What They Are and How They’re Different
Though astronomy and astrology sound like almost the same word, and both involve the study of the stars, they are vastly different subjects.
Having said this, historically these two subjects were indistinguishable from one another and could be considered part of the same science.
Astrology and astronomy were intertwined since accurate observations were made by the astronomers of the past by which astrologers used to prescribe meaning about the events that took place on Earth.
This was the case for thousands of years before the disciplines gradually separated as scientific methods developed and social thought changed. By the 17th century, astrology was disregarded as a scholarly subject altogether.
Astronomy vs Astrology
Astronomy is a hard science that uses the principles of physics, maths and chemistry to study and explain celestial phenomena.
On the other hand, astrology seeks to explain human and/or earth events by interpreting meaning in the positioning of certain planets, moons and stars.
It is thought that astronomy is the oldest natural science, with evidence showing its existence among numerous early civilizations in the Ancient World, including in Ancient Greece, China, India and Babylon, as well as in America, where astronomy and astrology were practiced by ancient indigenous tribes.
Ancient astronomers mapped the positions of stars and planets, and were able to tell the difference between the two, noting that the stars’ positions remained fixed while the planets moved over time.
As a result of these observations, the study of astronomy helped civilizations to create calendars, allowing them to outline the days, months and years by observing the movements of the sun and moon.
This was incredibly useful as it informed the decisions of ancient agricultural communities, so they could keep track of the best time to plant their crops for a successful harvest.
Moreover, knowledge of the moon’s monthly movements allowed ancient peoples to plan night-time outings to the market – which, for many, could only be accomplished safely under the light of a full-moon.
However, ancient civilizations likewise used their knowledge of star and planet positions to search for meaning in the sky.
They interpreted the position of celestial objects in order to create predictions and theories about events that took place on earth, and about the behaviour of human beings. The Native American Cherokees, among other ancient peoples, believed that all the events that took place on Earth were reflected in the stars.
Likewise, in most western astrology, including that which is popular today, there is a core belief that people, the Earth and the cosmos are all connected as one, and that celestial changes are reflective of changes on Earth.
Another difference between astronomy vs astrology is that astronomy relies on scientific proof to make conclusions, and hard evidence to make predictions or hypotheses – which remain as such until they can be proven.
One further distinction between astrology vs astronomy is that astronomy seeks to understand the origin and evolution of celestial objects, in addition to understanding the physical universe as a whole.
On the other hand, astrology seeks to predict and make conclusions about people and events on Earth, using the position of celestial objects to do so.
Astronomy disregards any connection between the planets and human events. If the stars were to be viewed from a different position in space, the patterns formed by the stars, planets, sun and moon would appear entirely different, therefore the astrological predictions would be different.
Gods in the sky
In addition to forming the basis for calendars, celestial cycles were also thought to be vehicles of divine communication.
In many ancient civilizations, planets were thought to be divine beings or deities. In Ancient Greece, for example, different planets were thought to be various gods – Jupiter was Zeus, Venus was Aphrodite, Earth was Gaia, to name just a few of the most well known examples.
Likewise, the Native American Pawnees believed that the stars were deities who had lived on Earth before being placed in the sky to shine upon their demise.
Astrology and the Zodiac
In western astrology, the position of planets in relation to the stars of the zodiac – based on a belt shaped region of the sky, where the paths of the moon and visible planets can be seen – is used most commonly today, especially as part of a horoscope.
Horoscopic astrology assumes that how the planets are aligned at a particular moment reflects characteristics of that moment.
In relation to human beings, horoscopic astrology assumes that the planets’ positioning reflects the nature of those who are born at that moment, using 12 signs which correspond to 12 30-day periods within the year.
These astrological signs are Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius and Pisces.
The science of astronomy vs astrology and subjectivity
As mentioned previously, the study of astrology and astronomy used to comprise the same ‘science’ before the advancement of science and technology cast doubt on the validity of astrological beliefs.
Emerging scientific theories like heliocentrism – the theory that the sun is at the centre of the solar system, with planets orbiting around it – contradicted the core assumptions on which astrology was based.
From this point, astrology began to be considered as a pseudoscience, more and more so since research and studies were conducted to test its validity, showing astrological predictions were inaccurate.
However, from the 20th century, the popularity of astrology began to soar as a result of the media.
In particular, this trend was driven by the weekly and monthly horoscopes that were showcased in newspapers and magazines.
These horoscopes would tell readers what kind of week or month they could expect, in addition to providing advice on how to navigate their lives according to their sign, which is determined by date of birth.
With a rise in the number of people interested in spirituality and in holistic objects such as crystals in the 21st century, popular interest in astrology similarly skyrocketed, as the practice of interpreting meaning from the positions of planets, moons and stars experienced a resurgence in popularity.
The evolution of astronomy
Since ancient astronomers mapped out the positions of the stars thousands of years ago, astronomy has evolved to study everything that lies beyond the Earth’s atmosphere.
Astronomy now encompass the study of phenomena such as nebulae, galaxies, comets, gamma ray bursts, cosmic microwave background radiation, black holes and more, which weren’t able to be seen by the astronomers of antiquity.
The modern formalized study of astronomy is split into two branches: observational and theoretical.
Observational astronomers gather data by observing celestial objects and analyzing this data according to physics principles. Theoretical astronomers use computer models to analyze and theorize about celestial objects and events.
However, while the study of astronomy has become highly academic and formalized like any other science, it is still a science in which amateurs – even without access to advanced technology or formalized education – continue to play a huge role.
Even in the modern world, amateur astronomers’ observations have led to important discoveries – particularly with regards to transient events, where amateur astronomers have aided in the identification of new comets.
To summarize the difference between astronomy and astrology is that astrology is a science that studies the stars in a scientific manner while astrology seeks to interpret secrets they believe are held by the stars, relating to human and Earth related events without a rigorous scientific process.
Star charts/maps in astrology vs astrology
Star charts are, essentially, maps of the night sky which have been used for thousands of years, with evidence suggesting that star charts were used by Ancient Chinese, Greek and Native American civilizations.
In Ancient times, these charts represented the pinnacle of these civilizations’ scientific study of the stars, as they used their objective observations to plot the positions of celestial objects.
At the time, creation of these charts were mainly for – what we would consider today, to be – astrological purposes. Namely, making predictions about life on earth based on how the planets and moon moved in relation to the pattern of stars they had charted.
In modern astronomy, these charts are made with computers using algorithms and models in order to map out the positions of the stars, as well to find groupings and distinguish celestial phenomena like galaxies and nebulae.
Despite their vast differences, as astronomy and astrology departed long ago from the same ancient branch of study, they are connected by human love of – and fascination with – the stars.
Whether someone is an astronomer or an enthusiast of astrology, it is the same passion and interest that drives someone to go outside in the middle of the night with a telescope, or to devoutly study the zodiac and learn about the astrological beliefs formed by Ancient civilizations.
Now that you have learned the difference between Astronomy vs Astrology take a look at our custom Star Map Jewelry!
Check out other articles from our blog for more astronomy and star facts.