For the Umpteenth Time No NASA Didn’t Change the Zodiac

Come on everyone, no. Just…no.

NASA did not “change your star sign.” NASA neither creates “star signs” nor names or changes them.

This is because 1. that’s not NASA’s job, and 2. “star signs”—i.e., astrology—is junk science. (And that’s being grossly generous with the term “science.”)

These shenanigans pop up online now seemingly perennially, ever since the whole Ophiuchus thing in 2016. Long story short, a NASA educational site designed for children discussed constellations and the calendar and the signs of the zodiac (and what that all means) and mentioned that the constellation Ophiuchus was conveniently ignored by the ancient Babylonians, who set up the whole Sun-sign zodiac system that ended up in today’s popular culture as some sort of magical divination device. It then went on to explain how the movement of Earth’s orientation over time changes where the Sun appears to be in the sky in relation to the distant background stars in our galaxy, thus changing how it looks now versus how it would have appeared to Babylonian astrologers 3000 years ago. (That’s one of the many things we know now that they couldn’t have known then, thanks to science.)

Somehow—and I don’t know how—this got turned into NASA changing the zodiac, or adding a new constellation, or something like that. And people freaked. Because people love their “star signs.”

Star signs make for cute jewelry or tattoos, because cool old-timey symbols. I get it. But there’s nothing scientific about them. They’re pop culture junk food. And plenty of companies and individuals over the years have made lots of money off them. (Remember these?)

Don’t get me wrong, the constellations are there. Astronomers, especially amateur, use them—they’re handy for sectioning off areas of the sky and giving names to bright stars and tracking transiting objects like comets and such. Even today we use the names that have already been established, because then we can use old observational records (yes, even astrological ones) and basically keep everyone on the same page. But constellations—even the ones aligned with the apparent movements of the Sun and planets—do not exert power over us. Other than what time of year it is or what season wherever you happen to live, there’s nothing special about the Sun being “in” Leo or Capricorn or Pisces. Same goes for a planet passing in front of any of them from our point of view. It’s all perspective, and there’s no “force” that stretches from those background stars through that planet or our Sun and down onto Earth into you to make you have a prosperous or love-filled week or not.

Are there physical forces? Yes. Do they work like astrologers would have you believe? No.

“Either there is a known force, and we can show it doesn’t work for astrology, or it’s some unknown force that doesn’t obey the laws of physics, in which case asteroids and extrasolar planets would dominate astrology, washing out the effects from our own solar system planets. So it can’t be a known or unknown force. That leaves nothing. Astrology doesn’t work.”
— Phil Plait, astronomer (source)

NASA neither has, nor wants, jurisdiction over the zodiac. (They really don’t get to officially name things anyway…that job goes to the IAU or Minor Planet Center for asteroids and comets.)

I dig into the whole astrology nonsense in my dedicated page here. It used to be in the menu above but since I consolidated that it’s been removed. But there are some good links and videos there on why astrology is really just for imaginative fun at best…and a con game at worst.

Read more in this Tumblr blog post from NASA (from 2016) in response to a previous accusation of changing the zodiac. (And maybe bookmark it for the next time this all comes up. It will.)

I like to say you can believe in all the mystical energy you want and if it helps you have a better day, fine. But until we can use it to at least toast a piece of bread I’m going to remain skeptical of any life-influencing abilities.