Zodiac sign change does not affect most people after all

Alison Ritchie

On Jan. 14, Parke Kunkle, an astronomy instructor in Minnesota, told a newspaper reporter that due to a wobble in Earth’s orbit, the dates on the zodiac calendar might be incorrect. The news sent the social networking world into an astrological tizzy. Many frantic posts appeared on Facebook and Twitter from users who were panicked that their zodiac sign had changed. Astronomers and astrologers have since worked to eliminate the confusion.

“This big news is not really new,” said John Barrick, Kent State astronomy professor. “It was something that somebody just brought out in the media and said it’s big news, when it’s really not. It’s actually fairly old news as far as astronomers are concerned.”

Barrick said the Earth’s orbit of the sun creates an optical illusion. The 12 groups of stars behind the sun appear to change from month to month, depending upon where the Earth is in its rotation. The constellation the sun is in during the month of your birth is your zodiacal sign.

Astrologers determine the age we live in by which constellation the sun is in front of on March 21, the first day of spring, Barrick said. The current age is Pisces, but in a few hundred years, it will be the Age of Aquarius.

Barrick said the Earth wobbles like a spinning top, in a process called precession. The process completes approximately every 26,000 years. During the process, the constellations that are seen behind the sun shift by about one month every 2,000 years. Thus, the birth chart that determines a person’s zodiac sign will also shift.

“Astronomers have known this for some time,” Barrick said. “How astrologers interpret it is another thing. Astrological interpretation is based on belief, not on actual physical manifestations that can be measured.”

The news that he may no longer be a Sagittarius isn’t what bothered Trae Ruscin, senior general studies major.

“I wasn’t really concerned whether or not my astrological sign would change,” Ruscin said. “I was more concerned about why it was changing.”

Ruscin said he reads a lot about astrology and follows his horoscope daily. But he said that he understands an astrological concept that others may have missed: Two zodiac systems exist, and only one of them has changed.

According to several astrologers on Astrology.com, the Tropical zodiac chart is most commonly used in the western world. It follows the seasons, not the stars. The Sidereal zodiac chart, often used in the east, follows the constellations.

“I mostly follow Western astrology,” Ruscin said. “It’s much more prevalent. It’s easier to get a hold of.”

While the signs of the Sidereal chart shifted, the signs of the Tropical chart remain the same. However, astrologers made a second change to the Sidereal chart. They added a 13th zodiac sign for those born between Nov. 30-Dec. 18: Ophiuchus.

“The Babylonians did have 13 zodiacal constellations originally, but they just decided not to use Ophiuchus,” Barrick said. “For 20 years I’ve taught astronomy, and I’ve said the sun actually goes through Ophiuchus constellation. But apparently astrology chose not to add that in. I don’t know how they did it.”

Meddling through the confusion, Ruscin said he quickly discovered that his sign remained unchanged. He was relieved to know that he was still a Sagittarius.

“It’s only one factor of who I am, but I identity with it,” Ruscin said. “There’s no way that these huge bodies and everything in the universe wouldn’t have some affect on people.”

Contact Alison Ritchie at [email protected].