By Kathy Batesel

In the 1970s, it was chic to ask, “What’s your sun sign?” as a way to break the ice. A fascinating percentage of people took astrology seriously. This may be because when we read about our sun signs, it can be very accurate. Yet when it comes to matching up sun signs, we tend to learn that predictions can be way, way off. Whether you believe in it or not, horoscopes can be entertaining, but they can guide you in the wrong direction if you take them too seriously. Here’s why.

Astrology can identify your personality traits, life trends, and relationship compatibility, but it’s a complex blend of science and art. Let’s first consider the science part. Let’s pretend that at the precise moment you were born, a photographer right outside the hospital doors was able to capture an image of the sky that revealed where each constellation appeared, even in daylight. The photograph would be slightly different than other children’s photos before immediately before and immediately after you entered the world would be. Another child may have been born at a different hospital at the same exact moment two hundred miles away. That child’s photographer would have a photo that looked just a tiny bit different, too.

When you peruse magazines or read about today’s predictions, what you see is normally based on your sun sign – the constellation the sun was moving through during the month of your birth. Obviously, your life isn’t identical to everyone else’s who shares your sun sign.

That’s because your moment of birth and your place of birth affect your horoscope. Your ascendant, or “rising sign” is determined the constellation that would have been visible on the horizon, and the precise degree of how much of it is visible. Your ascendant describes how you appear to the world. It may or may not match up with what you think others see. Just a few minutes affects the degree of visibility of that constellation.

Then there are the other elements of a horoscope. The positions of the moon and every other planet (and a few asteroids, according to some astrologers) are also noted. They, too, are traveling through one of the dozen constellations, and their progress, or position, affects certain elements of your life. For instance, the position of Mercury when you were born is thought to influence your style of communication. If it’s in Aries, you are probably quite charming, but if it’s in Pisces, you might feel misunderstood often.

These planets can form angles to each other as they orbit us. The angles can have a mild influence, a strong one, or none at all.

Before technology allowed instantaneous, accurate calculations, individual astrologers had to use algorithms to determine these factors precisely enough to interpret them. Even today, when it’s possible to obtain precise data with a few keystrokes, horoscopes are notorious for being unreliable.

Some would argue that it’s because the entire premise of astrology is hocus-pocus. Few studies have tried to research the validity of astrological data, but there have been studies of time twins – people born in the same hospital, at the same location, at the same time –that suggest a strong correlation.

Nonetheless, once accurate information is calculated, an astrologer must resort to intuition and art to interpret the angles because despite being able to call on guidebooks to describe certain planetary aspects, there is no simple way to pinpoint all the possible combinations of eight planets, each of which can be at an of 360 degrees of movement in the sky, to every other planet at its own precise degree of movement. Indeed, they may form angles to two, three, or half a dozen of the remaining planets, which in turn, form angles to still others.

Longtime students of astrology find enough correlation to invest time learning about the interaction of these elements, while others brush off astrology as a naïve endeavor. Regardless of which school of thought is correct, one thing remains certain: Relying on sun signs that represent just one tiny aspect of a horoscope is doomed to be unreliable for predicting relationship success.

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