Despite several efforts to pull NASA into zodiac sign controversy, the US space agency has long kept aloof from such controversies. In its page for kids, the message is clear -- Astrology is not Astronomy.
It makes an unequivocal statement that astronomy is the scientific study of everything in outer space and clarifies that stars many light years away have no effect on the "ordinary activities of humans on Earth."
Astrology is something else, certainly it's not science, states NASA categorically on this page and goes on to assert the fact that there is no historical evidence that it "can be used" to predict the future or predict the nature of people based on their date of birth.
NASA did not stop there but gave out the reason behind the zodiac signs and the story behind it. The stars we see in the sky during the night prompted our ancestors, especially the Babylonians, to imagine some figures in constellation forms.
Modern science may describe it as the "pareidolia" phenomenon, whereby human brain is tuned to connect lines to form a known image and that might have influenced the Babylonians to imagine a symbol in the sky. Soon, they could have associated it with known myths.
Nonetheless, they even supposed that the changing positions of these constellations at different times of the year might be hinting at something and associated them with the happenings of people and events. Hence, there emerged astrology, which is NOT a science, says NASA.
What is special about these constellations?
The Babylonians imagined a straight line drawn from Earth through the Sun and out into space connecting the brightly visible stars. The imaginary line would rotate, pointing to different stars throughout one complete trip around the Sun, which is usually one year.
Originally, Babylonians came out with 13 constellations in the zodiac but NASA fails to convincingly answer the question as to why they omitted the 13th zodiac sign Ophiuchus. But that was 3,000 years old constellation and the Earth's axis (North Pole) has changed considerably since then and so should be the current constellations, asks NASA.
Ophiuchus in new Zodiac
One astronomer Parke Kunkle in Jan 2011 has set the astrology believers on a storm claiming in an NBC show that the Earth's position has changed vis-a-vis the Sun in the last 3,000 years and hence there is a new sign called Ophiuchus that dictates the course of many events. Kunkle, who is a board member of the Minnesota Planetarium Society, set the Internet and social media abuzz with questions over the new zodiac sign.
Ophiuchus or the Greek word for 'serpent-bearer', the sign is portrayed by a man grasping the snake that is represented by the constellation Serpens. In fact, it was one of the 48 constellations proposed by Ptolemy in the 2nd century. It was earlier known as Serpentarius, a Latin word for serpent-bearer.
If taken into account, the new sign would have covered those born between Nov. 29 and Dec. 17 while Sagittarius will move into the 13th position covering from Dec. 17 to Jan. 20. Some traits of those born in the sign of Ophiuchus are said to be honest, intellectual, sexually magnetic, prone to change and of course, jealous.
The introduction of Ophiuchus between Scorpio and Sagittarius has upset many people who take astrology seriously, especially the astrologers who are not willing to accommodate the new sign. Otherwise, here is the proposed new Zodiac sign chart:
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.
So all those born between November 29, say those celebrating their birthdays from Nov. 29 (Saturday) to Dec. 17 will come under this new classification but until astrologers unite to accept it, there will be no de jure validity to it. NASA, anyway, disagrees with the whole concept of the zodiac.