To understand astronomy, astrology might actually not be a bad place to start… Although scientists certainly haven’t proven that being an Aries makes you more impatient or a Libra means you’re wise, the constellations in the zodiac have unlocked hidden secrets of the stars for centuries. In this episode, we’ll explore the ecliptic line and how it is still significant to astronomers today.
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Here’s how it works. If you could see all of the stars during the day, over the course of a year you’d be able to see the Sun slowly moving along a path from one constellation to the next. That imaginary path is called the ecliptic; and it’s arguably one of the most important coordinate systems in astronomy.
What makes the ecliptic line so useful is how it shows the plane of Earth’s orbit around the Sun and our place in the solar system.
Because all of the major celestial bodies in the solar system orbit the Sun in a similar way, they’re on or near the same flat plane of the ecliptic. That’s all the planets, and even the Moon. While some differ by a few degrees from the line, they’re all essentially there. Another reason zodiac constellations became so famous throughout history, is that we always see the moon, planets and eclipses near them.
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Dates of the sun’s entry into the zodiacal constellations for 2021
“You might know that the real sun in the real sky does not appear in front of a constellation of the zodiac within the same range of dates you’ll see listed in astrological horoscopes. That’s because astrology and astronomy are different systems. Astrologers typically indicate the sun’s position with signs while astronomers use constellations. We were asked for a list of the constellations that fall on the ecliptic with the exact degrees. And we’ve located this information in Guy Ottewell’s Astronomical Calendar 2021.”
The First Validated Planets Found by K2
“A majority of all exoplanets known today were discovered by Kepler. After the spacecraft’s loss of a second reaction wheel in 2014, the mission was renamed K2 and embarked on a new survey of the ecliptic plane, divided into campaigns of roughly 80 days each. We have presented 104 validated planets discovered using K2 photometry and supporting ground-based observations. Of these, 64 are planets validated here for the first time.”
Why Don’t the Constellations Line Up with the Astrological Dates?
“The astrological signs were identified and connected to the calendar about 2500 years ago. However, since that time, the timing of Earth’s seasons has shifted. This is partly due to the fact that Earth wobbles a little like a top, making its axis point in different directions at different times. This is a predictable cycle of change over a period of about 23,000 years.”
You can probably point to the Big Dipper, Orion’s Belt, and your astrological sign in the stars.
But what would the constellations look like from another solar system? And will any of Orion’s stars ever become black holes? In Seeker Constellations, we’ll explain the science of the universe’s most famous stars and dive into the culturally significant stories behind them. Most importantly, we’ll provide a guide to where you can see these incredible constellations for yourself!
Seeker empowers the curious to understand the science shaping our world. We tell award-winning stories about the natural forces and groundbreaking innovations that impact our lives, our planet, and our universe.
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