No, NASA Hasn’t “Changed” Your Star Sign. Here’s Why People Are Freaking Out

NASA/JPL-Caltech

People have been freaking out over the last few days over the "news" that their star sign has been "changed by NASA" – as if it would have any notable impact on their lives whatsoever. 

Astrology fans – not known for their skepticism – have been sharing information online along the lines of "NASA discovered a new star sign. That means my new sign is Capricorn and not Aquarius jsjsjsj wbu?"

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The posts claim that NASA has "discovered" a new constellation and it means all your star signs are going to have to shift themselves around to make room for the newcomer, Ophiuchus, represented as a man holding a snake. Several news sites have picked up the story, reporting it as if NASA has just announced the discovery of a new star sign, resulting in angry reactions from people who believe that stars thousands of light-years away are shitting all over your Thursday, or causing you to break up with Greg.

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The proposed "new" zodiac now goes:

Capricorn: January 20 to February 15 

Aquarius: February 16 to March 11

Pisces: March 11 to April 18

Aries: April 18 to May 13

Taurus: 13 May to 21 June

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 19 to December 17

Sagittarius: December 17 to January 20

So there you go. Perhaps you thought you were a passionate Scorpio? Well sorry to break it to you but you're actually a (*thinks of a random trait*) sneaky snake, as dictated by your new sign of Ophiuchus. 

So, where did all this come from? First off, nobody at NASA has suddenly looked up and gone "Holy shit there's a whole new constellation we've never noticed before, better ring Mystic Meg". Ophiuchus has been known about for thousands of years. The recent posts appear to have been inspired by a 2016 NASA blog explaining constellations for children (which we already debunked four years ago). How does that feel, astrology fans?

As the blog explained, when ancient Babylonians created the zodiac they wanted to divide it into 12, to fit in with their 12-month calendar based on the phases of the Moon. The problem was that the constellations don't quite neatly line up like that. As the Earth rotates around the Sun, the imaginary line drawn from Earth to the Sun and beyond was pointing at more than 12 constellations.

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NASA / Space Place

So they had a solution: They would just ignore Ophiuchus, dividing up the zodiac like a 12-slice pizza. They also ignored that the star signs overlapped and bled into each other, selecting one constellation for each "slice". And so too would astrologers ignore these facts for centuries while they wrote about how the Sun passing through Capricorn means that Aries should avoid oregano or suffer dire consequences. (I realize that's not quite how horoscopes work, but is it any less crap than actual horoscopes?).

Since the Babylonians created the zodiac some 3,000 years ago, the tilt of the Earth has shifted some more, further messing with the calendar for anybody interested in accuracy (which, let's face it, astrologers are not).

"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. Now, 3,000 years later, the sky has shifted because Earth's axis (North Pole) doesn't point in quite the same direction," says NASA's blog post, which I really must stress is for children. "Now Mimi's August 4 birthday would mean she was born "under the sign" of Cancer (one constellation "earlier"), not Leo."

Fortunately, this has no bearing on Mimi's life as astrology was nonsense 3,000 years ago and it continued to be nonsense to this day.

As NASA pointed out to Gizmodo back in 2016: “NASA studies astronomy not astrology. We didn’t change any zodiac signs, we just did the math.”

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