Astrology Strikes Again

This is just too funny. Some centuries-old news has just swept the Internet—your zodiacal signs have changed! You may not be a Cancer after all—maybe you are a Gemini!

Astrology was invented by the Babylonians 5000 years ago and is actually the precursor of astronomy, in that it seeks to discover patterns in the movements of objects in the sky. It also sought to relate those patterns to events on Earth, something that the modern science of astronomy has shown to have no basis. A lot of people entertain themselves with the daily horoscope. Some people watch reality TV. There is no accounting for taste.

Your zodiacal sign is based on where the sun is relative to the background stars on the day you were born, your “sun sign.” But this has changed over 5000 years. The spin axis of the Earth is currently pointed toward Polaris, the “North Star,” and this orientation affects where the sun appears in the sky over the course of a year. Let’s be clear: it doesn’t change the position of the sun relative to our local horizon, only where it is relative to the background stars that make up our constellations. 5000 years ago, the spin axis was pointed more toward the star Thuban, and the position of the sun at any given time of the year was not what it is now.

This is because the spin of the Earth is not entirely steady. It precesses, a nice scientific term for “wobbles like a top.” Each circle that it describes in the sky takes 26,000 years to complete, so if you miss your old zodiacal sign, you have only to wait until the year 23,000 to reclaim it.

Where Did The North Star Go?

Here’s the funniest part: I learned about this via an e-mail from a former student. To quote her:

I’m telling everyone that we learned this in astronomy class years ago. “Wow really?” they said.

Our local TV station (WSET Channel 13) just interviewed me on this; for those of you in the Lynchburg area, it will appear on the 7:00 p.m. news segment tonight.

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2 comments on “Astrology Strikes Again
  1. Phil Hadley says:

    Having recently relocated from Virginia to California I have noticed that the local shamans and soothsayers are sophisticated and fully aware of this. They seem to depend much more on reading animal entrails and tea leaves.

  2. Bill Goodman says:

    Horrors! The Sumerians (non-Semitic unlike Assyrians and Babylonians) probably were the first to be astrologically challenged. We don’t know where they came from but they “invented” the sexigesimal (don’t have time to use spell check) and a lot of other “firsts.” See Samuel Noah Kramer’s “History Begins at Sumer.” Their language seems to have been neither Semitic nor Indo-European. Probably came in on a UFO (where is Sagan now that we need him?). In any case they invented writing (cuneiform).

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