It has been hard to miss the recent news articles and TV commentary on the “new” 13th zodiac constellation, Ophiuchus. While it makes good press it seems the media is a day late and a dollar short. There is nothing new about Ophiuchus being in the astronomical zodiac. It was made official eighty years ago, by a somewhat arbitrary process. Most, but not all astrologers reject Ophiuchus as a sun sign, and astronomers could care less. Most people were left confused with no good answer to why it was even being discussed.
When the International Astronomical Union (IAU) standardized star maps in 1930 the Sun (ecliptic) passes through a small section of Ophiuchus. The “new sign” is the result of a line drawn on a star map and has nothing to do with how most astrologers interpret the sky.
The “new” dates for your sign are an astronomical interpretation based on the astrological premise that your sign is determined by the constellation the Sun is seen in at the time of your birth. If the Sun is seen in Leo when you were born, you are a Leo. The problem is the only thing astrological signs and astronomical constellations have in common is a name, and in some cases not even that.
On Jan 20th the astronomers say the Sun enters the constellation Capricornus (Capricorn). The astrologers say the Sun is entering the astrological sign Aquarius. Both statements are true because both occupy the same piece of sky “now”. How can that be?
Astronomers and astrologers have different definitions of the zodiac. Most astrologers use twelve, and only twelve identically shaped fixed areas of the sky that never change. Astronomers use the actual stars and areas for the constellations based on IAU maps. Unlike astrology’s fixed areas, astronomical constelations vary in size, shape and over time move. If you were born 3500 years ago astronomers and astrologers would agree the Sun is in Aquarius. The astronomical constellation and astrological sign were in sync. 3500 years from now the astrological area (Aquarius) will still be the same, but the astronomical constellation in it will not be Aquarius. So why don’t the two stay in sync?
The Earth wobbles like a top or toy gyroscope. It takes 25,900 years or so to make one wobble. It’s call precession or the precession of the equinoxes. We have known about it from the time of ancient Egypt. Precession causes us see the constellations in a slightly different position each year. The shift is so small (1 degree every 72 years) that most people would not detect it in a life time, but over several thousand years it adds up. It takes about 2500 years for the shift to move one astrological sign. We started in the age of Aris, we are now in the age of Pisces, and in 300 years we will be in the age of Aquarius.
Precession also causes the North Star to change. In Ancient Egypt Thuban was the North Star. Today it’s Polaris and in12000 years the bright summer star Vega will be the North Star.
Having said all this, there are some astrologers that recognize Ophiuchus (Nov 30 to Dec 17). You can go here for the personality traits. I find no validity in astrology, but that’s me. Now if I can learn how to pronounce Ophiuchus.
Wishing you clear skies