What is astrology?

Astrology is the study of the influence that distant cosmic objects, usually stars and planets, have on human lives. The position of the sun, stars, moon, and planets at the time of people’s birth (not their conception) is said to shape their personality, affect their romantic relationships, and predict their economic fortunes, among other divinations.

Most people in the English-speaking world encounter astrology when they consult newspaper columns, magazines, books, or internet sites that offer daily forecasts of their future. People who consider themselves to be “into” horoscopes, for example, might never actually read an astrology book or hire a professional astrologer to prepare a chart (a map of the sky) for them. Although many people find these services amusing and harmless, on the contrast, others find it difficult to take seriously any claims about the influence of heavenly bodies on human affairs.

Long before the birth of modern science, people have believed that the stars have influenced human affairs. Many ancient civilizations believed that celestial objects controlled their destinies and even had personalities of their own. The fiery splendor of Mars inspired the warlike Assyrians, for example, while the gentle light of Venus may have led to its association with romantic love.

However, astrology, as it is currently practiced, relies on methods derived from astronomy rather than on folklore or divination through “reading” animal entrails. An astrologer would say that the position of the planets at any given time influences life here on Earth. Astrologers can use a horoscope (a map of the sky) to provide insight into personality traits or relationships between two people or groups of people involved in a particular matter.

The basic premise behind modern astrology is that celestial objects exert forces that humans can feel on Earth. Earth’s atmosphere exerts a small amount of pressure on the objects above it. This can be explained by classical mechanics, which shows that any object will push back against a force applied to it as long as it is not too strong. If you step off a cliff or jump onto a trampoline, for example, you fall downwards because you are pushing Earth away from yourself and falling with it.