Over the past year or so, my friends and I have become obsessed with astrology. During this time, I’ve realized that the topic is way more complex than most people realize — especially given that many astrology apps like CoStar tend to oversimplify how the stars work.
One of the easiest places to start is by exploring your birth chart, which is a visual representation of the sky at the moment you were born. Your chart contains a series of astrological signs, planets, houses, and other symbols that work together to provide info about patterns and themes that may emerge in your life. Your birth chart can also lead you to discover your “big three”: Your sun, moon, and rising signs.
If you’re reading this and thinking ‘what is this writer talking about?’ you’re not alone. Astrology can be super confusing, especially when figuring out what the various symbols mean on your birth chart. (That’s right: Astrology is more than just saying “I’m a Libra, so I’m super indecisive”). Here’s how to find your “big three” in astrology, what they mean, and why they matter, according to a professional astrologer.
How do you find your astrology “big three?”
“If someone wants to know their sun, moon, and rising sign, all you need to do is get your birth information,” says Sofia Adler, a professional astrologer who helps clients discover and understand their birth chart in-depth. “In astrology, that means your date of birth — month, day, and year — then, the location. You can find out your sun, moon, and rising based on your birth chart, which is a picture of where the planets were in the sky the moment that you were born.”
Adler recommends going to www.astro.com to find your birth chart, although there are many methods — including free mobile apps like CHANI — that can help. Simply type in your birth information, and download a copy of your chart to get started. When doing so, Adler says that it’s important to enter your time and location of birth as exact as possible, or else it could lead to an inaccurate chart read.
“Time differs depending on what time zone you were born in,” she says. “So you want to get your time of birth as exact as possible. Yes, it matters, because that’s how you can go very in-depth into your chart. For example, we can’t know your rising sign unless we know your exact time of birth!”
Remind me—what are main astrological signs, again?
There are twelve zodiac signs including Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius, and Pisces. If you’ve gone your whole life thinking “I’m a Libra!” then chances are, this is your “sun sign” — AKA the main one that pops up when you check your monthly horoscope online. However, there’s more to your astrological blueprint than just your sun sign; your moon and rising signs matter, too.
Adler says that your “big three” are key in understanding your astrological blueprint. “Overall, these are the go-to for understanding your character in astrology. One sign isn’t better than the other; all of them are layered into one another.”
She adds that while the “big three” are core elements of your birth chart, there are an infinite number of ways to interpret your astrological makeup. “The ‘big three’ are only a piece of your chart — we’re all complex and diverse beings, and so are our charts!” she says.
Your sun sign represents your main form of expression.
Your sun sign is most likely the one you already know, and it corresponds with your date of birth. According to Adler, this sign can often represent an overarching theme in your life and personality.
“Your sun sign represents your life force,” she says. “It’s the way you shine, your vitality, and your self-expression.” She adds that your sun sign is typically related to your identity in some way, so it’s common for people to associate their main characteristics with the qualities of their sun sign.
“We often associate our identity with the sun,” Adler says. “The sun is a life force — it’s a very bright star, and it shines a light on everything. So equally, your sun is how you ‘radiate’ in the world, and how people look to you to radiate.” She adds that your sun sign can also represent who you are “becoming” in life, and like all zodiac signs, you may not feel connected to your sun sign 24/7 — it can ebb and flow depending on your stage of life.
For example, I’m a Libra. The stereotypical characteristics of a Libra include being indecisive, obsessed with beauty and aesthetics, and a general need for balance and fairness. All of these are true for me, but other Libras may look at the description and not relate at all. Astrology beginners assume their sun sign is all there is to learn, but it’s so much more!
Your moon sign represents your inner world and emotions.
Your moon sign in astrology is representative of your deep inner emotions and details about yourself that may be “hidden” or beneath the surface. (Think: Feelings, thoughts, and emotions you might not typically share with others).
“Your moon sign is our inner world…it’s what lies underneath the surface,” Adler says. “Where the sun rises during the day, the moon rises at night in darkness. The sun radiates, and the moon reflects.” Because the moon sign is tied to your intuition, emotions, and your “inner world,” Adler says it’s equally as valuable as your sun sign since it can signal what’s meaningful to you.
“The moon is what you need, what makes you feel safe, what makes you feel nourished, and what you look to in others to feel nourished,” she says. “The moon is what ‘feeds’ us.”
For example, although I’m a Libra sun, Scorpio is my moon sign; so, often when reading horoscopes or general traits of the zodiac signs, I find myself relating more to Scorpio than Libra. Similar to your sun sign, your moon sign is based on where the moon was positioned when you were born, and it’s easy to find using your birthdate (more on that later).
Your rising sign represents how others see you, and how you move through the world.
Your rising sign, also known as the “ascendant,” is also based on what time you were born. Rising signs change every two hours, so if you and your friend were born on the same day, you’d have the same sun sign, but probably different rising signs.
“Your rising sign is based on (quite literally) the moment you were born — AKA the zodiac sign that was rising over the eastern horizon,” Adler says. “Your rising sign is the way you move through life, the lens through which you view life, and how other people might see you.”
According to Adler, your rising sign can also represent the roadmap to becoming the fullest version of yourself. She says, “If your sun is the destination or the ‘end goal’ — AKA who you’re becoming — your rising sign is how you get there.”
Personally, my rising sign is Gemini, which means when I first meet others I can come across as chatty, bubbly, and sociable. If you’re a Capricorn sun, for example, but your rising sign is a Gemini, others may recognize your “Gemini-like” characteristics more than that of Capricorn.
Remember, your astrology “big three” don’t completely define you.
“The most important thing for college students to know about their “big three” is that you’re always changing your relationship to the signs,” Adler says. “Give yourself permission to grow into the energy of each of these signs and archetypes.”
She reminds students that the signs are diverse, and should be viewed as interrelated. “Just saying ‘I’m an Aries, and that’s it forever,’ is incorrect,” she tells Her Campus. “The signs are fluid, always in flow and in motion. Remember that your big three isn’t the only part of who you are; it’s only a piece of who we are, and a piece of our chart.”
Adler believes you can use astrology as an exciting tool for self-discovery, especially in college, which is a perfect time for it. “Our big 3 is only a piece of who we are, a piece of our chart, and it’s also something fun to lean into and explore to learn more about yourself – who you’re becoming, who you’re growing into. What are the parts of you in your zodiac chart that perhaps you haven’t given the space to shine yet?”
Additional reporting by Tianna Soto.