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For the East Asian zodiac based on the Jovian orbital cycle, see Chinese zodiac. For other uses, see Zodiac (disambiguation).
Two maps of the constellations, two centuries apart. Both show the zodiac constellations along the curved line showing the sun's ecliptic path.
The zodiac is a belt-shaped region of the sky that extends approximately 8° north or south (as measured in celestial latitude) of the ecliptic, the apparent path of the Sun across the celestial sphere over the course of the year. The paths of the Moon and visible planets are within the belt of the zodiac.
In Western astrology, and formerly astronomy, the zodiac is divided into twelve signs, each occupying 30° of celestial longitude and roughly corresponding to the star constellations: Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius, and Pisces.
These astrological signs form a celestial coordinate system, or more specifically an ecliptic coordinate system, which takes the ecliptic as the origin of latitude and the Sun's position at vernal equinox as the origin of longitude.
1 Name 2 Usage 3 History 3.1 Early history
3.2 Hebrew astronomy and astrology
3.3 Hellenistic and Roman era
3.4 Hindu zodiac 3.5 Middle Ages
3.6 Medieval Islamic era
3.7 Early modern 4 Twelve signs 5 Constellations
6 Precession of the equinoxes
7 In modern astronomy
8 Unicode characters
9 See also 10 References 11 External links
The English word derives from , the Latinized form of the Ancient Greek (ζῳδιακός κύκλος), meaning "cycle or circle of little animals". (ζῴδιον) is the diminutive of (ζῷον, "animal"). The name reflects the prominence of animals (and mythological hybrids) among the twelve signs.
Modern zodiac wheel showing the 12 signs used in horoscopic astrology
The zodiac was in use by the Roman era, based on concepts inherited by Hellenistic astronomy from Babylonian astronomy of the Chaldean period (mid-1st millennium BC), which, in turn, derived from an earlier system of lists of stars along the ecliptic. The construction of the zodiac is described in Ptolemy's comprehensive 2nd century AD work, the .
Although the zodiac remains the basis of the ecliptic coordinate system in use in astronomy besides the equatorial one, the term and the names of the twelve signs are today mostly associated with horoscopic astrology. The term "zodiac" may also refer to the region of the celestial sphere encompassing the paths of the planets corresponding to the band of about 8 arc degrees above and below the ecliptic. The zodiac of a given planet is the band that contains the path of that particular body; e.g., the "zodiac of the Moon" is the band of 5° above and below the ecliptic. By extension, the "zodiac of the comets" may refer to the band encompassing most short-period comets.
Further information: Former constellation
As early as the 14th century BC a complete list of the 36 Egyptian decans was placed among the hieroglyphs adorning the tomb of Seti I; they figured again in the temple of Ramesses II, and characterize every Egyptian astrological monument. Both the famous zodiacs of Dendera display their symbols, unmistakably identified by Karl Richard Lepsius.
A 6th century mosaic zodiac wheel in a synagogue, incorporating Greek-Byzantine elements, Beit Alpha, Israel
Zodiac circle with planets, c.1000 –
Further information: Babylonian star catalogues and MUL.APIN
The division of the ecliptic into the zodiacal signs originates in Babylonian astronomy during the first half of the 1st millennium BC. The zodiac draws on stars in earlier Babylonian star catalogues, such as the MUL.APIN catalogue, which was compiled around 1000 BC. Some constellations can be traced even further back, to Bronze Age (First Babylonian dynasty) sources, including Gemini "The Twins," from MAŠ.TAB.BA.GAL.GAL "The Great Twins," and Cancer "The Crab," from AL.LUL "The Crayfish," among others.
Around the end of the 5th century BC, Babylonian astronomers divided the ecliptic into 12 equal "signs", by analogy to 12 schematic months of 30 days each. Each sign contained 30° of celestial longitude, thus creating the first known celestial coordinate system. According to calculations by modern astrophysics, the zodiac was introduced between 409 and 398 BC, during Persian rule, and probably within a very few years of 401 BC. Unlike modern astrologers, who place the beginning of the sign of Aries at the position of the Sun at the vernal equinox in the Northern Hemisphere (March equinox), Babylonian astronomers fixed the zodiac in relation to stars, placing the beginning of Cancer at the "Rear Twin Star" (β Geminorum) and the beginning of Aquarius at the "Rear Star of the Goat-Fish" (δ Capricorni).
zodiac, in astronomy and astrology, a belt around the heavens extending 9° on either side of the ecliptic, the plane of Earth’s orbit and of the Sun’s apparent annual path. The orbits of the Moon and of the principal planets also lie entirely within the zodiac. The 12 astrological signs of the zodiac are each considered to occupy 1 12 (or 30°) of its great circle. These signs no longer correspond to the astronomical constellations in which the Sun actually appears. The constellations are irregular in size and shape, and the Sun regularly passes through one constellation (Ophiuchus) that is
work by Ptolemy
Alternate titles: “Great Compilation”
By The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica • Edit HistoryAlmagest, astronomical manual written about 150 CE by Ptolemy (Claudius Ptolemaeus of Alexandria). It served as the basic guide for Islamic and European astronomers until about the beginning of the 17th century. Its original name was Mathematike Syntaxis (“The Mathematical Arrangement”); Almagest arose as an Arabic corruption of the Greek word for “greatest” (megiste). It was translated into Arabic in the late 8th and early 9th centuries and then from Arabic to Latin by Gerard of Cremona in the last half of the 12th century. Beginning in the 15th century, the Greek text circulated widely in Europe, although the Latin translations from Arabic continued to be more influential.
