Astronomy VS Astrology: What's the difference?
Last Updated: May 21, 2021
Although astronomy and astrology both relate to the different objects that can be found in our universe, there are some fundamental differences between the two.
What is astronomy?
Astronomy: the study of the physical universe. Vast, ancient, and full of ever astounding phenomena. The study of the universe, also known as astronomical science, is believed to have originated from the Babylonian era, as early as 1000 BCE, due to records that have been found which showed mathematics being used to calculate the length of daylight over the span of a year.
During these ancient times the planets, moons, and stars were also linked to deities and civilisations believed that their Gods were either part of, or were directly these celestial bodies, and it was in fact astrology that was invented first and ended up paving the way for astronomy! They have since broken off into two separate fields of their own with astronomy being recognised as legitimate science, and astrology being labelled a pseudoscience.
In fact, astronomy pre-dates a lot of natural sciences that we know today, being used by ancient civilisations across the globe to calculate the patterns of the sun and the moon to be able to form days, months, and even years, which in turn helped them form calendars, something that was of great importance to agricultural-based societies which depended upon knowing when to begin sowing for a successful harvest.
Science has since grown to incorporate the use of mathematics, chemistry, and physics in order to explain the origin, evolution, and predict future events of celestial objects, which is fundamentally everything beyond the Earth’s atmosphere, from planets to moons, stars, comets, galaxies, and everything in between.
Astronomy is the study of the universe with the help of tools such as telescopes.
Take Jupiter, the largest planet in our solar system, Astronomy has helped us understand that Jupiter itself is a gas giant, and whilst it is made up of hydrogen and helium, like stars, it will never become a star itself as it doesn’t have anywhere near enough mass to trigger the reaction required.
Our observations have also led us to discover that it is the fastest spinning planet in our solar system in comparison to Venus which is the slowest spinning. This is believed to be because of Venus’ incredibly thick atmosphere which is made up of mainly carbon dioxide and nitrogen; carbon dioxide is known to be a heavy gas. In fact, astronomers have discovered that Venus is now spinning slower than it has done in previous years.
In 1990 The Magellan spacecraft, launched by NASA in 1989, landed on Venus and calculated that a single rotation of Venus takes around 204 Earth days, whereas the National Geographic has reported that scientists, who are monitoring Venus, have stated that the planet was around 12 miles off where they expected it to be on its rotation, which suggests the planet is slowing down. This is speculated to be because of its thick atmosphere but is still puzzling to scientists as they are currently unable to determine if it’s just this one factor, or multiple, that’s causing the slowing of the rotation over time.
However, it’s something that needs to be monitored as this could highly impact any future missions to the planet as scientists would need to be able to calculate accurately where spacecraft would be landing on the planet based on its current rotation.
Astronomy helps us understand the science of these planets, and every other aspect of the physical universe, and it is fundamental to our ever-developing understanding of what lies beyond our home planets atmosphere and is vital to providing astronomers and scientists alike with all the information they could possibly need to plan space missions as there is little room for error when launching into the vast unknown of outer space.
What is astrology?
Astrology, once seen as the sister of astronomy, is the study of how the planets and other celestial bodies influence human behaviour. Astrology, unlike astronomy, is now referred to as a pseudoscience as the beliefs and facts surrounding this field are said to not be compatible with current scientific methods of discovery and human understanding. But for centuries astrology was a governing body of belief, influencing many a civilisation and even helping them understand the world, and people, around them.
In modern times, most people relate the term astrology to the 12 zodiacs and are usually aware of their own sign, also known as their sun sign, but astrology meant so much more to civilisations prior to the 17th century. We can date astrology back, just like astronomy, to the Babylon era. The two ended up working side by side with the astronomical calendar being used to monitor the movement of celestial bodies, and astrology in turn being used to interpret these movements and changes as potential messages from the Divine. But it was the ancient Greeks that started associating different Gods with different planets, other cultures and civilisations followed suit, and whilst our own solar system today still uses names and terms created by the Romans, historical evidence shows us that it was indeed the ancient Greeks that started the pattern of relating Gods to the planets.
Take Jupiter again, the Greeks associated Zeus with this planet, quite literally naming the largest planet is the solar system after the King of their pantheon. The Roman’s too treated Jupiter with such high regards, believing the planet to rule over their Gods but that it also acted like a guardian and a protector of the people.
