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Ecliptic

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The Ecliptic is the path that the sun seems to follow as it moves through the sky each day and through the year. Wikipedia mentions that the name comes from the word eclipse because eclipses occur when the moon's path comes close to the sun's path during new moons or full moons.[1]

Position and Path

The position of the sun against the stars cannot be seen because stars are not visible in the daytime. The ancients knew the stars so well that they could infer the position of the sun because they could see the stars just before sunrise or just after sunset. It was noticed by the ancients that the sun followed a path through certain constellations every year, and thus the twelve constellations where the sun chose to travel seemed to have special significance, and came to be called the Zodiac.

We now know that the sun does not follow a path through the sky but that the earth revolves on its axis and follows a nearly circular orbit around the sun. Since the earth moves slowly, the stars that are behind the sun from the earth's point of view change from month to month, and give the appearance of the sun changing position against the stars.

Since the planets of the solar system travel around the sun in approximately the same plane, the planets seem to travel this same path through the stars. The moon travels around the earth in this same plane as well. Astrology is based on the belief that the stars in which the sun seems to lie at someone's birth or the position of the planets somehow affect the life of the person. Scientists do not accept this view.

References

  1. Wikipedia: Ecliptic