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Editorial - Give Me A Sign

Editorial Give Me A Sign

Your zodiac sign may not actually be what you think it is…

There are a number of things that we hold to be constants on Earth. I’m not talking about cheerful things such as death and taxes. I mean things that hold true even without human interference, such as the rising and setting of the sun. The waxing and waning of the moon. The stars in the sky. If this paragraph was a movie voiceover, this is where you’d hear the record-scratch sound effect. The stars in the sky, yes those twinkly things that form constellations above our heads — they’re not the same ones that used to be there before. 

“This is it,” you’re thinking. “We saw it coming, and now it’s finally happened. Suzanne’s lost her mind.” Well maybe I have, but I promise you I’m right about the stars! Hear me out.

When we look up at night, the stars that we see (provided, of course, that the sky is clear) are determined by two things: our geographical location and the time of year. This much you probably already know, because we’re all familiar with how the Earth moves around the Sun, and we know that early mariners used to navigate using different constellations depending on whether they were in the Northern or Southern Hemisphere. 

So far, so good. Ancient astronomers drew star maps and set things down in charts in full confidence that this data was immutable. What they didn’t count on, perhaps, was a little thing called axial precession.

Give Me A Sign

Lady Arpels Zodiac Lumineux Leonis watch © Van Cleef & Arpels

Earth’s axis of rotation is not perpendicular to its plane of orbit around the Sun. This leads to a lot of the natural phenomena we experience on Earth, such as the varying amount of daylight we receive throughout the year, especially in the more extreme latitudes. Currently, the Earth’s axis is tilted at 23.4° relative to its solar orbit. However, this tilt varies very slowly over time. Over a cycle of about 40,000 years, Earth’s axial tilt can go from 22.1° to 24.5°. This variation in axial tilt not only changes the conditions we have on Earth, it also changes the stars that we see. Constellations that were not visible in a particular city during the 18th century have just started to rise above the horizon. The stars are not the same.

The constellations that we associate with the different months in the year, which form our astrological signs, are no longer where they were when ancient astronomers mapped them out. Your zodiac sign is meant to be the constellation that the Sun was travelling through on the day you were born. If you were born between March 21 and April 19, that makes you an Aries; if you’re a Taurus, that means you were born between April 20 and May 20, and so on and so forth. 

Give Me A Sign

Midnight Zodiac Lumineux Aries watch © Van Cleef & Arpels

Axial precession, however, means that the Sun no longer travels through the constellations according to the traditional dates of the zodiac signs. If you were born between March 21 and April 19, you might be an Aries, but you might also be a Pisces. What’s more, the change in the Earth’s axial tilt now brings the Sun in line with a thirteenth constellation, called Ophiuchus. 

So, the next time someone asks you what your zodiac sign is, make sure you’ve got the right answer. Or you could just say you don’t believe in astrology.


Lecture 1 Comment(s)

17 January 2022
Denise Stpierre
Vraiment magnifique et original, se sont de vrai peitchef d'oeuvre. Les 2 sont vraiment belle, mais ma préférence vont vers les dégradés de bleus.

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