Friday, January 14, 2011

What’s your sign? Wrong!

Ask “What’s your sign?” and you may be expecting to hook up with someone who will make the earth move for you.

Well, silly, the sky has moved.

Not recently, either – over the last 2,200 years. Precession, it’s called. The result is that your sign is likely not what you thought it is.

Over the past two-and-a-half millennia, this wobble has caused the intersection point between the celestial equator and the ecliptic to move west along the ecliptic by 36 degrees, or almost exactly one-tenth of the way around. This means that the signs have slipped one-tenth—or almost one whole month—of the way around the sky to the west, relative to the stars beyond.

So what’s all the fuss about now?

This is a good time for me to ’fess up to a little trick I once played on horoscope fans.

At The Globe and Mail in the 1980s one of my jobs was to ensure that all regular features in the paper were published on schedule. This included the comics, the bridge column and the horoscope.

All was well until the week when the horoscope did not arrive as scheduled from the United States syndicate that supplied it.

Unwilling to face the wrath of readers denied their morning astrological fix, a group of editors created a simple and elegant solution.

I made up the horoscope entries for a couple of days, until our regular supplier came through.

Number of complaints received?