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The Difference Between Astrology and Astronomy

written by: Darlene Zagata•edited by: Rebecca Scudder•updated: 7/15/2010

Throughout history astrology and astronomy were intertwined as people observed the heavenly bodies. Even in ancient times, civilizations such as the Mayans and Aztecs studied the stars, sun, moon and planets in their relation to events on earth.

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    What is Astrology?

    Astrology and astronomy are similar in their observation of celestial bodies but they are two distinct subjects.

    There is much more to astrology than the daily horoscope you read in the morning newspaper. Astrology is an ancient art that seeks meaning in the movements and aspects of heavenly objects in relation to earthly events. Astrology uses cosmic phenomena to predict events in human life. In ancient times, it was believed that celestial objects and events affected everything from the weather to the growth of crops. Astrologers believe that celestial objects influence human affairs and earthly events. They study the positions and aspects of these objects to determine and predict their influence on individuals as well as countries and even the entire planet.

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    What is Astronomy?

    Astronomy is the scientific study of the origin and evolution of the universe. Astronomy studies space beyond earth. It is the study of the physics and chemistry of cosmic bodies as well as the calculation of their movements and positions. Astronomy focuses on understanding the formation and development of the universe and its myriad celestial objects rather than studying the influence of those bodies on human life as astrology does.

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    The History of Astrology

    Astrology is an ancient art practiced by cultures such as varied as the Mayans, Aztecs, Babylonians and Assyrians. Astrology is believed to have originated with the Chaldeans in Babylon and the Mesopotamian region in the 4th millennium BC. Astrology was practiced in the religious temples. The Babylonians were the first to introduce the zodiac. The Greeks called it "animal circle" and provided its name. India had a system of astrology that dates back to perhaps 1000 BC. China had its own system of astrology and some believe the practice originated there as early as the 3rd millennium BC. The Chinese were very skilled astrologers. Throughout history, astrology has gained and lost its appeal and then experienced resurgence. Astrology again gained popularity in the United States in the early 1900s. Although in modern times, astrology is viewed as more of an artful indulgence than a science, there are still many astrologers that work judiciously at their craft and many believers who look to the zodiac for insight.

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    The History of Astronomy

    Astronomy is the oldest of the natural science with origins found in religious and astrological practices. The origin of astronomy starts in ancient Mesopotamia. The ancient Chinese placed a great importance on tracking the movements of fixed stars. They catalogued observable stars. Throughout the centuries Chinese astrology made great progress. Advances in mathematics during the Renaissance gave rise to modern astronomy. As astrology was relegated to the realm of pseudo-science, astronomy branched out into new fields. Astronomy now covers several branches, such as astrophysics; the study of the universe and its physical properties of temperature and chemical composition. Cosmology studies the origin and evolution of the universe as a whole, and stellar astronomy studies the origins and evolution of stars.

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    What is the Difference Between Astrology and Astronomy?

    New discoveries and technological advancements may have changed the way we look at the heavens but the fact remains that we still look upward and outward for insight into our own lives as well as that which lies beyond the scope of earth. Amateur astronomers and astrologers both search the vast respository of knowledge as ancient cultures did so long ago, continuing to learn and discover.