Have you ever heard people refer to themselves as Capricorns or Scorpios? If you've ever WONDERed what in the world they were talking about, read on. Today's Wonder of the Day takes a closer look at the zodiac!
The zodiac got its start thousands of years ago with Babylonian astronomers. These early astronomers looked to map the stars in the sky to create an agricultural calendar that would determine when crops should be planted and harvested based upon the natural rising and setting of particular stars and/or constellations.
Based upon the Sun's path across the sky over the course of the year — called the ecliptic — early astronomers developed an early celestial coordinate system that based latitude upon the ecliptic and longitude on the position of the Sun at the vernal equinox. They then divided the celestial sphere into 12 divisions of longitude. We call these 12 divisions the 12 signs of the zodiac.
The zodiac spread to other cultures, including the ancient Greeks and Romans. In fact, the word zodiac comes from the Greek word zoidiakos, which means “little animal sign." This makes sense since several of the signs of the zodiac are based upon animals.
Today, the zodiac is associated mainly with astrology rather than astronomy. Whereas astronomy is the scientific study of celestial objects, space and the physical universe, astrology is more of an art. Astrology can be described as a collection of beliefs and traditions that focus on how the movement of the stars and planets relate to human events on Earth.
Astrologists study the movement of the stars and planets and predict how those movements might affect human behavior. Everyone's birthday is associated with a particular zodiac sign, and astrologists believe that predictions can be made about a person's personality based upon the location and movement of the stars and planets at the time of their birth.
While many people believe in astrology, many people do not think that the movement of the stars and planets has anything to do with life on Earth. Even if you don't believe in astrology, it can still be fun to learn about the zodiac.
The 12 signs of the zodiac and their symbols are as follows:
- Aries — the ram (March 21-April 19)
- Taurus — the bull (April 20-May 20)
- Gemini — the twins (May 21-June 20)
- Cancer — the crab (June 21-July 22)
- Leo — the lion (July 23-August 22)
- Virgo — the maiden (August 23-September 22)
- Libra — the scales (September 23-October 22)
- Scorpio — the scorpion (October 23-November 21)
- Sagittarius — the archer (November 22-December 21)
- Capricorn — the sea goat (December 22-January 19)
- Aquarius — the water bearer (January 20-February 18)
- Pisces — the fish (February 19-March 20)