Astronomy is often confused with astrology. The latter, unlike the first, promises knowledge about what awaits each of us in the near future. This promise is based on the idea that the movement of the Sun and planets according to the signs of the zodiac affects the fate of people. From the point of view of people who are engaged in real science about the stars, it looks ridiculous — if only because just telling us that we were born “under some constellation”, these people are telling us a lie.
1. What is the zodiac?
The zodiac, or zodiac wheel, is called the constellations through which the ecliptic passes — the line along which the Sun moves throughout the year. It is believed that there are 12 such constellations: Aries, Taurus, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius and Pisces.
The word “zodiac” means “animal”, that is, it is believed that these are animal figures in the sky. But if you look closely, three of them depict people (Gemini, Virgo and Aquarius), one is an obviously rational mythical creature (Sagittarius) and another is an inanimate object (Libra).
2. Why do zodiac signs start with Aries?
Astrology originated in the first millennium BC in the Middle East. At that time, observing the sky was not an exact science, so the sages of that time simply divided the year into 12 equal parts, considering that during each of them the Sun was in a certain sign, starting from the point of the vernal equinox. At this point, the ecliptic crosses the celestial equator, so after our luminary passes through it, the day in the northern hemisphere becomes longer than the night (astronomical spring begins). The priests-astronomers correctly determined that this point was located in the constellation Aries. That is why all astrological predictions begin with this sign.
3. Why do astrological predictions in the “age of Pisces” lie?
What the ancient priests did not know was that due to the precession of the earth’s axis (a gradual change in its position in space under the influence of the gravity of the Sun and Moon), the point of the vernal equinox was constantly shifting. Those 30°, which is one zodiac sign, it passes for 2160 years. Therefore, already at the beginning of our era, it was actually in the constellation Pisces.
At the same time, some astrologers know this and even call the modern period of history the “era of Pisces”. But astrological “zodiac signs” are conventionally considered to be “tied” not to constellations, but to the points of the equinox and solstice, therefore, on the day of the vernal equinox, according to the ideas of astrology, the Sun “enters the sign of Aries” in the future, which has not been related to the corresponding constellation for a long time.
4. Why are the modern boundaries of constellations of great importance?
When people invented the zodiac, there were no “borders” in the sky in its modern form. But over time, astronomy became an increasingly accurate science, and more and more stars were discovered in the sky… Finally, in 1928, the boundaries of the constellations that we know now appeared.
And it turns out that even if we make an adjustment for the displacement of the vernal equinox point, the time when the Sun crosses the boundaries of a certain constellation does not coincide with its entry into the astronomical sign according to the calculations of astrologers. The reason for this is that the real boundaries of the constellations look very little similar to the neat sectors drawn by the ancient sages.
5. How many zodiac constellations actually exist?
The most noticeable result of the introduction of modern constellation boundaries is the fact that the Sun crosses not 12, but 13 of them on its way across the sky. Between Sagittarius and Scorpio, it moves like an Ophiuchus, and besides, it spends much more time there than in the same Scorpio.
At the same time, only a part of astrologers recognizes the zodiac constellation Ophiuchus. The rest simply ignore the fact that the Sun and planets actually happen in it. The astronomically accurate answer to the question “under which constellation were you born”, that is, in which constellation the Sun was at that moment, can be found in the diagram below.
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