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MCTC Astronomy Instructor Parke Kunkle Caught in a Whirlwind of Media Attention

Posted on: January 18th, 2011 by insidemctc 3 Comments

MCTC Astronomy Instructor Parke Kunkle.It is impossible to miss all of the headlines about the shifting zodiac—a story that rapidly began circling the globe last week. Parke Kunkle, an astronomy faculty member at MCTC and board member of the Minnesota Planetarium Society, has received more than a hundred media requests since the story hit last Monday

In an interview with the Star Tribune, Kunkle explained that the moon’s gravitational pull has made the Earth “wobble” around its axis in a process called precession. This means the Earth is no longer aligned to the stars in the same way as when the signs of the zodiac were originally conceived.

Star signs, created about 2,000 years ago, were created by tracking where the sun was in the sky each month. However, the wobble has created about a one-month bump in the stars’ alignment, according to the article.

According to Kunkle, when astrologers say the sun is in Pisces, it’s really in Aquarius, and so on. The new dates:

Capricorn: Jan. 20 – Feb. 16
Aquarius: Feb. 16 – March 11
Pisces: March 11 – April 18
Aries: April 18 – May 13
Taurus: May 13 – June 21
Gemini: June 21 – July 20
Cancer: July 20 – Aug. 10
Leo: Aug. 10 – Sept. 16
Virgo: Sept. 16 – Oct. 30
Libra: Oct. 30 – Nov. 23
Scorpio: Nov. 23 – Nov. 29
Ophiuchus: Nov. 29 – Dec. 17
Sagittarius: Dec. 17 – Jan. 20

In addition, Kunkle says astrologers have neglected a 13th constellation, Ophiuchus (Ooh-FEE-yew-kus). “The sun has been going through Ophiuchus for thousands of years,” said Kunkle, who says that his sign is “vegetarian.”

Astonished by all of the attention, Kunkle said, “Astronomers have been teaching this for 2000 years and yet it suddenly went viral!”

More coverage of this story:

Associated Press: Give me back my sign! Horoscope readers atwitter
Washington Post: Shifting signs: An astrological shakeup?
NPR: What’s Your Sign? Turns Out, Maybe It’s Not
Fox 9 News: Zodiac Sign Changes and New Sign Ophiuchus
New York Times: Did Your Horoscope Predict This?
ABC News: New Zodiac Signs 2011: Debunking a Zodiac Controversy
BBC News: Have people’s star signs changed?