When NASA announced that it had discovered a 13th constellation in the skies above us, astrologers went into meltdown.
Suddenly, they realised, there were actually 13 star signs instead of the usual 12 – meaning our horoscopes would now be completely out of whack.
But NASA wants to make it clear that their astronomical findings have nothing to do with astrological theory.
“Did you recently hear that NASA changed the zodiac signs?,” NASA scientists wrote on their blog.
“Nope, we definitely didn’t.”
“Here at NASA, we study astronomy, not astrology,” they wrote in their most recent blog.
The bloggers make a distinction between astronomy – the scientific study of everything in outer space – and astrology, the belief that the position of stars and planets can influence human events.
“It’s not considered a science,” they write.
What is the zodiac?
“Imagine a straight line drawn from Earth through the sun and out into space way beyond our solar system where the stars are,” the bloggers explain.
“Then, picture Earth following its orbit around the sun.
“This imaginary line would rotate, pointing to different stars throughout one complete trip around the sun – or, one year.
“All the stars that lie close to the imaginary flat disk swept out by this imaginary line are said to be in the zodiac.
“The constellations in the zodiac are simply the constellations that this imaginary straight line points to in its year-long journey.”
What are constellations?
“A constellation is group of stars like a dot-to-dot puzzle,” the NASA bloggers write.
“If you join the dots—stars, that is—and use lots of imagination, the picture would look like an object, animal, or person.
“For example, Orion is a group of stars that the Greeks thought looked like a giant hunter with a sword attached to his belt.
“Other than making a pattern in Earth’s sky, these stars may not be related at all.”
The Babylonians, who lived 3000 years ago, divided the zodiac into 12 equal parts – “like cutting a pizza into 12 equal slices,” the NASA bloggers explain.
“They picked 12 constellations in the zodiac, one for each of the 12 ‘slices.’
“So, as Earth orbits the sun, the sun would appear to pass through each of the 12 parts of the zodiac.
“Since the Babylonians already had a 12-month calendar (based on the phases of the moon), each month got a slice of the zodiac all to itself.”
“But even according to the Babylonians’ own ancient stories, there were 13 constellations in the zodiac.
“So they picked one, Ophiuchus, to leave out.
“Even then, some of the chosen 12 didn’t fit neatly into their assigned slice of the pie and crossed over into the next one.”
Always 13 constellations
When the Babylonians first invented the 12 signs of the zodiac, a birthday between about July 23 and August 22 meant being born under the constellation Leo.
Now the sky has shifted because Earth’s axis doesn’t point in quite the same direction.
“The constellations are different sizes and shapes, so the sun spends different lengths of time lined up with each one,” the bloggers state.
‘We didn’t change any zodiac signs…we just did the math.’
“The line from Earth through the sun points to Virgo for 45 days, but it points to Scorpius for only 7 days.
“The Babylonians ignored the fact that the sun actually moves through 13 constellations, not 12.
“Then they assigned each of those 12 constellations equal amounts of time.
“So, we didn’t change any zodiac signs…we just did the math.”
The upshot of all this?
Yes, theoretically your star sign has changed … if you believe in astrology.
If not, carry on with your everyday business, knowing nothing has essentially changed in outer space.