Astronomy vs Astrology: Is there even a difference?

You’ve heard of both astronomy and astrology. They are often confused with one another. Does it really matter if you get them mixed up?

Astronomy vs astrology

In this article I’ll explore the differences between astronomy and astrology. Will you offend people should you mix them up? Hopefully not! Should you learn the difference?


The best place to start is with the actual words themselves. They both take their root from the ancient Greek word astro meaning star. Astronomy translates to a study of the laws of the stars. Astrology, however, translates to star study. The subtle difference is what matters.

Which came first?

Thankfully there is a clearer distinction than the classic chicken and egg question.

Astrology can trace its roots back to some of the most ancient civilizations, including the Babylonians, Mayans and more. As long as people have been looking to the skies they have tried to make sense of what they mean.

Astrological zodiac symbols were born from the human mind’s need to find meaning in what looked like chaos. Rather than a cluster of random stars, people saw lions, fish and human figures.

The crucial difference here is that there was no application of scientific understanding. People believed in symbols and heavenly figures because they could see them.

Astronomy was born from initial astrology interest. Instead of attempting to conjure images or meaning in the sky people began to try and understand how and why these stars and planets were there. From this scientific intrigue a science was born.

Astronomy vs Astrology: The Differences

Professional astronomers would take a dim view on being called astrologists. Astronomers concern themselves with science. The laws of physics which are followed throughout the universe are their domain.

They explore the skies to try and answer how different objects in the universe function.

Astrologists believe that the universe and the objects within it have a direct impact on people’s lives. There is no basis in science for this belief.

During 18th Century enlightenment scientists began to understand that there were no physical forces emanating from the planets which could affect a person’s personality, mood or fortune.

Nowadays people tend to see astrology as a bit of a joke. Birth signs are, however, still prevalent in society across the vast majority the world. They are the last vestiges of this mystical “art”.

It should be noted that there is a subtle difference, furthermore, between astronomy and astrophysics. Astronomy focuses on observing the light emanating from different objects.

Astrophysics is concerned with the physical makeup of these objects and their movements. These two disciplines are far more intricately linked.

Causing offence

Unless you’re addressing a professional astronomer or astrophysicist people are unlikely to correct you, let alone be offended. However, it is better to be educated than misinformed.

During a career as an amateur astronomer it is likely you’ll come across this mix up again.

Thankfully, you’ll now be able to pass on this knowledge.

Read more about astronomy binoculars vs telescope here.