Thursday, January 13, 2011

Sign of the Times

As noted over at Bad Astronomy, today's been a big wakeup call for Astrology nuts. Apparently the word got out that, due to Earth's precession, the "signs" astrologers have been peddling are off. Astronomers have known this and pointed this out for a long time.

Meanwhile, the word has also gotten out that there's a 13th constellation in the zodiac (the collection of constellations through which the ecliptic, or the Sun's path, passes). It's Ophiuchus. I popped on Twitter to see what the BA was saying and looked at the comments in which "Ophiuchus" appeared. Apparently people are freaking out that their signs changed and now their tattoos are wrong.

But never fear! The Astrologers have a nice explanation for why it doesn't matter. According to ZodiacLife, "Ophiuchus would only apply to those born since its appearance in 2009."


So here's this funny thing. Astronomers get excited when a supernova, not even visible to the naked eye appears in a relatively nearby galaxy, or when something suddenly brightens that was unexpected. You'd think that an entire freaking constellation appearing with several stars visible to the naked eye would have the astronomical community freaking out. Like to the extent that they'd maybe even get a front page headline or something. And not just them. It would require the violation of all sorts of physical laws to suddenly *poof* at least a dozen solar masses worth of matter into existence. Physicists would be flipping out too.

In reality, Ophiuchus has always been there.

So ZodiacLife clarifies: "There is no previous record of the Sun passing thru this sign until 2009."


Actually, there is. It does it every year. The path of the Sun on the sky is called the ecliptic, and unless the Earth's orbit suddenly changes, that path isn't changing.

And it's not just ZodiacLife spouting this junk. Every "official" astrologer seems to be echoing the same lines. This shows just how little Astrologers really know about Astronomy. And obviously the public knows even less.

Really, I don't expect people to be able to define the ecliptic or be able to have a ready mental picture of 2D projections inside a sphere of a 3D solar system that could quickly show how much nonsense things like this are, but here's the thing: If you're going to start following something so closely that you make major life choices based on it, knowing the basics should be a prerequisite. This is why I spend so much of my free time working to promote critical thinking and science literacy.

1 comment:

Vance said...

Listening to those who follow their "signs" are even funnier now. Running around like chickens with their heads cut off crying "the sky is falling." Also, I haven't heard anyone blaming Pope Gregory VIII for dropping 10 days out of the calendar back in 1582. That changed quite a few astrological signs as well.