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Astronomy and Astrology: What’s the Truth?

According to NASA, in summary, science is the study of the physical world, its structure, and how it behaves. This leads scientists to observe, listen, record and be systematic about experimentation. Natural sciences, such as astronomy, seek to understand how the universe works and, in this case, the phenomena of celestial objects and laws of the stars. Astronomy uses and derives from other branches like physics, chemistry, and mathematics, which helps to explain the origins and evolution of those celestial bodies. 

On the other hand, astrology is a pseudoscience that seeks to explain how the transits of the celestial bodies in our solar system affect human life on Earth. A pseudoscience is a set of affirmations or beliefs that hasn’t been proven neither true nor false yet and, even if it is presented as science, it cannot be explained with scientific methods or systems. Astrology also has a meaningful influence on social culture and how we think about the world and our lives, as explained by the astronomer Carl Sagan.

Throughout history, astrology has been used by ancient civilizations to predict different types of phenomena such as divine communication or important calendar dates. The fact that these ancient cultures tried to consciously predict physical events points to links between astrology and astronomy, and opens the debate about whether astrology is a real science or not. 

Stars behind tall trees
Photo by Josh Frenette from Unsplash

We often confuse both of these terms with each other since they both deal with the investigation and understanding of the planets and the stars. In the modern world, astrology is used to better understand human behavior according to our birth charts, or even predict future events through horoscopes, tarot cards, pendulum readings, and other tools for spiritual divination. 

In Puerto Rico, for example, there are popular pages on social media platforms, such as @checkinmela, that post horoscope content with drawings, advice, songs, or rituals you should do depending on your birth sign and the current astrological season. Also, people used to look up their daily horoscope on the newspaper or television, where the famous Puerto Rican astrologer Walter Mercado had a show on Univisión and gave viewers hope about their futures. 

Other ways in which people follow astrology on a daily basis is through apps such as Co-Star, a hyper-personalized, real-time horoscope including birth charts, compatibility with other signs, planetary transitions and alignments, predictions, and notifications about what your resolution for the day should be. Individuals also carry their zodiac signs as part of their identities in other ways such as through tattoos or jewelry, and they even create and share funny memes about how the signs stereotypically feel and behave in specific situations. 

Astronomers frequently discuss that they study everything in space, and that what they do has nothing to do with the 12 zodiac signs or the supposed changes that NASA made by adding a 13th one. Actually, the space agency explained that the zodiac signs reflect constellations in line with the Earth and sun while the planet orbits them. This debate may have you wondering which one is the truth, or if you can believe in both of them.

Zodiac signs on building
Photo by Josh Rangel on Unsplash

One day, I was having a conversation about this topic with a friend of mine, Isaac Gómez. He’s an undergraduate student majoring in physics at the University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras Campus, and thinks the following about the debate about astrology:

“Modern science has been a journey into the unknown, countless lessons of humility and wonder have awaited us in every corner of our exploration. Much of our knowledge about the place we have in the universe comes from astronomy that studies the stars, planetary systems, and the family of light, the electromagnetic spectrum.” 

Gómez explains that, unfortunately, astronomy, the branch of physics, does not receive the credit it should deserve due to the rise of astrology, which is a pseudoscience. Gómez says that astrology keeps claiming that there is a connection between the stars and the future of our lives, and that’s why the debate stays in the feelings of what we want (astrology) and not in the objective truth (astronomy).

You may still think that there is something otherworldly, or that astrology is mysterious and fun, because you feel identified with astrologers’ predictions about your zodiac sign, as I also did. I even have a tattoo on my arm with my zodiac sign symbol and constellation, and I love it, but it wasn’t until I decided to get informed that I started seeing a lot more things around the truth. 

Crescent Moon, Venus, Jupiter and the Milky Way
Photo by Alexis Antonio from Unsplash

We, as humankind, have no explanation for a lot of phenomenons that exist or happen around us, which includes divine connections or life outside of Earth. Physics and astronomy have gone as far as we can go and have found no supporting evidence for astrological theories or proposals. It’s a big assumption to believe that the position of the planet at the moment of your birth influences your future, and it’s not fair for you to believe in it only when good things happen and not when bad things are predicted.

I’ll leave it to you. Do zodiac sign readings tell you what you should do or what will happen? Maybe until we have proven that one or the other is completely false or true, we won’t know what to believe, but informing ourselves is a great way to begin. As the famous astrophysicist, astronomer and cosmologist Carl Sagan said once, “the desire to be connected with the cosmos reflects a profound reality, we are connected, not in the trivial ways that the pseudoscience of astrology promises, but in the deepests ways.”

Itzel Rivera is an undergraduate student at the University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras Campus. She's studying Information & Journalism with the purpose of providing people the knowledge they need to educate themselves. Itzel aspires to execute her profession, values and principles in a way that it impacts society. Also, she loves lifting weights, studying and doing anything that will get her closer to her dreams!
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