Guess my sign….. yep it’s Ophiuchus.

Nope I didn’t make it up, it’s not a joke like saying my sign is “Slippery When Wet”, there are in fact 13 signs of the Zodiac, one of which is Ophiuchus.

The Zodiac forms an imaginary strip in the sky surrounding the Earth and Sun in the plane of our orbit, as the Earth moves through it’s orbit the Sun appears to be included in each of the constellations that make up the Zodiac in turn. While there are 13 constellations that make up this strip only 12 were included in the creation of the astrological tradition, possibly to divide the sky evenly into twelve 30 degree slices.

Each of these 30 degree chunks of sky were then named after the constellations that were closest to them at the time but in the thousands of years since it’s creation the apparent position in the sky has changed for each of the constellations. For instance, the time of Aries traditionally runs from March 21 to April 20 (in the tropical zodiac used for most astrology), but the actual dates corresponding to the seeming passage of the Sun through this part of the sky extends from April 18 to May 13.

The Sun is in the constellation Ophiuchus between November 30th and December 17th, making me an Ophiuchian. Even if the basis of astrology had any validity, namely that the relative position of celestial objects in sky at your time of birth have an influence on your personality, the sign ascribed to you according to popular culture is very nearly arbitrary. But assuming it wasn’t, the stars we use for astrology are themselves grouped simply by the coincidence that at this location in the galaxy they seem to form patterns. In three dimensions considering them to be a single group is about the same as thinking you really can squeeze someone’s head from across the room by closing one eye and making pinching motions with your finger and thumb.

Most people (~70% if some polls are accurate) consider astrology to be at best a mild diversion and not something to base your life around. Even so, the degree to which astrology has permeated western culture is astounding, you would be lucky to find a newspaper or women’s magazine that does not contain a horoscope. I expect every person who reads this understands the question “What’s your sign?” and would be able to answer instantly.

Well done for making it to the end of this futile diatribe, your lucky number this week is 3.14.