Astronomy vs Astrology: What is The Difference?

If you get confused about the difference between astronomy and astrology, you’re not alone.

Actually, these two fields were considered one and the same thing up until the Age of Reason.

So what caused the split between the two fields and what are the astronomy vs astrology differences?

Read on to find out.

Definition of Astronomy vs Astrology

Astronomy is a branch of science that studies the universe as a whole. This includes the sun, the stars, the planets and their moons, the asteroids, and the galaxies.

On the other hand, Astrology is the study of how the positions, motions, and properties of the sun, stars and planets affect people and events on Earth.

This quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson sums astrology best:

`Astrology is astronomy brought down to Earth and applied towards the affairs of men.’

The twelve signs of the Zodiac

The Similarities Between Astronomy and Astrology

The most obvious similarity is the common prefix ‘Astro’. The word means that both fields entail the observation of the stars and other celestial bodies.

Just like they share the prefix, the two also share a common origin.

During the ancient times, there was no distinction between the two fields.

The study of the heavens was done by priests, who served the role of both astronomer and astrologer.

Which Came First?

Even though the two practices were intertwined in the beginning, astrology is considered the older of the two.

Ancient humans only studied the heavens for one reason: to predict the seasons and determine the right timings for important events.

Still, the practice of astronomy was the foundation upon which astrology was based.

In fact, the quest to make more accurate predictions of future events played a major role in the development of astronomy.

When Did The Two Fields Separate and Why?

The split between the two areas of study happened during the “long 18th century” (the period between 1685-1815).

The separation began with Sir Isaac Newton’s explanation of some of the laws that govern the universe.

While celestial phenomena could be explained by these laws, astrology predictions couldn’t.

Astronomy was confirmed a true science, while astrology was demoted to a pseudoscience.

Differences Between Astronomy and Astrology

Astronomy is a Science, Astrology is a Pseudoscience

Astronomy makes use of scientific instruments

Astronomy is a scientific practice in every way.

From the use of scientific instruments such as telescopes to make observations of celestial phenomena to the use of laws of physics, mathematics and peer reviews to explain and verify findings.

Astrology, however, does not follow the logical approach. Astrologers and other believers of astrology believe that:

  • Celestial objects such as stars possess a metaphysical or divine essence that influences events in the world.
  • How the stars and planets are aligned affects human behavior and personality traits.

Astrologers do rely on astronomical studies and use some scientific tools such as star charts to determine the positions of celestial bodies. But this is as far as their reliance on science goes.

Their assertions are based on mystical reasoning, symbolism, traditional folklore, and superstition. There’s no attempt to explain or back astrological predictions using the scientific method.

Both Fields Have Different Objectives

True, both astrology and astronomy entail the observation of the night sky.

However, the motivation behind the observation is not the same.

In astronomy, astronomers aim to identify celestial objects and understand their properties, motions, and relationship with each other.

Astrologers, on the other hand, use the positions and movements of celestial objects to predict human events and personal behavior.

Does Astrology Work? Why Is It Still Popular?

Despite being relegated to the realm of superstition, the practice remains popular to this date.

Millions of people around the world still consult astrologers and modern publications reserve a section for horoscope readings.

So why is this the case? Why didn’t people stop believing in star signs even though the practice isn’t backed by science?

First off, the practice was already ingrained in humanity. I mean, this is something that originated in antiquity.

And the predictions are tied to the heavens, where many believe their God to reside. It’s only natural for them to look for guidance and seek a sign from the heavens when making important life decisions.

The Barnum Effect or Forer Effect also works in favor of astrology. While astrologers make general predictions with multiple possibilities and behavior tendencies, people tend to find personal meaning in the predictions.

A example of a horoscope reading

What About Cosmology and Astrophysics?

Cosmology and Astrophysics are two other fields that are often confused with astronomy and astrology. Here is what these two terms mean:

  • Cosmology entails the study of the origin and development of the universe. Right now, the Big Bang Theory is the prevailing model.
  • Astrophysics applies the principles and laws of physics to explain how the stars, planets, galaxies, and the universe in general works.

To Wrap Up

Even though the two areas started as one, they are now two distinct fields.

Astronomy is a scientific and academic field, while astrology is now considered a form of divination and superstition.

Still, both of them remain popular practices even in the modern world.

If you’re interested in celestial objects such as stars, planets, comets, asteroids, nebulas, and galaxies, all these fall under astronomy and so do space travel and alien life.

But if you’d like to know your personality traits and how you’re likely to behave as dictated by your star sign, you will be operating in the realm of astrology.