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These symbols stand for some of the constellations in the zodiac. What is the zodiac and what is special about these constellations? Imagine a straight line drawn from Earth through the Sun and out into space way beyond our solar system where the stars are. Then, picture Earth following its orbit around the Sun. This imaginary line would rotate, pointing to different stars throughout one complete trip around the Sun—or, one year. All the stars that lie close to the imaginary flat disk swept out by this imaginary line are said to be in the zodiac.
The constellations in the zodiac are simply the constellations that this imaginary straight line points to in its year-long journey. In ancient times, astronomers did not fully understand how Earth, the Sun, and the stars moved.
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Nor did they have any idea the Universe is so vast. But they were keen observers of the sky and tried very hard to make sense of it. People had already imagined that the constellations might be important symbols, telling stories of their gods and other myths. It was not a big step to suppose that the changing positions of the constellations at different times of the year might be important to people and events on Earth. The Babylonians lived over 3, years ago.
They divided the zodiac into 12 equal parts--like cutting a pizza into 12 equal slices. They picked 12 constellations in the zodiac, one for each of the 12 "slices. Since the Babylonians already had a month calendar based on the phases of the Moon , each month got a slice of the zodiac all to itself. But even according to the Babylonians' own ancient stories, there were 13 constellations in the zodiac.
Other cultures and traditions have recognized as many as 24 constellations in the zodiac. So the Babylonians picked one, Ophiuchus, to leave out. Even then, some of the chosen 12 didn't fit neatly into their assigned slice of the pie and slopped over into the next one. When the Babylonians first invented the 12 signs of zodiac, a birthday between about July 23 and August 22 meant being born under the constellation Leo.
Now, 3, years later, the sky has shifted because Earth's axis North Pole doesn't point in quite the same direction. Now Mimi's August 4 birthday would mean she was born "under the sign" of Cancer one constellation "earlier" , not Leo. The constellations are different sizes and shapes, so the Sun spends different lengths of time lined up with each one.
The line from Earth through the Sun points to Virgo for 45 days, but it points to Scorpius for only 7 days.
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To make a tidy match with their month calendar, the Babylonians ignored the fact that the Sun actually moves through 13 constellations, not In classical maps, it swallows the stream poured out of Aquarius' pitcher, but perhaps it formerly just swam in it. Aquila , The Eagle, was possibly associated with the zodiac by virtue of its main star, Altair. The following table compares the Gregorian dates on which the Sun enters:.
The theoretical beginning of Aries is the moment of vernal equinox , and all other dates shift accordingly. The precise Gregorian times and dates vary slightly from year to year as the Gregorian calendar shifts relative to the tropical year. Except for and , the vernal equinox has started on 20 March since , and is projected to until Because the Earth's axis is at an angle, some signs take longer to rise than others, and the farther away from the equator the observer is situated, the greater the difference.
Every Important Astrological Event and Date You Need to Know in 12222
Thus, signs are spoken of as "long" or "short" ascension. The zodiac system was developed in Babylonia , some 2, years ago, during the " Age of Aries ". Contemporary use of the coordinate system is presented with the choice of interpreting the system either as sidereal , with the signs fixed to the stellar background , or as tropical , with the signs fixed to the point vector of the Sun at the March equinox.
Western astrology takes the tropical approach, whereas Hindu astrology takes the sidereal one. This results in the originally unified zodiacal coordinate system drifting apart gradually, with a clockwise westward precession of 1. For the tropical zodiac used in Western astronomy and astrology, this means that the tropical sign of Aries currently lies somewhere within the constellation Pisces " Age of Pisces ".
The sidereal coordinate system takes into account the ayanamsa , ayan meaning transit or movement , and amsa meaning small part , i. It is unclear when Indians became aware of the precession of the equinoxes, but Bhaskara 2 's 12th-century treatise Siddhanta Shiromani gives equations for measurement of precession of equinoxes, and says his equations are based on some lost equations of Suryasiddhanta plus the equation of Munjaala.
