NASA made it very clear this past week that astronomy and astrology are not interchangeable, and they are not to be blamed for the Babylonians screwing up the zodiac. But they didn’t actually explain what the 13th constellation, Ophiuchus, is or where to find it.
Ophiuchus, which is known in astrological terms as a “snake bearer,” is located between the constellations Aquila, Serpens, and Hercules, just northwest of the Milky Way. On the south side of Ophiuchus is Scorpius to the west and Sagittarius to the east. The constellation can best be seen in the northern hemisphere in the summer, opposite to Orion. However, during winter in the northern hemisphere, the constellation remains invisible to most latitudes. This could explain why the Babylonians gave the constellation the axe when trying to pick just 12 signs, one for each month of their lunar calendar.
The constellation’s interpretation as a “snake bearer” can be explained by the appearance of a body dividing the snake constellation Serpens into two parts, Serpens Caput and Serpens Cauda. Ophiuchus also hosts Barnard’s Star, which is the third closest star to our solar system.
The recent resurfacing of Ophiuchus means if you were born between November 29 and December 17, you’ve been living a lie your whole life. Or at least reading the wrong horoscope.
But it also goes to show that how we typically think of constellations, as consistent presences in the night sky, isn’t very accurate. The problem is not all constellations are created equally, so the Sun doesn’t spend the same amount of time aligned with each. For example, the Sun aligns with Ophiuchus for about 18 days compared to 75 days with Virgo .
The Earth’s axis has also shifted in the past 3,000 years, meaning that the days used for the original zodiac no longer align with the path of the sun. As a result, approximately 86 percent of people currently identify as the wrong astrological sign. While they might make cool patterns in the Earth’s sky, like a bear, there is no evidence that the stars in a constellation are related at all. In fact, stars are always moving but the changes are so infinitesimal they’re almost impossible for humans to notice in their lifetime.
So what does this mean for your online dating profile?
Ophiuchus, which is basically the Slytherin-Ravenclaw hybrid of the zodiac, takes the form of a “snake bearer.” People born under the sign are thought to be seekers of knowledge and also have a flamboyant style of dress. Ophiuchans are also considered to be great architects or builders.
Here’s the real kicker: Ophiuchus doesn’t have an opposite sign, meaning you can no longer justify your dating life with “opposites attract.” Guess Ophiuchuns don’t need that horoscope after all.
Photos via Wikimedia