What’s Your Sign? Ophiuchus Who?

Diane Jong / New University

It felt as though the world had completely lost its mind — the zodiac calendar changed and whatever your original sign was probably fell victim to this awful tilt of the Earth’s axis. Gone were the standard 12 zodiac constellations and, with it, our sanity.

As the UC Irvine Bookstore mused on its Facebook page, “First Pluto wasn’t a planet anymore, and then they said the triceratops wasn’t a legit dinosaur, and now the zodiac signs are changing? The world must really be ending in 2010.”

This was the general consensus on the fateful day. Minnesota’s major newspaper, the Star Tribune, was first to report findings from the Minnesota Planetarium Society that suggested there had been a one-month shift in the alignment of the stars.
They even quoted astronomy professor Parke Kunkle, who alluded to the moon’s gravitational pull as the culprit of this change to the zodiac. He discussed how the Earth’s tilted and shaky orbit means that it is not aligned with the stars in the same way it was when the Babylonians first determined the zodiac dates. In essence, when astrologers claim the sun is in Pisces, it is really in Aquarius.

For devout believers in astrology, this was an extreme blow. Suddenly, not only did they have to deal with an entirely shifted calendar, they also had to factor in Ophiuchus, which is also known as Serpentarius. The sign was known to the ancient Babylonians, but they supposedly neglected and discarded it because they didn’t want 13 signs.

After the initial article cascaded into a nationwide news report, Facebook and Twitter erupted instantly. Statuses were updated and 140-character tweets were sent out in a flurry, full of either outrage or irony.

Even celebrities turned to social media to ponder their “new” zodiac signs.

Comedian Steve Martin declared, “According to the new zodiac sign dates, I am now a Kitten,” while Dave Coulier joked, “Ophiuchus sounds like a cuss word that an alien would use in a funny sci-fi film. ‘The intruders have breached the air lock! Ophiuchus!’”

Around campus, third-year business administration student Rebecca Levy shared in the humor, wondering, “I’m a Leo and my dog’s name is Leo. So now that I’m a Cancer, do I have to change Leo’s name to Cancer?”

When it all boils down, though, people either loved their “new” signs or absolutely abhorred them.

While first-year student America Green gleefully posted, “I’m an Ophiuchus now. Holy crap that is cool,” Pouya Joolharzadeh did not agree and ranted, “Not a Gemini anymore … I feel like a part of me has been taken away.”

But, according to later reports and a brief examination of history, there really is nothing to worry about. Kunkle himself explained to various news outlets that this information is far from new — it’s actually about 3,000 years old.

If you’re still worried, take comfort in knowing that Western astrologers already considered Earth’s wobble in their calculations centuries ago, which means the “old” zodiac we all know and love is perfectly valid and should remain that way for a while.

According to astrologer Jeff Jawer, founder of the website Tarot, there are definite and very simple reasons why there is no truth in the “new” zodiac.

First, the signs of the zodiac are not aligned exclusively with constellations, despite their representation in them. Although they were first derived from the stars, Western astrologers have been using a Tropical Zodiac for the last 2,500 years. In other words, they have based the zodiac on the seasons, which is why the location and time of birth are so crucial for believers.
Furthermore, the field of astrology is not influenced by the moon or the stars – it is really centered on the Earth, much to the amusement of skeptics. Even if the moon’s relative position to the stars has changed, our zodiac has not.

Besides, if we were to follow every constellation in the night sky for our zodiac calendar, we would have way too many to count. The truth is, there were already at least 50 visible constellations in ancient times, meaning that when the Babylonians first constructed their zodiac calendar, they already had the constellations for the zodiac calendar narrowed down substantially.

What has changed, and is continuing to change very subtly as we speak, is the tilt of Earth’s axis as it revolves around the sun, which is pretty much the only truthful thing that came out of the initial report that sparked the frenzy. The wobbly axis that was labeled as “new” information has been studied by astronomers and is scientifically referred to as precession.

Three thousand years ago, our axis was pointing to an ambiguous star named Thuban; now, it faces the famous North Star, or Polaris.

So, before you run out and start using Ophiuchus as your new curse word, gather your facts first and listen to the real report.
At the end of the day, your astrological sign did not change overnight and it is no different than before the Star Tribune’s viral article was published. So don’t fret — that sign you were so hopelessly attached with is still yours forever.