(Goffredo Saglimbeni/500px/Getty Images) HUMANS Please Stop Freaking Out, NASA Has Not Changed Your Star Sign CARLY CASSELLA 17 JULY 2020
It's not unusual for people to panic over their star signs. But every few years or so, poor old NASA has to explain to the internet that no, they haven't suddenly changed your zodiac from Sagittarius to Scorpio – nor should this change who you are as a person.
Astronomers don't even have that power. Because astronomy and astrology are very different things and only one is considered the domain of scientists.
"We see your comments about a zodiac story that re-emerges every few years," the United States space agency recently tweeted.
"No, we did not change the zodiac."
👀 We see your comments about a zodiac story that re-emerges every few years. No, we did not change the zodiac.
When the Babylonians invented the constellations 3,000 years ago, they chose to leave out a 13th sign. So, we did the math: https://t.co/DQOs5VSjT7 pic.twitter.com/WlblguobGT
— NASA (@NASA) July 17, 2020
The origin of this alleged 'zodiac change' dates back to 2016.
At the time, all astronomers did was simple math, but jeez did it cause a freak out.
To understand what the heck is going on we have to go back in time three thousand years to when the ancient Babylonians first invented the very concept of constellations.
Keen observers of the night, this ancient empire used the stars as a way to track time and explain themselves as people closely tied to the universe.
Dividing the sky into a dozen equal parts to mimic their 12-month calendar, the Babylonians picked one constellation, or zodiac, to somewhat represent each slice.
As Earth orbits, the Sun passes through each zodiac, like the arm of a clock.
But designating a slice of the sky to one constellation is difficult, and there's a bit of cross-over among dates. What's more, the Babylonians had identified 13 constellations in the zodiac, so one of them had to be left out to match the calendar. Opiuchus was unfortunately the loser.
All of this to say, while astrology is based on constellations, it's extremely arbitrary, especially since today, the sky has shifted because of a tilt in Earth's axis.
In 2016, Space Place, an educational page for kids run by NASA, explained how outdated ancient zodiacs truly are.
"When the Babylonians first invented the 12 signs of zodiac, a birthday between about July 23 and August 22 meant being born under the constellation Leo," the blog reads.
"Now, 3,000 years later, the sky has shifted because Earth's axis (North Pole) doesn't point in quite the same direction."
Adding in a thirteenth zodiac, astronomers then calculated new dates for our star signs:
Capricorn: Jan 20 – Feb 16
Aquarius: Feb 16 – March 11
Pisces: March 11 – April 18
Aries: April 18 – May 13
Taurus: May 13 – June 21
Gemini: June 21 – July 20
Cancer: July 20 – Aug 10
Leo: Aug 10 – Sept 16
Virgo: Sept 16 – Oct 30
Libra: Oct 30 – Nov 23
Scorpio: Nov 23 – Nov 29
Ophiuchus: Nov 29 – Dec 17
Sagittarius: Dec 17 – Jan 20
Of course, this wasn't suggesting any kind of official star sign change – it was just interesting math.
But a lot of people take their zodiac signs seriously, and this was too much for some to handle. After this blog was published, rumours quickly started to spread that the US space agency had suddenly changed everyone's star signs.
Pretty much ever since, NASA has been trying to wash its hands of the matter, making it as clear as possible to the public that astrology doesn't concern astronomers.
In fact, we already debunked the rumour way back in 2016.
Still, despite debunk after debunk, every few years, the rumours come circling around again, nearly as predictable as the constellations in our sky.
Here we go again.