The news went viral yesterday. Even my son–who never discusses astrology–was shaken. He came into the livingroom with an ashen look on his face: “Did you hear?! I’m not an Aquarian!” Believe me, he is. And the rumors about an astrology shake-up are wildly exaggerated. It’s well known by astrologers and astronomers that the earth wobbles, and over thousands of years, the Sun shifts its position against the background of constellations. (If you’re curious, Google “precession of the equinoxes.”)
But there are two types of astrology. One calculates the horoscope based on the Sun rising against this shifting backdrop of stars. This is Indian, or Vedic astrology. And you may indeed find that in this system you have a different Sun sign as it uses what is known as the “sidereal zodiac.” There is a 23 degree difference between this and the “tropical zodiac,” which is what most Western astrologers use. The tropical system is derived from earth’s seasons, not the stars. It’s calculated using the position of the Sun in relationship to earth (specifically the equator) on the days of the summer/winter solstice and the spring/fall equinox. Both systems work.
The viral news story also mentioned a “13th zodiac sign” known as “Ophiuchus.” There is such a constellation, but it’s off the ecliptic (the Sun’s path), so it has no business joining the traditional twelve. Incidentally, there are actually about twenty-four constellations that touch the ecliptic. Anyone for a zodiac with twenty-four signs? Let’s hope another scientist doesn’t start spouting off (I’m talking to you Parke Kunkle!).