So, you've spent your whole life happily smug in your star sign. You're a fish! Swimming in two directions! You're intuitive, imaginative, unworldly!
And then today's Web is aflame with the news: You are not a Pisces. You are an Aquarius. Your star sign has been wrong your whole life. All along, you've been a freaking water carrier. This is not cool.
According to Parke Kunkle, a board member of the Minnesota Planetarium Society, cool or not, it's written in the stars. Star signs were created some 2,000 years ago by tracking where the sun was in the sky each month.
However, the moon's gravitational pull has slowly moved the Earth in its axis, creating about a one-month bump in the stars' alignment, reports the Minnesota Star Tribune. Now, during what we think as the month of Pisces, the sun is actually in the sign of Aries.
The new dates would therefore be:
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-Dec. 17
Sagittarius: Dec. 17-Jan. 20
Is this the dawning of a new age of Aquarius? Well, Kunkle is an astronomer who is not too keen on the practice of astrology.
When asked by telephone if the new star locations now require us all to switch our loyalty to a new sign, he demurred. "I can tell you what the science is, but I'm not going to tell you what your personality is based on the location of things."
Commentators have also responded to the initial article, saying the new location of the earth does not matter. One wrote, "Oh for heaven's sake (oops), how can people with Ph.D.s be so ignorant? Of course astrologers know about precession -- they've known since about 200 BC. Horoscopes always take it into account... Sheesh."
The commentator is correct that this is not new information. Live Science reported on the role of "precession" on astrology in 2007. Precession is the phenomenon of the moon causing the earth to "wobble" on its axis.
Other astrologists say the ancient system was merely a practice used as a helpful hint for diviners. Blogger Jamie on Darkstar Astrology writes, "It is the planets moving across the backdrop of the stars which influence our lives, not the planets moving through imagined 30 degree divisions on a piece of paper."
So all those hapless men and women who rushed out in college to get a scorpion tattooed on their back don't need to now rush to sign up for laser removal.
If you're going to believe that all the people born on your birthday are imbued with certain traits similar to your own in some mystical, ancient manner, you might as well believe it does not matter where the stars are in the sky to begin with. On the flip side, if you've never liked your sign, here's your chance to switch.
Update: Well, strike that, you don't get to switch your sign. At least reader StarJack says so: "The stars are markers that drift, but our main points of reference are not directly the stars.
They are the equinoxes (both spring and vernal) and the solstices which altogether make the four cardinal points of the zodiac which in turn determine the signs.
The stars help us locate those points which define the SIGNS of the Zodiac which remain constant in relation to the equinox point. The CONSTELLATIONS do move about and we take that into consideration when locating planets."
Update take 2: To address a couple issues readers have brought up: the purported "new" sign of Ophiuchus is not a new sign. According to the original constellation chart, Ophiuchus made the list.
People born between Nov. 29-Dec. 17 now fall under the Ophiuchus sign, also known as the Serpent Holder sign (according to Time, you'd therefore be an interpreter of dreams and vivid premonitions and envied by your peers and favored by your father and authority figures).
However, the Babylonians discarded the 13th sign, to make for an even 12 signs two millennia ago. Which brings us to our next point: in case you don't know the O.G. star chart, here's what constellation your sign fell under 2,000 years ago:
Aries: March 21 - April 19
Taurus: April 20 - May 20
Gemini: May 21 - June 20
Cancer: June 21 - July 22
Leo: July 23 - August 22
Virgo: August 23 - September 22
Libra: September 23 - October 22
Scorpio: October 23 - November 21
Sagittarius: November 22 - December 21
Capricorn: December 22 - January 19
Aquarius: January 20 - February 18
Pisces: February 19 - March 20
And if all this talk has put you in need of a horoscope reading, here's the Washington Post daily astrology fix.
A big part of the whole debate comes from a divide in the astrological world: tropical vs. sidereal zodiac.
From Eric Francis of Planet Wave writes: "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. 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."