Night Sky Gaze

Astronomy vs. Astrology: What’s the Difference?

Dear Stargazers, have you ever wondered what the difference is between astronomy vs. astrology? The two might have more in common than you think!

A Modern Division

Modern astronomy is the study of celestial objects. That includes planets, stars, moons, comets, and even more exotic objects like black holes. Astronomers study the position, movement, and interaction of these objects in order to better understand our universe.

Astrologers also study the movement and position of celestial objects, but they’re interested in how those objects affect us. They claim that certain events, like the retrograde orbit of Mercury, can have an influence on people and events. However, that influence cannot be measured by any known technology.

Today, astronomy is a scientific field while astrology is often dismissed as a pseudoscience. But that wasn’t always the case! Until the 17th century, astrology was considered just as valid as astronomy.

A Common Origin

For thousands of years–since man first gazed up at the stars–astrology and astronomy were intertwined. Astrologers in ancient Babylonia and Greece made careful observations of the night sky in order to more accurately predict the future on Earth.

Their work, although much of it was later debunked thanks to more accurate instruments, formed the basis of both modern astronomy and astrology.

It wasn’t until Newton’s study of gravity in the late 1600s that astronomy began to break from astrology. Newton proved, using mathematics, that the same force that caused an apple to fall from a tree also influenced the movement of celestial objects in the sky.

Galileo, Copernicus, Kepler were also key figures in the development of modern-day astronomy. Their observations eventually led to the millennia-old Ptolemaic model, which insisted that the Earth was the center of the universe, being replaced by the modern-day understand of the solar system.

Myths and Methods

Astrology is heavily influenced by Greek and Roman mythology. It assigns certain characteristics to the 12 signs of the Zodiac as well as each of the planets. Venus, for example, is said to rule over the domain of love like the Roman goddess it is named after.

But while astronomers dismiss astrology as a silly game, it’s interesting to note that both fields use similar tools. Astrologers use computer programs to calculate star charts. They place as much emphasis on precise measurements of the stars and planets as any astronomer.

The main difference between the two fields is that astrologers use the data they gather to make predictions about the future or give insight into human behavior.

What Do You Believe?

Astronomers would argue that astrology has no basis in fact. We can’t measure the effect of Venus on human behavior the same way we can measure the distance to the nearest star. But ask anyone who has ever worked in an emergency room, and they’ll tell you that things really do get crazier during a full moon.

For thousands of years, kings and queens relied on the advice of astrologers to make major decisions. And First Lady Nancy Reagan relied on the guidance of her personal astrologer, Joan Quigley.

Even though there’s no scientific basis to astrology, people still look to the stars for answers. Do you?

Deana Adams

When Deana Adams was a kid, she begged her parents for a backyard telescope every birthday and Christmas until they finally caved. As an avid amateur stargazer, she memorized the constellations and hunted for the planets, collecting facts about astronomy the way other kids collected baseball cards or Barbies.

Deana is a contributing writer at NightSkyGaze. She still has her very first telescope.