Attention All Astronomers — The World is Flat

Sorry for the slow page load! This article has gone viral. What a trip. By the way – you can read your 2011 Annual Horoscope Here. Or, check in with your Emotoscope.

Dear Friend and Reader:

I wish I could put out a press release announcing that the world is flat, and send astronomers scrambling — to return the favor for when an astronomer sends out a press release announcing that your zodiac sign is wrong. That’s what happened this week when the following went viral faster than the dude who got rich dancing around like a dork in 34 countries:

Astronomer Parke Kunkle says that due to changes in the Earth’s alignment the dates of many zodiac signs have changed, according to NBC. In addition, there may be a 13th Zodiac sign: Ophiuchus. Kunkle says that as the Earth and Sun slowly move the signs gradually change, as expected. The change didn’t happen over night either. The 12 signs were designated to different periods of the year almost 3,000 years ago, when astrology began, and since then the Earth’s position in relation to the sun has changed.

Either this is a joke or Parke Kunkle is truly ignorant of his own science. It’s probably a bit of both.

The tropical zodiac is in the inner wheel, the sidereal zodiac is in the outer wheel. Notice how they are 'out of alignment' by about one whole sign -- to be exact, 23 degrees. This is due to precessional movement, which shifts the two zodiacs by one degree every 70 years.

There are two zodiacs in common use. Kunkle is describing what is called the sidereal zodiac: the backdrop of the stars. It’s not the zodiac used by most Western astrologers; it’s the one used by Vedic astrologers, the kind in India, and a few in our part of the world. The two zodiacs are offset by about 23 degrees. I’ll explain why in a moment.

Here in the West, we use a zodiac that follows the seasons. It’s called the tropical zodiac. It’s based on the position of the Sun’s rays and the tropics — that’s why it’s called tropical. There is another one, based on the positions of the stars. It’s called the sidereal zodiac. If Kunkle doesn’t know this, it’s like a race car driver not understanding the concept of a tire. If so, he also doesn’t understand a long list of other concepts that must make it very difficult for him to do his work. Well, that’s what grad students are for. Notably, the sidereal zodiac is a feature in all astrology software.

In the Western or tropical zodiac, the Sun enters the tropical sign Aries the day of the vernal equinox each March. That’s the day that the Sun’s rays meet the equator directly overhead — the first day of spring in the Northern Hemisphere. (In the prior draft and in the audio I said ‘at a right angle’. Same idea.) The Sun enters the tropical sign Cancer when the Sun’s rays square the Tropic of Cancer — the first day of summer in the Northern Hemisphere, or summer solstice. The Sun enters Libra when the Sun’s rays square the equator again in September. The Sun enters Capricorn when the Sun’s rays square the Tropic of Capricorn each December, which is the first day of winter in the Northern Hemisphere (the seasons are reversed in the Southern Hemisphere).

Look! It's already there!

You then take those four cardinal points and divide them equally and you have the 12 signs of the tropical horoscope. There are no ‘extra signs’ added — the tropical zodiac is a division of the 360-degree wheel of the year into 12 equal slices of 30 degrees. This is not rocket science — but it is science.

As mentioned, the Western zodiac begins the day of the vernal equinox. The position of the Sun that day is called the Aries Point — or the Sidereal Vernal Point. If you read Planet Waves, you read about the Aries Point nearly every week. It’s extremely sensitive. The position of the Sidereal Vernal Point or Aries Point moves gradually as the Earth wobbles on its axis. Currently, the SVP is at 5 degrees Pisces on the sidereal zodiac. Hence, the tropical sign Aries begins in the sidereal sign Pisces. And as the Earth wobbles, the SVP is moving backwards toward Aquarius — hence “the Age of Aquarius.” About 2,000 years ago, the tropical signs aligned with the sidereal signs. Now they have precessed backwards by about 23 degrees. And for that matter, so has Christmas.

We don’t adjust Christmas one day every 70 years but sure enough, eventually, Dec. 25 will fall in the middle of Northern Hemisphere summer, with no help from global warming.

So, hear ye, hear ye! Vedic astrologers use the the sidereal zodiac, and most Western astrologers use the tropical zodiac. They have different purposes, and different philosophies. Both zodiacs work. Most Western astrologers are familiar with their sidereal chart — it tells a different story, and can reveal deeper tendencies you may have noticed but not named. I’m a Pisces in tropical astrology but an Aquarius in sidereal astrology. If you’re curious, cast your sidereal chart and see where the planets show up.

As for Ophiuchus. This is an old hoax. Historically, Ophiuchus has never been listed as a constellation in the sidereal zodiac. It is a constellation out there, but it’s off the ecliptic (that is, it’s not along the path of the Sun through the sky). I’ve read that Ptolemy mentions it in his literature as an off-zodiac constellation, meaning that the Sun never travels through it. In any event, there are some two dozen constellations that touch the ecliptic; but the sidereal zodiac uses just 12 of them.

The origin of the hoax is a sci-fi author named John Sladek — a satire writer who died in 2000. Sladek liked to prank astrology, and he has a whole novel about a fictitious 13th sign based on Ophiuchus he called Arachne that was “suppressed by the scientific community.” The Ophiuchus hoax first made its rounds in the late 1990s and pops up again like those emails from the guy in Nigeria who wants you to send him your bank account number so he can transfer $15 million your way.

Yours & truly,

Eric Francis
Kingston, New York USA

23 thoughts on “Attention All Astronomers — The World is Flat

  1. So, I am a believer in astrology and need further help in explaining how tropical astrology works to defend my position.
    “In the Western or tropical zodiac, the Sun enters the tropical sign Aries the day of the vernal equinox each March. That’s the day that the Sun’s rays meet the equator directly overhead — the first day of spring in the Northern Hemisphere.”
    But, if the pole are gradually shifting, wouldn’t it change the day the sun’s rays reached the equator?

