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Madison Metropolitan School District

Astrology and a 13th Zodiac Constellation? New News?

Astrology and a 13th Zodiac Constellation? New News?

We've received several questions about some of the news stories lately related to astrology. The TV news story I saw briefly mentioned that there are actually 13 constellations that the Sun seems to pass through instead of the 12 listed by astrologers, and that the dates for when the Sun appears in those constellations doesn't match with the dates the astrologers use. Honestly, our first reaction was to say "what stirred up this news item now"? To us in astronomy, this is OLD news. We can't find the original article, but it apparently ran in the Star Tribune in Minneapolis. And the story has gone viral over the Internet.

First, to clarify, astrology is the belief that the positions of celestial bodies has some influence on human affairs. Astronomy is the scientific study of celestial objects and phenomena. People often get those words mixed up.

There are lots of cool astronomy concepts to explore related to the zodiac constellations, so we've decided to focus our February 16th public planetarium programs on this subject. The programs are entitled "What's Your Sign -- Really?", and we hope you can join us. But until then, I thought I'd provide a couple of links to good sources of information related to the subject.

  • A Sign of the Times:  Sky and Telescope ran a nice article, which included an essay printed in their magazine in 1998.
  • An Astronomer Looks at Astrology:  (PDF file) the Astronomical Society of the Pacific provided an article which shows how to debunk astrology.

The focus of our public planetarium programs will mostly be about the Earth's motions. We'll explore how it could be that the Sun would appear to be "in" a constellation, and how that would change throughout the year. And we'll show how the Sun's position among the stars has changed over the past 2,000 years. It will be a lot of fun.

Feel free to post comments and questions if you are still struggling with a certain issue or concept.