'New' Zodiac sign Ophiuchus doesn't mean much for horoscope followers or astrologers - don't panic!

13-zodiac-signs-sky.jpgThe internet has been a-buzz Thursday (Jan. 13) over a news article that talks about the Earth's precession (or the shift in the Earth's axis caused by the gravitational attraction of the moon to the Earth's equator) over the last 3000 years and how it has affected the stars' alignment and subsequently the astrological signs.

Astrological signs are based off the position of the sun relative to the Zodiac constellations on the day you are born. The problem is that the positions were determined thousands of years ago and they have since changed due to the precession, or Earth's "wobble."  It would mean horoscope signs as determined by the constellation positions are now nearly a month off.

Joe Rao, SPACE.com's skywatching columnist and a lecturer at New York's Hayden Planetarium, tells Christian Science Monitor that the sky is ever-changing. In fact, what we regard as the North Star (Polaris, the star most aligned with Earth's North Pole, which is in the Little Dipper or Ursa Minor constellation) is not the same North Star from thousands of years ago. And in 12,000 years, the North Star will be Vega, the brightest star in the constellation Lyra.

The "new" dates are not news -- to astronomers, which are not the same as astrologers. Astronomers include the 13th Zodiac sign, Ophiuchus, which some theorize was discarded by the ancient Babylonians because they wanted 12 signs and not 13. We think it could possibly also be because Scorpio is more in line with the "circle" of Zodiac constellations than Ophiuchus is. That also probably explains why Scorpio is only six days long and Ophiuchus is only 19 days long -- they share a spot along the circle, thus also sharing a portion of the 360 degrees, a portion of the Sun's time in their assigned area and therefore a portion of the calendar.

Which is just an example of how fickle astrology is.

What are the characteristics of an Ophiuchus? Nobody knows, because astronomers don't assign characteristics based on where the sun was when you were born. And most Western astrologers don't count Ophiuchus. Certainly astrologers could choose to include Ophiuchus and would then have to assign its bearers characteristics and give it an element -- we would guess a Water sign, as Scorpio is one and they are assigned in triangles across the sky, which you can see in the above illustration (Fire: Aries, Leo, Sagittarius; Water: Scorpio, Pisces, Cancer; Air: Gemini, Libra, Aquarius; Earth: Taurus, Virgo, Capricorn).

Ophiuchus is a sign in the Sidereal Zodiac or 13-sign Zodiac, which is a moving Zodiac, as opposed to the Western fixed Zodiac. This moving Zodiac that acknowledges Ophiuchus has shifted almost one full sign from the fixed Zodiac, hence the "new" astrological sign dates:

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


There has also been talk that this "new" change only affects those born after 2009. That's not right either. Ophiuchus was discovered just as long ago as the other Zodiac constellations and the Earth's shift on its axis has been happening and will continue to happen forever. In another 3000 years, signs will have shifted again and, for instance with ourselves, all Libras will be Leos.

But astrology doesn't work the same way as astronomy and if Western astrology is something you believe in, you're fine. Nothing has changed. So don't panic, horoscope fans. You can stay just the way you are. But it's an interesting concept to ponder.

Check out these famous Ophiuchus who didn't even know it.

Photo/Video credit: Siloam