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What's Your Sign? Turns Out, Maybe It's Not

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What's Your Sign? Turns Out, Maybe It's Not

Strange News

What's Your Sign? Turns Out, Maybe It's Not

What's Your Sign? Turns Out, Maybe It's Not

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/132956604/132956580" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Horoscope readers beware: you may not be as compatible with the love of your life as you thought. Host Scott Simon speaks with Parke Kunkle, a Minnesota astronomer who discovered that the zodiac calendar designed in ancient Babylon is off by about a month. Astrologers are not pleased.

SCOTT SIMON, host:

Horoscope readers beware: You may not be as compatible with the love of your life as you thought. Parke Kunkle, an astronomer and board member of the Minnesota Planetarium Society, checked the zodiac calendar against the stars and says: It's wrong. He's even included a 13th sign.

This realignment, of course, has sparked some outrage among astrologers and the people who believe in astrology.

Parke Kunkle joins us from his office at Minneapolis Community and Technical College.

Thanks for being with us.

Professor PARKE KUNKLE (Minneapolis Community and Technical College): Thank you, Scott. It's a pleasure to be here.

SIMON: First, I've always wanted to begin an interview this way. What's your sign?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Prof. KUNKLE: I usually tell people I'm a vegetarian.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIMON: Now, I also have to ask. This 13th sign you've come up with - Ophiuchus?

Prof. KUNKLE: Ophiuchus, yes.

SIMON: A guy in my line of work could get into an awful lot of trouble trying to pronounce it.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Prof. KUNKLE: I understand. It's tough enough for us astronomers to do it.

SIMON: Why was this called for? What was wrong with the Babylonian calendar?

Prof. KUNKLE: In astronomy we look at the motion of the stars and the planets and what the background stars are. But the Earth has wobbled a bit in its spin, and that wobble has changed where the sun is located on a given date. If we, for example, take January 15th and you were born in 3,000 B.C., your parents would have looked up at the sky and said the sun is in Aquarius - the stars of Aquarius are in the background.

But today the sun is in Sagittarius. And it's just due to the wobble or the precession of the Earth's axis.

SIMON: How new is this wobble? I mean has...

Prof. KUNKLE: Right.

SIMON: ...have we always wobbled or is this just something since the Mets won the World Series in 1969?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Prof. KUNKLE: That could have caused a little wiggle and wobble. The Earth has been precessing, wobbling like this, for billions of years. We just, as humans, found out about it in about 130 B.C. And basically astronomers and astrologers have been talking about it ever since.

SIMON: For people who believe in it, does this render every horoscope moot?

Prof. KUNKLE: I think probably not. Astrologers aren't really using the actual position of the sun in the real constellation. So I don't think it's going to change anything in astrology. But the sun actually goes through Ophiuchus for about 18 days in December, so it'd be kind of fun to be born in early December. You could be an Ophiuchan then.

SIMON: I wonder if the word had been minted. I don't mind telling you, it could be fun to tell someone I'm an Ophiuchan.

Prof. KUNKLE: It actually could be. And Ophiuchus is a serpent-bearer so I can imagine all sorts of stories.

SIMON: Parke Kunkel, an astronomer at the Minneapolis Community and Technical College, and a vegetarian, for the moment.

Thanks very much for being with us.

Prof. KUNKLE: Thank you, Scott. It was a pleasure.

(Soundbite of song, "Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In"

THE FIFTH DIMENSION (Singing Group): (Singing) And love will steer the stars. This is the dawning of the Age of Aquarius. Age of Aquarius. Aquarius

SIMON: This NPR News.

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