The discovery of precession is attributed to Hipparchus around BC. Ptolemy quotes from Hipparchus' now lost work entitled "On the Displacement of the Solstitial and Equinoctial Points" in the seventh book of his 2nd century astronomical text, Almagest , where he describes the phenomenon of precession and estimates its value.
The principle of the vernal point acting as the first degree of the zodiac for Greek astronomers is also described in the 1st century BC astronomical text of Geminus of Rhodes. Geminus explains that Greek astronomers of his era associate the first degrees of the zodiac signs with the two solstices and the two equinoxes, in contrast to the older Chaldean Babylonian system, which placed these points within the zodiac signs. Ptolemy also demonstrates that the principle of the tropical zodiac was well known to his predecessors within his astrological text, the Tetrabiblos , where he explains why it would be an error to associate the regularly spaced signs of the seasonally aligned zodiac with the irregular boundaries of the visible constellations:.
These events can be useful, for example, to estimate the cross-sectional dimensions of a minor planet , or check a star for a close companion. The Sun's placement upon the vernal equinox, which occurs annually around 21 March, defines the starting point for measurement, the first degree of which is historically known as the " first point of Aries ". Zodiac signs have never been used to determine the boundaries of astronomical constellations that lie in the vicinity of the zodiac, which are, and always have been, irregular in their size and shape. The use of the zodiac as a means to determine astronomical measurement remained the main method for defining celestial positions by Western astronomers until the Renaissance, at which time preference moved to the equatorial coordinate system , which measures astronomical positions by right ascension and declination rather than the ecliptic-based definitions of celestial longitude and celestial latitude.
The word "zodiac" is also used in reference to the zodiacal cloud of dust grains that move among the planets, and the zodiacal light that originates from their scattering of sunlight.
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In Unicode, the symbols of zodiac signs are encoded in block "Miscellaneous Symbols": . From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. This is the latest accepted revision , reviewed on 5 October For the East Asian zodiac based on the Jovian orbital cycle, see Chinese zodiac. For other uses, see zodiac disambiguation. Further information: Former constellations. Further information: Babylonian star catalogues and MUL. Main article: Astrological sign. Further information: Axial precession , Epoch astronomy , Sidereal and tropical astrology , Astrological age , and Ayanamsa.
Astronomical symbols Chinese zodiac Circle of stars Cusp astrology Elements of the zodiac. Oxford Dictionaries. Oxford University Press.
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Retrieved 19 September The Signs of the Zodiac. Wilcox, London, p. See also Lankford, John; Rothenberg, Marc History of Astronomy: An Encyclopedia. The Almagest. Translated and annotated by G. Toomer ; with a foreword by Owen Gingerich. The introduction of the uniform zodiac", Archive for History of Exact Sciences , 64 6 : —, doi : The Mesopotamian traditions.
Astronomical Data Service. Page Lennart Geminos's Introduction to the Phenomena. Princeton University Press.
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Ptolemy's Tetrabiblos. Astrology Classics. Project Hindsight. Retrieved 4 July Hinduism: An Alphabetical Guide.
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Penguin Books India. London: Board of Longitude, Patrick Grim ed. Philosophy of science and the occult. Ptolemy's Catalogue of Stars: a revision of the Almagest. Carnegie Institution of Washington, Catesby Taliaferro ed.
Ptolemy refers to the constellation as Septentarius "the serpent holder". October The Observatory. Bibcode : Obs He later issued a statement to say he had not reported that the zodiac ought to include 13 signs instead of 12, but was only mentioning that there were 13 constellations; reported in Mad Astronomy : Why did your zodiac sign change? International Planetarium Society. Retrieved 21 March The date in other time zones may vary. The Unicode Standard.
History of the Zodiac. Sophia Academic Press. Lee T. Random House, Inc. Retrieved 21 May