There are many people who check their zodiac horoscope every day, but recent work from NASA may have thrown them into disarray.

While most people take the predictions of their horoscope with a pinch of salt, there are some that take them at face value. For those that take the zodiac seriously, the latest suggestion from NASA could cause some confusion.

NASA Astrology
Photo: Flickr

NASA forced to deny that it had changed the signs of the zodiac

The astrological community is up in arms over NASA’s claim that the astrological signs have changed due to a shift in the Earth’s axis over the centuries. The uproar reached fever pitch and NASA felt compelled to point out on its Tumblr page that astrology is only a pseudoscience.

It looks like the original cause of the controversy was an article in Cosmopolitan which said that NASA had changed the zodiac calendar so that 86% of people now thought they belonged to the wrong star sign. The new NASA version of the zodiac calendar also included Ophiuchus, a new 13th star sign.

For its part NASA had previously made a post for children which explained that the Earth’s axis has moved since the zodiac was invented 3,000 years ago. It says that the constellations have also changed over time as a result. The NASA article also points out that a 13th constellation exists, but the Babylonians decided to ignore it so they could keep a 12 month calendar.

Complicated history of astrology and astronomy

Surprisingly for such a controversial post, none of this information is new. Astrologers have willfully ignored the 13th constellation for centuries, and some people argue that there are as many as 21 constellations through which the sun passes.

The zodiac comes from a time when early astronomers thought that we lived in a geocentric universe in which everything revolves around the Earth. These people searched the sky looking for patterns that could explain certain phenomena, and many saw meaning in the stars.

Later on charts were produced that showed predictable patterns in the night sky, and this would form the basis of astronomy and astrology. This mixture of superstition and early scientific observation contributes to the situation that we find ourselves discussing today.

Pseudoscience enjoys strong influence on popular culture

The Ancient Babylonians were responsible for dividing the sky into 12 pieces, each of which was 30 degrees apart. It followed the sun as, they believed, it orbited the Earth.

Each of these 30 degree segments was represented by a constellation, and the segments helped in the development of our understanding of the sky. However the system was later abandoned by astronomers after the heliocentric model gained influence in 17th century Europe. On the other hand astrologers continued to use it thanks to their belief that the movement of stars could be used to make predictions about the future.

The vast majority of people see astrology as a meaningless diversion, but it has quite a hold on popular culture. Any change would affect those people that buy birthstones and zodiac tattoos, and goes some way to explaining the reaction to the original article.

NASA went out of its way to put the collective mind at rest. The space agency says that because astrology isn’t based on science, nothing will change.

“So, we didn’t change any zodiac signs,” said NASA’s tumblr post. “We just did the math.”