In modern astrology, Jupiter is believed to be linked to growth, healing, prosperity, and is also said to influence how we think. The planet is also linked to the zodiac signs Sagittarius and Pisces, though in more modern times it is said that Neptune is now the ruler of Pisces whilst Jupiter still takes reign over Sagittarius
Astronomy is the study of the universe with the help of tools such as telescopes.
Another link between astrology and the ancient Greeks and Romans is the planet Venus. Linked to the Greek deity Aphrodite, the Goddess Venus being her Roman counterpart, Aphrodite is the Goddess of beauty and love, and Venus is the brightest planet in our solar system, which is why it is believed to be associated with Aphrodite and her radiating beauty.
In modern astrology, Venus is said to reign over our personal values but also governs our ability to love and it is believed to try and help keep us balanced as we govern the impact of the other planets. With a lot of the impact of the planets, and other celestial bodies, in astrology focusing upon how they influence who we are, our personalities, our thoughts, our path in life, it’s no doubt unsurprising that astrology itself has been incorporated into a lot of spiritual practices, those that want to understand who we are beyond any deemed limitations of science itself.
Those who believe in and practice spirituality use astrology frequently to help broaden their own knowledge about themselves and who they truly are, as well as about those around them, but note that not everybody involved in spirituality uses or incorporates astrology, it’s very much about the personal preferences of that person and their own path.
So what's the difference between astronomy and astrology?
We have already established that astrology paved the way for astronomy, so how exactly are they different? Well, astronomy falls under the category of being a natural science, as observing the physical universe is something we can directly do and have the use of maths, chemistry, and physics to back up what’s found. Astronomy focuses on the facts and the evidence that can be backed up time and time again and it focuses on the universe as a whole, wanting to learn and discover everything about each possible corner of the universe in its entirety, not missing a single speck.
Astrology, however, is known as a pseudoscience as it isn’t something that can be tested and replicated to provide the same results, it’s more of a belief system, and it focuses on how the planets of our solar system influence us as humans. Take the astronomical event of a solar eclipse, this is where the moon briefly blocks the sun as they fall into alignment. In the field of astronomy, the solar eclipse is seen as a naturally occurring phenomenon, something that’s inevitable based on the paths of the planets and how they all move at various speeds, an alignment is statistically guaranteed.
However, in the eyes of astrology, it is believed to have a much deeper meaning. The moon is commonly linked to both our emotions and our memories, and a solar eclipse is thought to reveal consequences to our past actions, so it can be seen as a turbulent time that must be emotionally prepared for.
But on the other hand, it’s believed if the solar eclipse is happening in your main zodiac sign (your sun sign), then it can be an empowering time for you. But each eclipse is usually associated with having quite differing effects based on where the sun is due to be at the time of the eclipse, as astrology suggests that each placement of the zodiac will influence and cause different reactions in us as humans. For example, an eclipse in Gemini is thought to impact our transitional phase, allowing us to release what’s below our surface and move forward, whilst an eclipse in Taurus is thought to bring sudden opportunities and surprises. But whilst no two humans are the same, astrology believes that a lot of people are influenced and impacted in the same way based on their natal chart, a chart that you are highly recommended to look into when you begin exploring the world of astrology.
So whilst one focuses upon the physical science, facts, and evidence, and the other focuses upon beliefs passed down from the ancients, a lot of people still use the two hand-in-hand. Maybe it’s our need to answer the challenging question of what’s the meaning of life? What’s the meaning of the universe? Who am I? Why am I here? But whilst only astronomy is recognised as a science, both are respected fields.
If you want to know more, I recommend the following readings: (affiliate links)
- Astronomy and Astrology: Finding a Relationship to the Cosmos by Rudolf Steiner
- Astrology and Astronomy: A Pictorial Archive of Signs and Symbols by Ernst Lehner
- Astrology and Astronomy By Johanna Lehner & Ernst Lehner
Written by Amy
A spiritual witch and Mother of 2, preferring the lore of my own reality! Outside the weird and wonderful world of my craft, I like to cosplay and fully dive into the fantasy genre across all forms, from books to video games and everything in between. Check out her Instagram.
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