Why your zodiac sign is probably wrong (2024)

Astrology suggests —incorrectly — that each sign of the zodiac fits neatly into a 30-degree slice of sky.

ByJames B. Kaler | Published: January 23, 2024| Last updated on January 31, 2024

I was born a Capricorn (please don’t judge me), but the Sun was in the middle of Sagittarius when I was born.

As a professor emeritus of astronomy, I am often asked about the difference between astrology and astronomy. The practice of astrology, which predicts one’s fate and fortune based on the positions of the Sun, Moon, stars and planets, dates back to ancient times. It was intermingled with the science of astronomy back then – in fact, many astronomers of old made scientific observations that are valuable even today. But once Copernicus, Kepler and Galileo realized the planets orbit the Sun, rather than the Earth, and Newton discovered the physical laws behind their behavior, astrology and astronomy split, never to be reunited.

The science of astronomy is now at odds with one of the basic organizing principles in astrology – the dates of the zodiac.

The constellations of the zodiac

Over the course of a year, the Sun appears to pass through a belt of sky containing 12 ancient constellations, or groupings, of stars. They are collectively called the zodiac and consist almost entirely of animal figures, like the ram (Aries), crab (Cancer) and lion (Leo). It is a disappointment to many that the constellations only rarely look like what they represent. How could they, since they are truly random scatterings of stars? They are meant to represent, not to portray.

Although the constellations of the zodiac, which date back to Mesopotamia or before, may seem definitive, they are only one example of those produced by the various cultures of the world, all of which had their own, frequently very different, notions of how the sky is constructed. The Incas, for example, made constellations not from stars, but from the dark patches in the Milky Way.

Related: A scientific guide to the Zodiac and its signs

The number of constellations in the Western zodiac comes from the cycles of the Moon, which orbits the Earth 12.4 times a year. Roughly speaking, the Sun appears against a different constellation every new Moon, the stars forming a distant backdrop to the Sun. Though the stars are not visible during daytime, you can know what constellation the Sun is in by looking at the nighttime sky. There you will see the opposite constellation.

Astrology suggests that each sign of the zodiac fits neatly into a 30-degree slice of sky – which multiplied by 12 adds up to 360 degrees. In actuality, this is not the case, as the constellations vary a great deal in shape and size. For example, the Sun passes through the constellation Scorpio in just five days, but takes 38 days to pass through Taurus. This is one of the reasons astrological signs do not line up with the constellations of the zodiac.

Precession of the equinoxes

The main reason astrological signs fail to line up with the zodiac, though, is a wobble in the Earth’s rotational axis called precession. As a result of its rotation, the Earth bulges slightly at the equator, not unlike how a skater’s skirt fans out as she spins. The gravity of the Moon and Sun pull on the bulge, which causes the Earth to wobble like a top. The wobble causes the Earth’s axis, which is the center line around which it rotates, to swing in a slow circle over the course of 25,800 years.

This movement alters the view of the zodiac from Earth, making the constellations appear to slide to the east, roughly a degree per human lifetime. Though slow, precession was discovered with the naked eye by Hipparchus of Nicaea around 150 B.C.

In ancient times, the vernal equinox – or the first day of spring – was in Aries. Due to precession, it moved into Pisces around 100 B.C., where it is now and will remain until A.D. 2700, when it will move into Aquarius and so on. Over the course of 25,800 years, it will eventually return to Aries and the cycle will begin again.

As a game, astrology and its predictions of fate and personality can be fun. However the subject has no basis in science. It is to science what the game “Monopoly” is to the real estate market.

Astrology diverts attention away from the very real influences of the planets, primarily their gravitational effects on one another that cause real changes in the shapes, sizes and tilts of their orbits. On Earth, such changes likely caused past ice ages. Direct collisions between Earth and celestial bodies can cause very rapid changes, such as the impact of an asteroid off the Yucatan Peninsula 66 million years ago that had global effects including the disappearance of dinosaurs and the rise of mammals.

