothing about your sign, mainly because they have no interest in reality (sure they say they’re using the tropics but that’s a whole different matter).  There is no truth to your horoscope, no significance to your sign.  Call yourself whatever you wish.  The facts remain that there are 13 constellations on the zodiac and most likely the Sun was not in “your sign” on the day of your birth.


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January 2011
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