What is physics in relation to astrology

Question of the week: what is the difference between astronomy and astrology and how did they come about?


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Question of the week: what is the difference between astronomy and astrology and how did they come about?

Every Saturday we answer your questions on all kinds of topics. Today Anne-Sophie B asks us: What is the difference between astronomy and astrology and how did they come about? Here's the answer ...

The words astronomy and astrology sound very similar and are sometimes confused by some people.

This is because both terms have to do with the stars. Here you can find out how they differ.


The word astrology comes from the Greek and means star theory or star German art.

The theory of the stars tries to make statements about the future (for example through a horoscope) on the basis of constellations, that is, with the help of celestial bodies that are arranged like figures and patterns.

In the picture next to it you can see the 12 signs of the zodiac.

These celestial figures were often named after animals, heroes and gods. In the past, astrology was used to predict favorable dates for sowing and harvesting, but also the outcome of wars and battles.


Astronomy is the science of the stars. The term is made up of the Greek words ástron (star) and nómos (law).

Astronomical research deals with the properties of celestial bodies (moons, asteroids, planets, suns and galaxies) as well as with questions about the structure and formation of the universe.

In the picture next to it you can see constellations in the winter sky

Astronomy is closely linked to mathematics and physics and has numerous research areas, such as astrophysics (studies the physics of space), galactic astronomy (studies our galaxy) and extragalactic astronomy (studies the structure of other galaxies) .

Astrologer and arithmetic artist

In ancient times there was no great distinction between astrology and astronomy. Astronomy provided types of arithmetic with the help of which astrology carried out its meanings.

The roots of both disciplines can be found in antiquity, in the course of which this art was practiced and taught by various peoples such as the Egyptians, the Greeks and the Babylonians.

The country of origin is Mesopotamia (today's Iraq), where the Sumerians already carried out this interpretation in the 4th millennium BC. As in all advanced civilizations, star observation played an important role and was therefore mostly carried out by privileged classes such as the priests.

The advancement of astrology

Kepler's horoscope for the general Wallenstein.

Astrology reached its peak with the ancient Greeks. Later, the Arabs inherited the ancient world and developed highly complex systems of calculation and interpretation from the 8th century onwards.

Serious schools of astrology existed from the 12th century, then also in the western world, where chairs in this discipline were established at the great universities in Paris, Padua, London, Oxford and Bologna. At that time, astrology was still considered a science.

The fall of astrology

The Enlightenment in the 18th century ousted astrology from university operations because it was not based on reasonable justifications and experiments.

From now on, astrology was considered unscientific and superstitious and was increasingly being supplanted by astonomy. The last German chair for astrology closed its doors in Würzburg in 1817. Since then, all attempts to re-establish astrology as a science have failed.

Astrology and Astronomy Today

Today astrology is viewed in two ways. Some people believe in them, others consider asterisks to be complete nonsense.

The profession of astrologer still exists today, although astrology no longer receives any attention in scientific research. Normally, the modern person comes into contact with it through horoscopes that are in many magazines.

In contrast, astronomy is becoming increasingly popular.
Not only hobby researchers are enthusiastic about this, universities also promote this discipline by supporting the many different fields of astronomy through teaching and research.

The photo next door was taken from the Hubble Space Telescope and shows V354 Cephei - the largest star in the Milky Way.

Other branches of research nowadays also work more and more closely with astronomy, for example cosmochemistry, which studies the formation and distribution of chemical elements and compounds in the universe.

Last but not least, space travel can of course be viewed as experimental astronomy. The moon landings and the modern space telescopes have brought more important findings in the last few years and decades than research in many centuries before that.

If you are interested in stars and space, then take a look at "What is What" Volume 6 "The Stars".

Or Volume 16 "Planets and Space Travel"

Or volume 102 "Our Cosmos"

Text: RR, as of February 10, 2012, illustrations: Tessloff Archive / WAS IST WAS Volume 99 "Constellations and Zodiac Signs"

Note: All images and links have been removed from the archive