New Zodiac sign Ophiucus

Prof. Parke Kunkle shocked many people Jan. 10 by saying the zodiac actually has 13 signs. (Sarah Black)

Sarah Black

A professor from a community college is out to set the record straight, calling out 3,000 years of popular belief and Babylonian tradition and telling the world they’ve got their zodiac signs wrong.

Professor Parke Kunkle, an astronomer teaching at Minneapolis Community and Technical College and board member of the Minnesota Planetarium Society, has made clear that the current zodiac calendar is wrong, and has added a 13th sign, Ophiucus (ooh-FEE-yew-kus).

“In astronomy we look at the motion of the stars and the planets and what the background stars are,” said Kunkle in a radio broadcast with NPR. “But the Earth has wobbled a bit in its spin, and that wobble has changed where the sun is located on a given date.”

This means that when astrologers say the sun is in Pisces, it is now in Aquarius, et cetera, Kunkle said. Ophiucus is situated between Nov. 30 to Dec. 17, and is referred to as “The Serpent Bearer.”

In mythology, Ophiuchus, also known as Aesculapius to the Greeks, was the son of Apollo and a healer. He was later struck down by Zeus for bringing a man back to life. The snake is held as his sacred servant.

Kirra Kudla, 18, fashion design, and a Pisces, noticed those of her friends who faithfully followed their horoscopes were unhappy with their changed zodiac signs.

“They’re unhappy about it until they read it and they like [their new sign], then they’re okay,” said Kudla.

Chris Howard, 24, criminal justice, and a Cancer, said regardless if his sign has changed, he still considers himself a Cancer.

“It’s not true,” said Caitlyn Tirella, 19, criminal justice, and a Scorpio, when she heard the news of the adjusted calendar. “I’m a Scorpio and you can’t change me.”

“Nineteen years into life, you can’t change someone’s sign,” said Kristine Cincotta, 19, undeclared, and a Pisces.

Ophiuchus has always been part of the constellations, said Mitch Haeri, an astronomy instructor at Saddleback, but the Babylonians took 13 signs as bad luck, and disregarded one sign.

“On paper, I am a Virgo,” Haeri said. “However the current position of the sun says I am a Leo.”

However, Ophiuchus as a zodiac sign only applies to those born after 2009. So most people seem to be safe from this new constellation.

Additionally, horoscopes won’t change. Scientists have known about this extra sign since 130 B.C., said Kunkle, clarifying his earlier statements in a later report to the Associated Press.

“I’ve been teaching this in my class for years,” said James Repka, who is an instructor for Astronomy 20 as well as geology and earth science courses at Saddleback. “The axis makes a full circle (think of the ‘wobble’ of a top) in about 26,000 years or about one degree every 72 years.”

Therefore from the time 2,200 years ago, the earth was 30 degrees off from where it is now, he said.

Western horoscopes are based on the equinox and not star constellations, and therefore remain unaffected.

Those following Eastern astrology traditions aren’t so unaffected, but the change in the zodiac is still under debate.

As to why an astronomer is being taken so seriously concerning an astrological subject, it’s probably because, “scientists know what they’re talking about,” Repka said.

“Astronomy is a science that studies they evolution and structure of the universe, while astrology is a belief system,” he said. “Astrologers define the parameters of their field in whatever way they choose but it has nothing to do with the field of astronomy, except that they use some of the same terminology.”

But for anyone still suspicious, can help determine the true position of the constellations during your birth in order to identify your true sign.