They sound really similar so what’s the difference between Astronomy and Astrology? They’re both concerned with heavenly bodies too but the truth is the differences between Astrology and Astronomy are in fact ‘astronomical’ (pun intended).
To make things clearer we’ve compiled a list (non-exhaustive) of 12 big differences between Astronomy and Astrology:
1. Astronomy vs Astrology – the basics
The pragmatic science of celestial bodies is Astronomy. The positions, properties, and movements of stars, suns, galaxies, star clusters, planets and other systems are analysed and investigated in Astronomy.
On the other hand, the positions and movements of the celestial bodies and their influences on terrestrial events is the focus of investigation in Astrology.
Interestingly Astronomy original came from astrology, however over the years whilst astronomy developed into a rigorous field of physics, astrology stuck to its roots in ancient wisdom.
2. Astrology and Astronomy have different Ambitions
The ambition of Astronomy is to understand the structure and formation of the universe. Everything that lies beyond the earth’s atmosphere is the methodical study of astronomy.
The term astronomy came from the Greek terms Astron means (star) and nomos means (law).
On the other hand, the aim of Astrology is the study of motions, and the positions of stars and planets as a means to forecast future events and understand human behaviour, including people’s fate.
3. Cosmic Behaviour vs Human Behaviour
Astronomers look to the skies to study celestial bits and pieces such as moons, comets, planets, and galaxies. They also look at the processes concerned in celestial events such as solar storms, black holes and gamma-ray bursts.
Astronomers seek out the immensity of space for solar systems and exoplanets many light-years away.
However, it should be noted that even prehistoric astronomers recorded the positions of the stars. They used this information for map-reading purposes and also to guess the best time to plant their crops. One can see then why the distinction between astronomy and astrology was not very clear in ancient times.
On the other hand, the practice of astrology started in the use of calendar systems to prognosticate changes in the seasons and understand celestial cycles as messages from the gods.
The Chinese, Native American Indians and the Mayans developed sophisticated methods for studying the cosmos to forecast upcoming events.
These days, astrology is classically linked with horoscopes that are used to understand human behaviour and forecast vital individual events based on the position of the moons, stars, planets and other celestial substances.
4. Pseudo-Science or Ancient Wisdom
In the early days of civilization, the Egyptians and the Mayans built temples as observatories for mapping constellations, to support spiritual practice, and to verify the time of the year.
During these eras, astrology and astronomy were considered to be the same. Theories about movements of the sun were formed by prehistoric Greeks. The spherical shape of the earth was founded by Greek mathematician named Eratosthenes.
Even until a few hundred years ago, astrology enjoyed a place in scientific circles and was actually considered to be connected to astronomy, alchemy, medicine, and meteorology.
However, as scientific methodology advanced astrology found it more and more difficult to fit into it. Eventually, astrology was cast aside by science as being a ‘pseudo-science’.
This label has now become a derogatory slant on the integrity of astrology by people who try to view everything from a hyper-scientific lens.
Others, however, continue to practice astrology and see value in it as being one of the ancient wisdoms that we’ve relied on upon throughout our human history.
5. The Devil is in the details
In the beginning, astrologers realised it took twelve lunar cycles to orbit around the sun, so they split the year into twelve constellations.
According to the weather and seasons, patterns were noted with certain star groups namely: Aries, Cancer, Virgo, Leo, Taurus, Libra, Sagittarius, Gemini, Capricorn, Aquarius, Pisces, and Scorpio.
On the other hand, to further their understanding of the details of the universe and its genesis astronomers developed their own theories.
Theories like the Big Bang, Cosmic Inflation, Stellar evolution and spectroscopy. Even to this day, new technologies continue to help out astronomers to learn more and to work with other fields of study in order to explore far-away stars, nearby planets and other galaxies.
6. Evolution of Astronomy and Astrology
During World War II astronomy was revolutionised as additional observatories equipped with extra influential and enhanced telescopes were built. With the help of rockets, astronomers were able to accumulate telescopes on satellites that were launched into space.
Over time, with such experiments, astronomers have come to develop astronomy into an immensely technological field with many sub-branches.
On the other hand, in times of war and uncertainty, people begin to rely on astrology to better understand their lives and their place in the universe. Since antiquity, people have relied on astrology to gain insights into themselves and others including their strengths and careers, money, relationships, and weakness.
Despite humanity’s, technological advancements astrology continues to remain a steadfast field and some reports even indicate that it is increasing in popularity.
7. Astronomy and Astrology as Mega-fields
Astronomy is a multidisciplinary field, there are 17 sub-disciplines in total. Information is collected with the help of satellites and telescopes, it is then collated and theorised in order to generate a better picture.
On the other hand, astrology is also known as “mother of all sciences” because the central concepts of astrology are derived from theories that go beyond the realms of scientific study. As mentioned before it is even the mother of astronomy.
Many conceptual and material tools developed in the pursuit of astrology eventually did help in the conception and practice of science.
8. They have different sub-branches
Astronomy is further divided into Stellar Astronomy, Solar Astronomy, Cosmology, Galactic Astronomy, Planetary Science, and Extragalactic Astronomy.
There are also two main branches of astrology. One is the classical or tropical astrology and the other is called sidereal astrology.
9. How Astronomers and Astrologers see Saturn and Jupiter very Differently
Astronomers say that the planet Saturn is an enormous globe of Hydrogen, and Helium surrounded by a ring of snowballs 50,000 km wide, and the Jupiter’s Great Red Spot is a giant storm perhaps ranging from millions of years.
On the other hand, astrologers see it as affecting human characters and fate. Jupiter represents a regal bearing and a gentle disposition. Whilst Saturn is seen as the gravedigger, mistrust, suspicion, and evil.
10. They also see Mars very differently
According to the Astronomers, Mars is a real place just like the Earth with coming up for exploration but the Astrologers see it as a great combatant, instigator of quarrel, distraction, and violence.
As you must have realised by now astrology gives qualitative adjectives to heavenly bodies whilst astronomy is more concerned with their quantitative aspects.
11. Historical distinctions between Astrology and Astronomy
Since early time astrologers used the stars to calculate the accurate date, day, month, year and time. Historic astrologers also had the ability to estimate the time of the day through the use of a sundial.
A sundial had a flat surface marked with symbols and a rod in the centre. Depending on the position of the sun, the rod casts a shadow over numerous markings, which indicated the time of day.
Earlier than the 16th century, the practical science between the two was considered to be astrology. During that time Astronomy was mostly theoretical and referred to the act of classifying the stars.
Nonetheless, during the “Age of Reason” astronomy was no longer considered theoretical, but a genuine field of study.
12. The last Scientific Astrologer
Astrology and Astronomy were not always distinctive. The two traditions began to swerve in the mind of Johannes Kepler, and he discovered that a physical force lay behind the motion of planets. He would become the first real Astrophysicist and the last scientific astrologer.
These days, astronomy is considered one of the most valued sciences.
Many of history’s famous astronomers were also astrologers examples include Claudio Ptolomeo, Galileo Galilei, Pythagoras, Aristoteles, Hypatia of Alexandria and Thales of Miletus.
Whether or not Isaac Newton was secretly an astrologer is hotly debated.
Do you have any thoughts to share on the difference between astronomy and astrology? Please do so in the comments section below.