(CBS) — A new zodiac sign has not actually been discovered, NASA confirmed Thursday night. The space agency debunked an ongoing conspiracy theory this week that it had added a mysterious thirteenth sign to the astrological calendar.
Every now and again, a NASA blog post from 2016 resurfaces, prompting rumors that the agency uncovered “a new horoscope.” The theory would insert Ophiuchus — the serpent-bearer — before Sagittarius, from November 29 to December 17.
This change would shift the entire astrology chart and everyone’s star signs — sending astrology lovers into a panic.
The article resurfaced again this week — and NASA came to the rescue to shut down the idea that it has reassigned everyone’s astrological signs.
“No, we did not change the zodiac,” NASA tweeted Thursday night. “When the Babylonians invented the constellations 3,000 years ago, they chose to leave out a 13th sign. So, we did the math.”
👀 We see your comments about a zodiac story that re-emerges every few years. No, we did not change the zodiac.— NASA (@NASA) July 17, 2020
When the Babylonians invented the constellations 3,000 years ago, they chose to leave out a 13th sign. So, we did the math: https://t.co/DQOs5VSjT7 pic.twitter.com/WlblguobGT
NASA studies astronomy, the scientific study of everything in outer space. Alternatively, astrology is the belief that the positions of stars and planets can influence human events — but it’s not considered science, NASA said.
NASA explained in a Tumblr post that the Babylonians divided the zodiac into 12 equal parts, assigning a constellation to each that the sun travels through each year. However, according to the Babylonians’ ancient stories, there were actually 13 constellations, but they had to choose one to leave out — Ophiuchus — so that they fit nicely in the 12-month calendar.
But, 3,000 years later, the sky has shifted because Earth’s axis does not point in exactly the same direction anymore — meaning the constellations are no longer in the same place anyway.
“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,” NASA said in its original blog post.
“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. Besides the 12 familiar constellations of the zodiac, the Sun is also aligned with Ophiuchus for about 18 days each year.”
So, the Babylonians merged Ophiuchus into Sagittarius and Scorpio, and NASA did not “discover” a new sign. Additionally, since the sun’s actual position in the sky is different from what astrologers assigned to it, your actual star sign may be different from the one you think it is.
NASA went even further on its children’s website, essentially debunking the concept of astrology entirely.
“No one has shown that astrology can be used to predict the future or describe what people are like based only on their birth date,” the space agency said. “Still, like reading fantasy stories, many people enjoy reading their ‘astrological forecast’ or ‘horoscope’ in the newspaper every day.”
First published on July 17, 2020 / 12:59 PM
© 2020 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.