What's your zodiac sign? You sure about that?

A scientist's offhanded comments on why the zodiac chart is inaccurate sparks an Internet frenzy among people who fear their sign has changed.

I hope you're sitting down, because I have some information that might be earth-shattering for some of you. Others will give a collective "meh," and nobody would really blame you. But here it is: due to one scientist's offhanded comments, the Internet says you might no longer be the astrological sign you always thought you were.

You see, the ancient Babylonians made up the first zodiac systems thousands of years ago, and astrologically minded people have been using the same systems, more or less unchanged, since then. The problem, though, is that the Earth's tilt on its axis has shifted significantly since then. If you remap the zodiac using Earth's current position, you get a different telling of who's an Aries, Leo, and so on--including a newish sign called Ophiuchus.

Imagine it like this: If you spin something, the direction of the axis tends to wobble. The Earth's axis in its orbit does the same thing because of a phenomenon called precession, and is now facing a different star than it did 5,000 years ago. That means that the constellations that made up the Babylonian zodiac are not the constellations the sun currently passes through. So, according to many stories online today, a new zodiac could be devised. And that has believers in a frenzy.

The sign of Ophiuchus, the new 13th zodiac. Sounds lucky, no? Wikipedia

The thing is, there is no actual new zodiac. The re-imagining of the tables with newer data is all academic, and today's hype on blogs and Twitter comes from an article published Sunday in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. In it, an astronomer with the cool name of Parke Kunkle said that due to the Earth axis' wobble, when the sun "...is in Pisces, it's really not in Pisces."

Of course, the Internet went predictably bonkers at the news, inflating what Kunkle said (and meant) into something he didn't (and didn't): that there's a new zodiac.

Popular astrologer Susan Miller called the news "ridiculous." "We've known about this for ages," she told ABC News. "The constellations don't suggest what's coming up, it's the planets. The constellations are a measuring device."

So don't worry, fellow Pisces, we're still Pisces. And the rest of you are the same, too.

About the author

    With more than 15 years experience testing hardware (and being obsessed with it), Crave freelance writer Matt Hickey can tell the good gadgets from the great. He also has a keen eye for future technology trends. Matt has blogged for publications including TechCrunch, CrunchGear, and most recently, Gizmodo. Matt is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not an employee of CBS Interactive. E-mail Matt.

     

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