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Signs off? Professor finds horoscopes may be a bit off kilter

Published January 14, 2011 12:18 am

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This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Miami • When astronomers in 2006 declared that Pluto was no longer a planet, the world gasped — and then obeyed. School textbooks were re-written, and scientific discovery ruled the day.

Then this week, a Minnesota astronomy professor took on something even more sacred — our horoscopes.

The astrological calendar was all wrong, he said in public comments that set the Internet aflame.

People might think they're a Pisces (compassionate, imaginative), but often they're really an Aquarius (witty, clever) — at least based on an exact reading of the Earth's orbit. Or maybe, if you were born between Nov. 29 and Dec. 17, you're actually a strange new zodiac sign: Ophiuchus, the serpent holder. But who wants to admit to being that snake-guy sign on a first date?

"I defined the zodiac by the constellations that are in the background when you look at where the sun, moon, and stars are," said Minneapolis Community and Technical College instructor Parke Kunkle, the man responsible for momentarily turning the astrology world upside down. "Ophiuchus has been around a long time, and the sun has been going through Ophiuchus for thousands of years."

In Kunkle's 13-member zodiac, the signs occupy more or less space on the calendar depending upon how long they are in the sun's path.

Although Ophiuchus (seeker of wisdom, lucky) has only what amounts to a celestial toe in the sun's path, Kunkle defended its inclusion by noting it hosts the sun for more than twice as long as Scorpio (independent, passionate).

Leading astrologers, after getting their collective bearings, were unified and defiant in their response: Not this time, Science.

"It holds no water," said South Florida's self described "master astrologer" Jeffrey Brock. Brock said it was a "completely unfounded" attempt by scientists to discredit astrology, which they had never been fond of to begin with.

Proclaimed Miami astrologist Ron Archer: "Mythology is always true."

Kunkle's re-examining of astrology is rooted in the Earth's "precession" — put simply, the gravity-fueled change in orientation of the Earth's rotational axis.

"The Earth sort of spins like a top," explained Florida International University physics professor James Webb. "It usually doesn't just stand up straight and spin, it usually wobbles."

"Astrologers for years have not taken that into account," Webb continued. "So now people are starting to call them on it."