The Odd, Little Happy

Finally I dance with confidence to songs

Naked Eye Astronomy: Birthday Edition

Posted by theBarefoot on December 30, 2008


I know I promised that the next installment of Naked Eye Astronomy would be about unicorns, but y’all have indulged me so far. Please grant me this one birthday gift. Let me talk about the zodiac today. The zodiac is simply the twelve constellations through which the sun appears to move during the tropical year. Nothing more. Nothing less. I’m going to try not to sound rantish, but you see where this is going.

I sometimes write about astronomy. The stars, planets, comets, asteroids, planetoids, and all things astronomical have fascinated me since I was a child. I watched Apollo 11 land on the moon when I was 6 and the memory is as clear today as it was in 1969. I turned my childhood enthrallment into a hobby, amateur astronomy. I don’t want to put down anyone’s hobby, but astronomy is not astrology. Astronomy is a scientific approach to studying the heavens. Astrology is at best a funny, back page newspaper filler. At worst, astrology is a giant waste of time.

Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. I probably insulted some true believer out there. Someone will probably want to argue/debate the merits of astrology with me. Let me save you the trouble…don’t bother. It’s a crock. A big steaming crock of crap. I wrote an article about that topic a long time ago and I’m kicking myself for not leaning on one point more heavily. I touched on it under the heading “Stuck in the past” in the article, Debunking Astrology: Myth in the Modern Era. What is the one, biggest, glaring, conspicuous reason astrology is so very, very bogus? axial precession.

It hit me again today like the blazing sun in my astronomy software, Stellarium. I’m a Sagittarius who was born a Capricorn. Four thousand years of axial precession have bumped all the astrological signs back one month. The sun won’t even enter Capricornus until the 18th of January 2009. As it is today, as it was on my birthday, the sun is squarely in Sagittarius.

Those moldy Babylonians did a great job mapping out the sky and spinning some fanciful tales, but they didn’t factor in axial precession. No one since has bothered to adjust the astrological houses. No one bothers to point to all the fancy birth charts and say, “Um…no. The sun is in the wrong house for me to be a Capricorn.”

I’m sorry if that offends someone, but axial precession is a fact. I don’t care if you believe in God or gods or fate or karma. I don’t care if you think the flying spaghetti monster in the sky directs your daily footsteps. What snaps my garters is when people take something simple like gravity, twist it into some all-encompassing system, and try to relieve their minds of personal responsibility.

Just so we’re clear: 4,000 years ago astronomy helped plant crops. Then some joker got the idea that crop fertility equals human fertility and tried to apply that fancy new calendar to babies. Astronomy is not astrology. Stars are giant fusion reactors and do not control our fates. Planets follow Newtonian laws and not the laws of Marduk.

I was conceived under a “Do Not Disturb” sign and born under a stop sign. So happy birthday to me. Thanks for letting me get that off my chest. Consider that your annual sacrifice…er…present.

8 Responses to “Naked Eye Astronomy: Birthday Edition”

  1. Chris C said

    Sick em Barefoot! Great post.

    Yup, I’m still reading your blog, even though I no longer write on AC. Got you in my reader. :)

    Happy New Year.

  2. Sadie Kay said

    Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you, happy birthday dear Barefoot…….Happy Birthday tooooo you! (Music playing, horns tooting) These readings are enjoyable!

  3. jcrn said

    Hi- I think I was born under whatever sign says you get to go to the ER on Jan 30 with a gallbladder attack caused by an atypical reaction to an antibiotic. Is astrology that specific? Some friend tried to say it was…but I remain skeptical. Anyway, cheers for a Happy New Year as I begin my new diet for the week – toast, crackers, chicken noodles soup and Bentyl. Yum!

    Happy birthday to you! I hope you had one heck of a great time!

  4. Heather K. Adams said

    Happy Birthday! Thanks for challenging my way of thinking today. :)

  5. Jcrn said: Is astrology that specific?

    Yes it is, Jcrn. That’s what makes axial precession all that more devastating to the whole system. Astrologers draw up these detailed charts down to the longitude and latitude of the birth, but completely ignore the fact that the baseline principle of their whole system is millions of miles out of alignment. Run the sky ahead to the year 10,000 and Polaris isn’t even the North Star any longer. In fact, it’s not even visible in the northern hemisphere then.

  6. M J said

    Happy Birthday Barefoot!

    About Astrology: Although I’m by no means a scientific person I’ve truly tried to “read charts”. Out came the How-To books on the subject, paper, and calculator. After a week of calculating, scribbling notes and ending up with an impressive-looking chart (as well as a bleeding headache)it became clear that all information on the stars was based on circular movement instead of ellipses, making these kind of “predictions” absolutely useless. That was the first thing that made me skeptical.

    The second is that I sincerely doubt that millions of other people born under the same star all over the world share the same experiences as me.

    I’ve come to the same conclusions as you: It’s perhaps fun to read, but absolute nonsense.:)

  7. MeAndOnlyMe said

    Actually, I always thought it was kind of interesting, but that what is widely considered to be my sign was never quite right. I’ve known about there being a disparity between that and the reality of astronomy for years, but never knew how far it was off. As it turns out, the sign preceding my nominal sign is actually freaking on the money.

  8. I am not positive the place you’re getting your information, but good topic. I needs to spend a while finding out much more or figuring out more. Thanks for great info I used to be looking for this information for my mission.

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