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Zodiac news: what is the “Earth’s wobble” and how has it affected your horoscope?

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Kayleigh Dray
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Earth's wobble causes horoscopes to shift

Love reading your horoscope each morning? We have bad news for you…

Astrology fans were shaken when NASA informed us that the night skies have shifted so much over the years that our zodiac signs aren’t what we think they are. In fact, there’s even a 13th constellation in the mix: Opiuchus.

Did it stop us reading our horoscopes? Of course not. In fact, astrology has seemingly gone up in popularity, with many of us admitting that we are 100% invested in everything the zodiac has to say about our relationships, careers and future. 

If we didn’t listen to NASA, though, perhaps we might be willing to listen to James Kaler, professor emeritus of Astronomy at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Because, in a now viral article, he has revealed out that our star signs no longer line up with the zodiac because of the Earth’s wobble.

Or, as he put it, “a wobble in the Earth’s rotational axis called precession.”

So, what is the Earth’s wobble?

Writing in his article for The Conversation, Kaler explains that the “precession” causes the Earth to bulge slightly at the equator during its rotation. The gravity of the moon and sun then “pull on the bulge,” which causes Earth to wobble.

“The wobble causes the Earth’s axis, which is the centre line around which it rotates, to swing in a slow circle over the course of 25,800 years,” he writes, as reported by The Wall Street Journal.

And how does this impact our star signs?

According to Kaler, “this movement alters the view of the zodiac from Earth, making the constellations appear to slide to the east, roughly a degree per human lifetime.”

“It sounds slow,” Kaler adds, “but it changes the polestar.” 

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What is the polestar?

Joe Rao, SPACE.com’s skywatching columnist and a lecturer at New York’s Hayden Planetarium, previously told LiveScience that the polestar appears directly above the North Pole and marks due north.

At the moment, this is Polaris – aka the North Star. “Back when the pyramids were constructed, the star that aligned with the North Pole wasn’t Polaris at all: it was a star in the constellation Draco called Thuban,” explains Rao.

“In 12,000 years, Earth’s North Star will be Vega, the brightest star in the constellation Lyra.”

Which means… what, exactly?

It means that everything in the sky is in flux. 

To combat this, astronomers use the “wobble” to shift their coordinates every 50 years, to ensure their findings are up to date. Astrologers, though? Not so much. 

This means that the sun actually passes through the constellations around “one month later than what is recorded in our horoscopes”.

Hmm.

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Will I ever be an Aries again?

We have good news and bad news.

The good news is this: the “wobble” will eventually correct itself. The bad news? Well, it’s incredibly unlikely you’ll be around to see it.

“In ancient times, the vernal equinox – or the first day of spring – was in Aries,” writes Kaler. “Due to precession, it moved into Pisces around 100 BCE, where it is now and will remain until CE 2700, when it will move into Aquarius and so on.

“Over the course of 25,800 years, it will eventually return to Aries and the cycle will begin again.”

Just a couple of millennia to go, eh?

But this changes everything! Why are we only finding out about this now?

Well, the story has made some serious digital waves this week thanks to The Wall Street Journal’s coverage, but it’s actually old news. And not just because NASA have been talking about it for a while, but because it is ancient information.

As Rao told LiveScience: “The earliest known astronomer to recognize and assess the movement of precession was Aristarchus of Samos, who lived around 280 B.C.”

Stars
Everything in the sky is in flux.

So where can I find my new and improved horoscope?

Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. You can read up on your new star sign here.

And what if I don’t like my new star sign?

Well, there’s nobody to stop you reading your old horoscope.

To quote the folks at NASA once again: the zodiac is “not science” – it simply offers comfort in a similar manner to “reading fantasy stories”.

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Images: Unsplash/Anastasia Dulgier/Jeremy Thomas

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Kayleigh Dray

Kayleigh Dray is Stylist’s digital editor-at-large. Her specialist topics include comic books, films, TV and feminism. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends.

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