With the 2006 demotion of Pluto to a dwarf planet by the International Astronomical Union (IAU), anything in the heavens that was once sacrosanct is now up for grabs.
Amateur astronomer Mike Simonsen recently blogged about a move by astronomers at the recent meeting of the American Astronomical Society to remove Scorpius as a Zodiacal constellation and replace it with the constellation Ophiuchus.
The obscure, large tent-shaped summer constellation represents a man wrestling a serpent. In Roman mythology, Ophiuchus was a medical healer who sought the secrets of immortality. In Greek mythology he was Asclepius, the founder of medical science. His snake found immortality on modern-day medical symbols.
Of the 88 Western constellations in the sky, 12 were especially honored by the ancients because they lie along the Zodiac — the pathway of the sun, moon and planets. Astrologers divinate from these mythological figures when casting horoscopes.
Our personal astrological sun sign is tied to which of the 12 Zodiacal constellations the sun was supposedly in when you were born. (It wasn’t really there, but that’s another story. Why get distracted by reality?)
So why give Scorpius the boot? If we look at the constellation boundaries drawn up by the IAU, the sun spends merely one week passing through Scorpius. But it spends three weeks passing through the neighboring constellation Ophiuchus.
Some folks have already called Ophiuchus the 13th Zodiacal constellation. But 13 is an unlucky number regardless of whatever superstitions you have. (I recently paused about staying on the 13th floor of a Boston hotel.)
So, to maintain harmony, balance and positive energy in the heavens, we must stick with 12 Zodiacal constellations. And, in fairness, Ophiuchus simply has more real estate on the celestial Monopoly board.
So it’s time to boot the Scorpion, menacing as it is. Scorpios are described as passionate, jealous and obsessive (kind of like those Pluto-bashers). Ophiuchans are described as seekers of wisdom, authoritative, and flamboyant dressers (who especially like plaid).
If Scorpius is dumped, people born between Nov. 23 and Dec. 17 would become Ophiuchans. Would the swapping have an overnight effect on Scorpios around the world? Would they be “raptured” into a new existence of intelligence and enlightenment? They’d have to watch out for getting tasteless nicknames like ‘Fu-cans.
Also, there would be big bucks in marketing the New Zodiac. All kind of astrological paraphernalia would need to be upgraded. An estimated 35 percent of Americans believe in their Zodiacal sign and at least $200 million per year is blown on consulting astrologers. (That’s about the cost of one NASA Explorer-class space science mission. But again, why be distracted by reality?)
Retooling the heavens could bring in a new cash flow.
However the only downside I see is that the makeover would not work terribly well as a pickup line in a singles bar. Imagine replacing “I’m a sexy Scorpio!” with “I’m a, uh, officious Ophiuchan — who likes plaid jackets.”
Image credit: Bayer catalog