The claim: NASA has announced a 13th zodiac sign in honor of new constellation
Whether you are a Cancer, a Gemini or Leo, one thing's for sure: what the future has in store. But what if things have not been going to plan and all seems to be perpetually in retrograde? Maybe it's a case of a changing star.
According to a recent Facebook post, America's space agency, NASA, made a new discovery with astrological implications.
"The Zodiac is changing! NASA announced a new star sign, and it's throwing everything out of wack Was your horoscope affected?" The post is accompanied by a chart listing revised dates for each of the 12 well-known zodiac signs — Capricorn, Aquarius, Pisces, Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio and Sagittarius — but includes a new member, Ophiuchus.
The claim was published by Hot 100, a Virginia-based radio station.
USA TODAY's is awaiting comment from Hot 100.
No new constellation, says NASA
Shifts in astrological paradigms have been around since 2011, when Minnesota Planetarium Society astronomers found that the alignment of the stars had changed due to the moon's gravitational pull on Earth. The sun was thus pointing "to different parts of the zodiac at different times," according to Time. The Minnesota Planetarium Society then suggested a revised zodiac calendar, which did not make astrologers happy.
In January 2016, NASA published an educational blog for children updating the birthday constellation alignment. The space agency explained the history behind the zodiac signs and why a 13th zodiac sign had always been around (just never acknowledged). Women's magazine Cosmopolitan UK ran a story months later about NASA's "update" and instigating some panic among the zodiac-inclined.
NASA took to its official Tumblr shortly afterward to encourage calm: "Here at NASA, we study astronomy, not astrology. We didn’t change any zodiac signs, we just did the math," the agency wrote.
How does the zodiac relate to constellations?
For the uninitiated, the relationship between stars and astrological signs can seem a bit perplexing but is rooted in early astronomy.
Human beings have been staring into the night sky and attributing value to the movement of celestial bodies as early as 40,000 years ago. Over the course of several millenniums, ancient astronomers noted certain collections of stars appeared in the night sky during certain periods of time. These stellar collections, or constellations, were an observable effect of Earth's planetary movement around the sun.
"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," NASA writes.
The Babylonians of Mesopotamia, a region corresponding to most of the Middle East and southeastern Turkey, are credited with divvying up the zodiac into an even number.
"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'. So, as Earth orbits the sun, the sun would appear to pass through each of the 12 parts of the zodiac," NASA explains.
Each slice was assigned a month — convenient, since the Babylonians already had a 12-month lunar calendar — and each month assigned a constellation. Although 13 constellations were known, the Babylonians decidedly to arbitrarily not include Ophiuchus.
“The line from Earth through the sun points to Virgo for 45 days, but it points to Scorpius for only seven days. To make a tidy match with their 12-month calendar, the Babylonians ignored the fact that the sun actually moves through 13 constellations, not 12. Then they assigned each of those 12 constellations equal amounts of time,” NASA concludes.
Fact check: No, NASA did not find a parallel universe
Our ruling: False
We rate the claim that NASA announced a 13th zodiac sign in honor of a new constellation as FALSE because it was not supported by our research. Revising the zodiac to include Ophiuchus is not a new development on NASA's part but an inclusion of what the Babylonians left out thousands of years ago.
Our fact-check sources:
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: NASA did not announce a new, 13th zodiac sign