By Sarah Readdean

When someone mistakenly refers to astronomy as “astrology,” I don’t usually lash out at them, and sometimes I don’t even correct them. If I’m lucky, they’ll correct themselves. But it is frustrating to have someone incorrectly refer to my studies in this way.

Why would I spend $70K to learn about horoscopes? I’m going to school to study much, much more than that: the motions, properties, behaviors and origins of the objects that make up the universe. AKA, astronomy.

Astronomy and astrology both have the same root, astro, meaning star. The suffix is where the two studies differ.

From Merriam-Webster:

nomy: system of laws governing or sum of knowledge regarding a (specified) field.

logy: doctrine or theory.

Yes, centuries ago, they both referred to the observation of the heavens. But as scientists and philosophers such as Newton, Galileo and Kepler discovered more, astronomy broke away from the practices of early civilizations who sought to predict fate through the observed patterns and motions in the sky.

Astrology is a practice of divination, finding truth through the positions of celestial objects, believing that these objects influence events on Earth and humans’ lives and using these objects to predict an individual’s characteristics based on the time of their birth. Pseudoscience, essentially.

Astronomy, on the other hand, is an actual scientific way of studying — through observations — any phenomenon both within and beyond the solar system. It uses physics, mathematics and chemistry to explain the composition of planets, the life cycles of stars and theories behind the creation and eventual death of the universe.

Astronomy is much more advanced, utilizing billion-dollar telescopes and spacecraft such as the Hubble Space Telescope, to discover things further out into the universe than we’ve ever seen before. Astrology just throws out adjectives that are supposed to describe every single person born over the same 30-day period: loyal, eccentric, sophisticated, compassionate.

Both astronomy and astrology are related to the stars and planets, but astronomy is scientific, while astrology is spiritual.

I look at star charts, not birth charts. I can tell you where to look to find a constellation, but no, I can’t tell you if you’re compatible with the Taurus who sits next to you in class. So next time we’re talking about my hobby, can we please acknowledge that I work with telescopes and not with Tarot cards?

I talk about astronomy so much that even my phone knows to suggest the word after three, sometimes even two letters. If my phone can choose the right word, so can you.

It’s not rocket science.