  2. This is my first post. I am part of a human consciousness “group project” to bring in the ascension. This means team work, of course, but I hold an energetic body that has built a holographic representation of our cosmos. Think of it…let’s have an awesome new ascension, save every thing we can….and they wouldn’t have a giant White Board?

    Last week I saw a projection of a new constallation (sic) on the surface of the earth.
    We are preparing to merge with a different universe. Right now, we are floating in an energy field that is pure un-manifest potential.

    I hope to have many more thoughts presented by you on this subject.

  3. thank you thank you thank you

    I’ve been finding myself getting really crotchety as people keep trying to tell me I’m now a sunsign Libra. It’s pretty harsh. Now I have a retort.

    As a side question, does anyone understand or can you explain how the nested sidereal and western zodiac match up to the precession of equinoxes as tracked by the mayan calendar? My question might even be a little muddled because I admit I don’t fully understand the precession of equinoxes vis a vis mayan calendar, but the diagram included in this post of the nested zodiacs reminds me of the timing system of the different counts of the mayan calendar nested one within the other.

    Either way it’s all pretty cool. Except for awful-ochus. ophi-upagus, snuffa-lophiucus

  4. Chucklin’ *and* tiptoeing around the grass, A Word!

    I have joined your Laugh Yerself Sane movement. Hehheh!
    Healing one chuckle at a time.

  5. A Word, you are toooo funny.

    I think it’s very neat that astrology got “Kunkled” the other day, a zap from Uranus, and in its wake caused this particular astrology site, lead inspiringly by it’s Pisces (Aquarius…..?!!!) editor-in-chief to reach a much wider audience — Jupiter pow wow style, oh yeah!

    If ever there was an opening for the masses to broaden their understanding of astrology and how it *really* applies in their lives, Mr. Parke Funkle did us a huge favour.

  6. I dare say! And even though in a sidereel chart my planets are all skewed by a sign and a degree…..why, they are still in the same positions what relate to one another! Fancy that then. I never had no use for that blasted sunday paper sun-sign astrology anyway. harrumph. and stay off the grass!

  7. Actually we gain a day every 3200 years, so Christmas will be in the summer in about half a million years. Assuming we still use the same calendar then.

  8. Christmas is in no danger of drifting around to Summer. The leap year keeps the calendar aligned with the tropical year (the seasons), not the stars.

  9. Guess we can give Mr. Hoax a big thank you for somehow getting his BS press release all over the internet and thus helping Planet Waves go viral. Kind of ironic that the hoax helps the real, cutting edge site explode on the internet!! 🙂

    P.S. Great stuff Eric on the Arizona shooting and the two charts. Really fascinating!!

  10. Interesting stuff. You might find it worthwhile to note that the Tropics as such were named “back in the day” – as can be confirmed on wikipedia:

    “The imaginary line is called the Tropic of Cancer because when it was named, the Sun was in the direction of the constellation Cancer (Latin for crab) at the June solstice. … The word ‘tropic’ itself comes from the Greek τροπή (tropi), meaning turn, referring to the fact that the Sun appears to “turn back” at the solstices.”

    So, the whole notion of squaring the tropic, while quite relevant to modern tropical astrologers, doesn’t really dispel the whole point that many make regarding sidereal astrology – in other words, as a small correction to the above:-

    The Sun enters the tropical sign Gemini at the Summer soltice, because at the point in the year “when the Sun’s rays square the Tropic of Cancer” the constellation Gemini, the Sun and the Earth are all in alignment. The reference line of the Tropic of Cancer is essentially a border, much as the old Soviet Union had a border. It’s still quite relevant, as citizen of a country not in Russia but within that old border will tell you – but it’s not accurate in this one very real sense.

    I suppose one could make the point that in the pre-Christian era, the science of Astrology was a science much more in tune with Astronomy – and like many things from that period, was a less-layered reflection of the world around us. A direct result of embracing the experience of living, instead of positing reality as a concept to be appreciated.

  11. “If Kunkle doesn’t know this, it’s like a race car driver not understanding the concept of a tire.”

    I think this analogy is completely off. Kunkle is an Astronomer, not an Astrologer. Two different fields – one of which is an actual science. To be an Astronomer, there is absolutely no need to understand Astrology.

  12. For a moment there my whole identity dropped away…

    Strange though… todays reading as a Cap made no sense at all.
    So I peeked in on Sag, and it was spot on.

    Anyway, despite that, its nice being a Cap again.

  13. As for Ophiuchus. This is an old hoax. Historically, Ophiuchus has never been listed as a constellation in the sidereal zodiac. It is a constellation out there, but it’s off the ecliptic (that is, it’s not along the path of the Sun through the sky).

    Actually, if you take any planetarium software you can see that the Sun does go through Ophiuchus. It’s not very difficult to do either and there are lots of free programs out there if you look for them.

  14. I reposted this at least twice and then added the link to several panicking friend’s FB threads in comments. Think you’ll get lots of new business from this Eric!! You’re going to be rich!! Rich, I tell you!!!!

  15. Done! Thanks Eric. I was trying to explain it to my worried friends and couldn’t bring it down to brass tacks like you did. A picture’s worth a thousand words too!
    I also heard it explained as the numbers changing on the face of a clock but the hands still pointing to the true time.

  16. Thank you, Eric. Nobody could have said it better.

    With Neptune nearing the end of Aquarius we must expect more of this and be able to avoid being triggered. After all, this goes in the “sticks and stones” category. The more you know about astrology the more you know to lighten up and not let the bastards get you down.

    Most important: It’s not the instrument that counts, it’s the proficiency and integrity of the musician.

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