While the terms astronomy and astrology have been used interchangeably during some periods in history, today’s definitions include a vast difference between the two. What is the difference between astrology and astronomy? A look at the two terms, both their current definitions and their history, can help answer this question.
Definitions of Astrology and Astronomy
By modern definitions, astronomy is a scientific discipline involving observation and study of celestial objects. This includes the Moon, the sun, the planets, and stars. Many major scientific discoveries have occurred in the field of astronomy, particularly in recent years as more and more advanced techniques have been added to the arsenal of today's modern astronomer. Particularly important advances have involved the Hubble telescope, the International Space Station, and probes sent to Mars and to the Moon.
By contrast, astrology involves observation of the movements of celestial bodies in order to make predictions about the future. Astrologists also use information about when a person was born to determine personality traits. Horoscopes published in the daily paper are loosely based on these principles. There is no scientific evidence to support the findings and predictions of astrology.
Historical Relationship Between Astrology and Astronomy
In ancient and historical times, astrology and astronomy were connected. Priests and religious figures often observed astronomical data, using it to predict events they found significant such as equinoxes, solstices and eclipses. While the underlying purpose of their observations was more closely related to today’s astrology, the accuracy of the observations laid the groundwork for later scientific study that became today’s astronomy.
Many ancient cultures relied on astronomical phenomenon to schedule religious ceremonies and to predict the success of crops or military ventures. Massive architectural projects such as the Pyramids, Babylonian ziggurats, and Stonehenge are thought to have been built based on astrological observations. The data collected by these ancient cultures is often surprisingly accurate, and eventually led to the work of more scientific philosophers such as Pythagorus, Galileo, Tycho Brahe, and, eventually, today’s astronomers, whose scientific studies have brought us understanding of the far reaches of our universe.