Has NASA changed the Zodiac?

We’ve been getting a lot of questions recently about a supposedly “new” sign of the zodiac and whether all of us need to worry about our signs changing. The short answer is, simply, no.

What happened is that a recent NASA article about the constellations caught the media’s attention, and the media did what it’s famous for: stirring up “controversy” where none actually exists. NASA’s article points out that the positions of the stars relative to the earth have changed in the 3000 years since the Babylonians started developing the system of astrology we know, due to the shifting tilt of the earth’s axis and the passage of time. The article notes that the relative positions of the earth, sun and stars are not spaced in orderly month-long increments, and that the sun actually passes through the celestial territory of thirteen constellations, not twelve. Based on this, NASA put together a chart showing the dates when the sun passes through each of the thirteen constellations — the traditional twelve that make up the signs of the zodiac, plus the constellation Ophiuchus.

All very interesting, but it’s completely irrelevant to western astrology. The western system we know isn’t based on the positions of these constellations, it’s based on the calendar. The cardinal signs of the tropical zodiac (Aries, Cancer, Libra, Capricorn) always stay aligned with the equinoxes and solstices, meaning the twelve signs of the zodiac proceed in an even and predictable way as the earth moves around the sun. This hasn’t changed since the time of the Babylonians and isn’t going to change anytime soon.

Sure, an astrologer doing your chart might look at the positions of stars at the time of birth for meaningful details. But this isn’t the source of your sign.

Some eastern systems of astrology do use the sidereal zodiac — that is, the positioning of the stars that NASA discussed in their article. Vedic astrology is one such system, though it nevertheless divides the year into twelve equal parts rather than thirteen uneven ones. Through the years, a few authors — including, interestingly enough, one astronomer writing under a pseudonym — have suggested new astrological systems based on the thirteen signs of the sidereal zodiac. So far, none of these systems has gained much traction. Of course anyone may choose to follow one of these systems, but they’re very different from astrology as most westerners know it.

So what’s the deal, NASA? Here’s what a few professional astrologers have to say:

Jamie Kahl: “It’s been my experience that astrologers tend to be aware of the basics of astronomy while astronomers are not aware of the basics of astrology.”

Ophira Edut: “Your zodiac sign has not changed. It’s not based on the constellations directly. The zodiac … is based on the planets.”

Barry Kerr: These issues come up every few years, it seems. Some material-based, closed minded astronomer looks at astrology and thinks he has found the “proof” of how stupid astrology is. We astrologers just shake our heads and laugh at the irony of how someone so proud of being a scientist could make such bold statements without doing even a wee bit of research on the subject. Anyone who does look at how astrology works can dismiss the “scientific” claims within ten minutes

If you’d like to read a more detailed write-up about this issue (or maybe I should say non-issue!), check out this excellent article by astrologer Carmen Di Luccio: No, Your Astrological Sign Has Not Shifted

(Image by Patrick Denker via Wikimedia Commons)