Understanding the Science Behind Horoscopes

Most Indians have, at some point of time in their lives or the other, had an encounter with horoscopes or birth charts. Something so central to a typical Indian’s decision of marriage or business or similar important life events deserves to be understood more deeply. The ideal point to start will be the construction of the birth chart.

The chart begins with a system of 12 houses whose positioning on paper may be as per the equal house system (the cusp between two houses falls at the same angle of 12 degrees for each successive house) or as per alternative systems that take into consideration the intersection between different planetary positions and assign angles accordingly.The division of houses (in the form of a circle of animals) is carried out in the zodiac space. This circle of animals is a belt in space projected on the celestial/heavenly spherical space through which planets move when viewed from the astrologer’s viewpoint. This symbolic geometric construction is divided into 12 equal parts (of 30 degrees each) and are assigned signs and names that may be usable and understandable to the common masses. We know these divisions as the various sun signs namely, Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius and Pisces. The extensive usage of the same may be very easily seen in any newspaper/magazine or morning news on astrology.

This coupled with the latitude of the event (generally birth of the native) gives an astrologer enough numbers to crunch and make a pictorial representation of all influential heavenly circumstances on paper for the native. Next comes the placement of the planets and aspects on this chart. Heavenly bodies like the sun, planets, etc. are placed at their celestial longitudes and then the aspects, I.e. the angles at which the heavenly bodies rest at is decided. There are various systems that decide the angular aspects, for example the sextile system that sets the number at 60 degrees, the trine system that fixes it at 120 degrees and so on. Then comes the most critical part of the horoscope, I.e. the ascendant. The ascendant is an ecliptic point that rises at sunrise on the eastern horizon and changes in accordance with the earth’s rotation along its own axis. The ascendant is an expression of how we view life and who we are as people.

The ascendant is also one of the four primary angles in the horoscope. The four primary angles are in conjunction with the four principal directions, I.e. North, South, East and West. The same may be listed as follows:

1. East Angle- Ascendant

2. West Angle- Descendant

3. North Angle- Imun Coeli

4. South Angle- Midheaven

The Descendant is the point in the west diametrically opposite to the Ascendant. A similar geometrical relationship exists between the Imun Coeli and Midheaven.

Clearly, coming up with a horoscope is no mean business. Formulating a proper birth chart is a mathematically and geometrically rigorous task, whose intricacies an untrained person may not even be able to appreciate. But the advent of computers and consequently specialized programs that construct birth charts have made the said task, under various systems, a relative easy exercise. This has further led to the commercialization of horoscope-based astrology. It remains to be seen whether modern computing would also someday be able to provide person specific predictions based on the system-generated horoscope by ways of Artificial Intelligence!