Thirteenth Constellation

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In fact, Ophiuchus touches the ecliptic

At the beginning of 1995, the international media reported that a thirteenth constellation and therefore sign of the sidereal zodiac between Scorpio and Sagittarius had been discovered: Ophiuchus or the Serpent Bearer. Opponents of astrology viewed this news as confirmation of their skepticism of astrology and declared the zodiac used by astrologers to be obsolete. The scientist Jacqueline Mitton from the Royal Astronomical Society of Great Britain was credited with making the discovery, but she later distanced herself from the claim that the 'Serpent Bearer' was a new astronomical discovery.[1] In actual fact, it can be found plotted in the same position on 2000 year old astronomical maps, but she nevertheless continued to hold that its existence meant that the astrological division into twelve signs had lost all legitimacy. The charge of a "thirteenth sign" ignored by astrologers re-emerged in 2011, with fresh criticism in the US from the Minnesota Planetarium Society, which its spokesman subsequently retracted.

The reference to a thirteenth constellation as an argument against astrology ignores the fact that even in Antiquity western astrology used an equal twelve-fold division of the ecliptic based on the astronomical relationship between the Sun and the Earth defined by equinoxes and solstices, i.e. the tropical zodiac. Due to the precession of the equinoxes the signs are no longer attached to the stars grouped into the constellations for which they were named. The constellation Ophiuchus occupies only a narrow band along the ecliptic, and its space is covered by the signs of Scorpio and Sagittarius.


Rignac[2]already proclaimed a "thirteenth star-sign"

Notes and References

  1. The constellation was formerly referred to as Serpentarius and Anguitenens
  2. Jean Rignac was a French astrologer in the 1970s