Tuesday, 18 January 2011

This Whole Astrology Thing: "Ophiuchus"

MINNEAPOLIS - It's a new year, and there's new Zodiac signs for many in 2011. Professor Parke Kunkle of the Minnesota Planetarium Society says the Zodiac has a date problem. If you imagine the Earth as a spinning top, the axis changes as it wobbles. 5,000 years later, it means the stars are not aligned, so those with a Libra horoscope are really a Virgo, and many others have a new Zodiac sign too.

“Right now its pointing this way, the North Star, but 3000 BC it was pointing differently,” Kunkle said. “Now things have moved and the sun is in a different constellation. We're about a whole constellation off." And don’t forget Ophiuchus, astrology’s orphan. "Ophiuchus has been a constellation for years and it just gets left out,” Kunkle said.

NEW ZODIAC SIGN CHART

Capricorn

January 20- to February 16

Aquarius
February 16 to March 11

Pisces
March 11 to April 18.

Aries
April 18 to May 13

Taurus
May 13 to June 21.

Gemini
June 21 to July 20

Cancer
July 20 to August 10

Leo
August 10 to September 16

Virgo
September 16 to October 30

Libra
October 30 to November 23

Scorpio
November 23 to November 29

Ophiuchus
November 29 to December 17

Sagittarius

December 17 to January 20 Betsy Blumenfeld of Mendota Heights, Minn. has been studying astrology for 30 years, and says most of the charting these days is done by computer. She also says most Western astrologers look not to the stars, but to the Earth.

For the astrologer and the astronomer, it seems the stars will never align -- the age-old battle between science and mysticism, and yet both keep looking. "I'm having a blast,” Kunkle said. “among other things it calls attention to astronomy."

Statement from Prof. Parke Kunkle, Minneapolis Community and Technical College and Minnesota Planetarium Society board member:

”In science we deal with a long tradition of fact based investigation. We are not in the business of interpreting the purported relation between the positions of planets and human affairs. The Earth spins and, like a toy top, the spin axis moves around, pointing in different directions. Today, Earth's spin axis points toward the pole star, Polaris. Around 3000 BC Earth's spin axis pointed toward Thuban. Wait 26,000 years and the north star will again be Thuban. Astronomers call this motion of the spin axis precession. About 130 BC, Hipparchus noticed that the Earth's spin axis had changed directions, so astronomers and astrologers have known about the Earth's precession for over 2000 years.

“But this means that if the sun was "in" a certain constellation on a particular date, it is in a different constellation on that date today. For example, the sun was in Pisces on March 1, 2000 BC but it is in Aquarius on March 1, 2011 AD."

I really have to laugh at this whole thing. I saw all kinds of crazed threads on Facebook the end of last week about the signs of the Zodiac and how they've all changed (I guess they have, but leaving out this one guy, Ophiuchus, is likely the big error. Astronomy knows that there are inconsistencies in planetary, stars and other space objects orbits and trajectories. Astrology, which as I keep saying is not a science, does not take this into account.

I love that the scientist who announced this, Dr. Kunkle, is having fun with this. He sounds like a really cool guy. My hat is off to him for looking the public right in the eye and telling us what the real story is with the heavens.

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