The Almagest is divided into 13 books. Book 1 gives arguments for a geocentric spherical cosmos and introduces the necessary trigonometry, along with a trigonometry table, that allowed Ptolemy in subsequent books to explain and predict the motions of the Sun, Moon, planets, and stars. Book 2 uses spherical trigonometry to explain cartography and astronomical phenomena (such as the length of the longest day) characteristic of various localities. Book 3 deals with the motion of the Sun and how to predict its position in the zodiac at any given time, and Books 4 and 5 treat the more difficult problem of the Moon’s motion. Book 5 also describes the construction of instruments to aid in these investigations. The theory developed to this point is applied to solar and lunar eclipses in Book 6.
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Books 7 and 8 mainly concern the fixed stars, giving ecliptic coordinates and magnitudes for 1,022 stars. This star catalog relies heavily on that of Hipparchus (129 BCE), and in the majority of cases Ptolemy simply converted Hipparchus’s description of the location of each star to ecliptic coordinates and then shifted these values by a constant to account for precession over the intervening centuries. These two books also discuss the construction of a star globe that adjusts for precession. The remaining five books, the most original, set forth in detail geometric models for the motion of the five planets visible to the naked eye, together with tables for predicting their positions at any given time.
The Editors of Encyclopaedia BritannicaThis article was most recently revised and updated by Erik Gregersen.
12 Zodiac Signs: Dates and Personality Traits of Each Star Sign
Discover the personality traits and dates of every zodiac sign including Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius, and Pisces. Get all the best cosmic advice for your star sign, from your love life to your career.
WATCH THE SIGNS
12 Zodiac Signs: Dates and Personality Traits of Each Star Sign
Every sign brings something to the celestial table. Here's what you should know about the zodiac signs including strengths, weaknesses, and how they think.
BY ALIZA KELLY July 1, 2022
As a professional astrologer, people ask me all types of questions. Of the most common curiosities is "what are the best zodiac signs?" along with its evil twin, "what are the worst zodiac signs?" While I appreciate any and all astrological inquiries, including zodiac signs compatibility, let me set the record straight: In astrology, there are no winners or losers. In fact, when you enter the metaphysical realm (the world of stars, tarot cards, tea leaves, etc.), that black-and-white binary goes straight out the window. In this magical, mystical domain, we work with nuance.
Every sign is a powerful, vital piece in the puzzle that is the zodiac. The four elements — air signs, fire signs, water signs, earth signs — all work together to create a comprehensive whole, which shows up in your life as your unique personality traits. Although astrology is an extremely complex study, the most fundamental principle of astrology centers on the 12 familiar star signs of the zodiac. Over the centuries, each sign has developed its own associations — including myths, animals, and colors — and its own characteristics. Every sign is illuminated by its own point of view, complete with powerful strengths and exhausting weaknesses.
From an astronomical perspective, we know that the Sun doesn't move, as its stability anchors the entire solar system. But from our vantage here on planet Earth, the Sun is in constant motion. We can depend on its daily performance (including inspiring sunrises and dramatic sunsets), as well as its location in the sky. The position the Sun occupied at your exact moment of birth is known as your "sun sign" (sometimes referred to as "star sign" or "birth sign"), and it's the cosmic launching pad for both beginners and professional astrologers. (Your Rising Sign is another very important placement, and you can read about it here). Your sun sign is determined by your date of birth and represents your core personality, sense of self, basic preferences, romantic compatibility, and ways in which you move through the world. This astrological placement sheds light on your innate gifts, as well as your hard-to-see blind spots. Your joys, wishes, flaws, and fears make you special and, when your sun sign is combined with the other planets and placements in your birth chart, it creates a distinctive celestial profile that serves as your cosmic fingerprint.
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Got it? Good. Now let's take this to the next level. The twelve zodiac signs are also divided into sub-groups: four triplicities and three quadruplicities. If this seems a bit confusing, don't worry, there's a method to the madness. Triplicities refer to the four zodiac sign elements, of which there are three zodiac signs in each group: Fire Signs (Aries, Leo, Sagittarius), Earth Signs (Taurus, Virgo, Capricorn), Air Signs (Gemini, Libra, Aquarius), and Water Signs (Cancer, Scorpio, Pisces). Generally speaking, fire signs are passionate and exuberant, earth signs are practical and grounded, air signs are intellectual and curious, and water signs are intuitive and emotional.
Quadruplicities, also known as "modalities," refer to the signs' qualities and where each zodiac sign occurs within its respective season. There are three modalities, with four zodiac signs in each: Cardinal (Aries, Cancer, Libra, and Capricorn) occur at the beginning of a new season, and are excellent at taking action and starting initiatives; Fixed (Taurus, Leo, Scorpio, and Aquarius) occur in the middle of seasons, and are known to be steady, consistent forces that maintain movement; and Mutable (Gemini, Virgo, Sagittarius, or Pisces) occur at the end of a season, and possess effortless fluidity well-suited to change and transformation.
As we continue layering astrological concepts, we uncover a rich and complex practice that delivers insight into our truest selves. Now, let's explore each sun sign's unique personality attributes, from the honorable to the… umm, kinda horrible? It's okay — we all have problems! Remember, darling, self-actualization begins with self-awareness, so read on to get to know yourself better and unlock the riches of your own special magic.
Jump to your sign:Aries (March 21 – April 19)Taurus (April 20 – May 20)Gemini (May 21 – June 20)Cancer (June 21 – July 22)Leo (July 23 – August 22)Virgo (August 23 – September 22)Libra (September 23 – October 22)Scorpio (October 23 – November 21)Sagittarius (November 22 – December 21)Capricorn (December 22 – January 19)Aquarius (January 20 – February 18)Pisces (February 19 – March 20)Check out this month's Allure Beauty Box, which is packed with products hand-picked by our editors — all for only $23.