Astronomical studies will eventually allow the prediction of such events, while astrological predictions will get you absolutely nowhere.

James B. Kaler (1938-2022) was Professor Emeritus of Astronomy,University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Why your zodiac sign is probably wrong (2024)


Why your zodiac sign is probably wrong? ›

The main reason astrological signs fail to line up with the zodiac, though, is a wobble in the Earth's rotational axis called precession. As a result of its rotation, the Earth bulges slightly at the equator, not unlike how a skater's skirt fans out as she spins.

Is there any truth to zodiac signs? ›

The statistical analysis did not reveal any correlation between signs of the zodiac and personality. The claim made by astrologers that people can be characterized according to their sign of the zodiac (sagitarius, taurus, cancer, scorpion) must be refuted.

What does the Bible say about star signs? ›

Believing in the power and authority of astrology goes directly against biblical wisdom and Scripture clearly states that chasing after false gods is a sin (Matthew 24:24, 1 Corinthians 8:6, Exodus 20:3). There is no biblical evidence that God has given authority to the stars or astrologists.

How accurate is astrology? ›

Astrology purports that astronomical bodies have influence on people's lives beyond basic weather patterns, depending on their birth date. This claim is scientifically false. Numerous scientific studies have disproven that astronomical bodies affect people's lives according to their birth date.

Why am I nothing like my zodiac sign? ›

Given how quickly Mercury moves around the Sun, it's not uncommon for your Mercury to fall in a different zodiac sign from your Sun. This can leave you feeling out of place and as though your Sun really doesn't fit you.

Who created astrology signs? ›

On the basis of their observations and calculations, the Babylonians divided the sky into twelve areas, each of which was assigned a figure, a name, and a specific meaning. This became the zodiac with its twelve zodiac signs such as Aries, Gemini, Virgo, or Leo.

How can zodiac signs be so accurate? ›

All the astronomical predictions are done with the study of the sun, moon, and star, and all through the depiction of the planet positions in the zodiac signs aligning to the exact time of your birth.

What scientists believed in astrology? ›

Astronomy and astrology used to be intertwined: Galileo (1564-1642) and Johannes Kepler (1571-1630) were expert astrologers. But as the forces of nature and the distances to the stars and planets were better understood, astrology shifted into the realms of pseudo-science.

Why do people believe in astrology? ›

Why Do People Believe in Astrology? A belief in astrology is, in some ways, a coping mechanism. Research suggests that it helps people make sense of things during times when life feels complex. 3 Astrology becomes a tool that can be turned to for comfort.

Can astrology predict the future? ›

The answer is both yes and no. Wondering why? Because it depends on the events and your preferences. Vedic astrology makes use of stars, planets, and other celestial bodies' positions, along with one's birthplace and time, to calculate certain life events.

Why is my horoscope always wrong? ›

The main reason astrological signs fail to line up with the zodiac, though, is a wobble in the Earth's rotational axis called precession.

Which zodiac sign give up easily? ›

Pisces. They are artistic and compassionate. Pisces sometimes struggle to deal with life's harsh realities. This may cause them to give up on their goals, particularly in the face of rejection or setbacks..!!

Why don t I match my zodiac? ›

"Another reason for the misalignment is that your birth chart has more influence on another sign that is not your sun sign," says Dr. Williams. "For example, you have the sun in Libra, but you have three other main planets in Leo. You might feel and act more like a Leo, and not so much as a Libra.

Why do people believe in zodiac signs? ›

Belief in astrology may stem from an innate tendency toward spirituality and the drive to find meaning and patterns in one's experiences.

Why are zodiac signs a thing? ›

The zodiac can be traced back to ancient civilizations, such as the ancient Greeks and Romans, who believed the position of heavenly bodies could be used to predict the future. For them, astronomy and astrology were one and the same—which is definitely not the case anymore!

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