"First Things First: Astrology is not Astronomy!"
That's what NASA put on top of the Space Place, a website created by the agency to facilitate space learning for kids. It's also the site referenced by Cosmopolitan UK in an article purporting that NASA has gone out and changed the zodiac signs.
This led to a considerable amount of freaking out for those who believe in astrology, as the change - which adds one more zodiac sign to the 12 already known - means that majority of people have just gained new zodiac signs.
However, again, astrology is not astronomy, and it's the latter that NASA is concerned about.
"We didn't change any Zodiac signs, we just did the math," said Dwayne Brown, NASA spokesperson.
What Space Place sought to tell kids was where the zodiac signs came from, outlining a history lesson involving the Babylonians and the constellations 3,000 years ago.
The Babylonians were of the belief that constellations changing positions throughout the year had a connection to certain events or behaviors occurring. They invented the zodiac based on what they perceived to be the sun's path over the year across a celestial sphere. A 12-month calendar was already in place for the Babylonians so they simply applied the celestial sphere to it, with each month getting assigned a zodiac.
There were actually 13 constellations in the celestial sphere but only 12 were used because of the Babylonians' existing calendar system. This left out Ophiuchus, which is being claimed to be the 13th zodiac sign today.
According to Space Place, the 12 chosen zodiacs didn't fit in perfectly into their designated spot in the sphere even then, sloping a bit into the next one.
And now, 3,000 years later, the constellations that the Babylonians saw are no longer where they were first spotted, thanks (or no thanks?) to a wobble in the Earth's axis.
Earthsky.org explained that the wobble is extremely subtle but its effects lead to something noticeable. For instance, In June 2,000 years ago, the sun was between Gemini and Cancer. During 2014's June solstice, the sun had moved on to sit between Gemini and Taurus. By June 4609, the sun should be found between Taurus and Aries.
Had there been 13 zodiac signs, they would follow the dates below:
Capricorn - Jan. 20 to Feb. 16
Aquarius - Feb. 16 to March 11
Pisces - March 11 to April 18
Aries - April 18 to May 13
Taurus - May 13 to June 21
Gemini - June 21 to July 20
Cancer - July 20 to Aug. 10
Leo - Aug. 10 to Sept. 16
Virgo - Sept. 16 to Oct. 30
Libra - Oct. 30 to Nov. 23
Scorpio - Nov. 23 to Nov. 29
Ophiuchus - Nov. 29 to Dec. 17
Sagittarius - Dec. 17 to Jan. 20
Photo: Lauren Jankowski | Flickr