Astronomy not astrology: Ophiuchus

Kaicie Boeglin

Opinions Editor

Photo via In-The-Sky.org

Astrology is a pseudoscience that does not follow astronomy. There are 13 zodiac constellations along the celestial equator. Ophiuchus is the constellation not widely talked about. The position of stars and constellations have shifted continually since their inception. NASA has confirmed the stars are not in the same spot when the Babylonians first crafted the Zodiac.


Astrological signs versus astronomical constellations is why Ophiuchus is not referred to in astrological horoscopes. Individuals only learn of Ophiuchus if they take an Astronomy course. Location and point in time determine what constellations are seen. Points in the history of the universe determine the position of stars and constellations. Zodiac constellations run astride the sun’s yearly pathway against the backdrop stars.


Star lore claims the constellation Ophiuchus was named after Asclepius. This man was the first doctor in Greek mythology and was always depicted holding a snake or serpent. The name of the constellation is derived from the Greek term Serpent Bearer. The constellation itself looks like a man holding a snake, with the snake coiled around the waist. Ophiuchus contains a number of notable stars, including Rasalhague, Barnard’s Star and Kepler’s Supernova. It also holds many famous deep sky objects, including the Twin Jet Nebula, the Little Ghost Nebula, the dark nebulae Barnard 68, the Pipe Nebula, the Snake Nebula and the Dark Horse Nebula.


Ophiuchus is found near the band of the Milky Way and is the 11th largest constellation. It occupies 948 square degrees of space. The sun passes over the constellation for two weeks every year making Ophiuchus an informal member of the zodiac signs. Astrological signs and astronomical constellations are on the zodiac: the narrow beltway of stars on the stellar sphere that the sun, moon and planets travel continuously. The band of the zodiac stretches 8° both north and south of the ecliptic. Neighboring constellations are Aquila, Hercules, Libra, Sagittarius, Scorpius and Serpens.


The December solstice currently resides in the Sagittarius constellation but has been working into Ophiuchus. This solstice moves one degree westward in front of the zodiac about every 72 years. EarthSky cites the solstice to officially move into Ophiuchus by the year 2269.


For those that follow astronomy over astrology and want to know the dates of the 13 constellations they are as follows:

Capricorn: Jan 21 - Feb 16 (Constellation name: Capricornus)

Aquarius: Feb 17 – March 11

Pisces: March 12 – April 18

Aries: April 19 – May 13

Taurus: May 14 – June 21

Gemini: June 22 – July 20

Cancer: July 21 – Aug 10

Leo: Aug 11 – Sept 16

Virgo: Sept 17 – Oct 30

Libra: Oct 31 – Nov 23

Scorpio: Nov 24 – Nov 29 (Constellation name: Scorpius)

Ophiuchus: Nov 30 – Dec 17

Sagittarius: Dec 18 – Jan 20


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