Human World

When will the Age of Aquarius begin?

Age of Aquarius symbol: Top half of a man standing with arms outstretched, a series of colorful vertical circles with symbols running up his length.
A common Age of Aquarius symbol: Leonardo da Vinci’s famous Vitruvian Man. Da Vinci created this drawing circa 1487. Chakras, or energy centers, added later. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

Astrology or astronomy?

The Age of Aquarius isn’t part of astronomy. It’s an astrological age, which occurs because of a real motion of Earth known as precession. Precession causes the identity of the Pole Star to change over time. The cycle of precession lasts 25,800 years. And there are 12 constellations of the zodiac. So, roughly every 2,150 years, the sun’s location in front of the background stars – at the time of the vernal equinox – moves in front of a new zodiacal constellation. A new age might be said to begin at that point.

The location on the sun in the sky at the vernal equinox is called the vernal equinox point or sometimes the March or spring equinox point. The Age of Aquarius is said to begin when the vernal equinox point moves from in front of the constellation Pisces to in front of the constellation Aquarius.

There should be a clearcut answer as to when that will happen. When will the sun be in front of Aquarius at the time of the very equinox? When will the Age of Aquarius begin?

But there are no clearcut answers. Various interpretations give different answers to this often-asked question.

Age of Aquarius in astronomy

Let’s consider the answer from the point of view of astronomy. In the 20th century, the International Astronomical Union (or IAU) assumed the duty of officially naming and defining all things astronomical. The IAU created “official” constellation boundaries in 1930. So astronomers would tend to mark the beginning of the Age of Aquarius, based upon IAU constellation boundaries. But astrologers or New Age practitioners might or might not choose to use these same boundaries.

Famed Belgian astronomer and mathematical wizard Jean Meeus is one who adheres to the IAU’s definitions. According to his computations, the sun at the March equinox passed from being in front of the constellation Aries to being in front of the constellation Pisces in 68 B.C. Looking ahead, again according to Meeus, the March equinox will cross over into the constellation Aquarius in 2597.

Once again, these are the astronomical dates, based on IAU constellation boundaries established in 1930.

Other Age of Aquarius interpretations

The constellations as defined by the IAU are different sizes. But astrologers often like to divide the zodiac into 12 equal sections. So that’s one big difference between the way astronomers and astrologers look at the constellations.

Also, you need to consider when the Age of Pisces started to be able to know when the Age of Aquarius begins. Apparently, there’s no firm consensus among astrologers as to when the Age of Pisces began, either. And so there is no consensus as to when the Age of Aquarius begins. In The Book of World Horoscopes, Nicholas Campion suggests that approximated dates for entering the Age of Aquarius range from 1447 A.D. to 3597 A.D. Campion also reviewed published material on the subject from astrological sources. He said that most writers claim the Age of Aquarius arrived in the 20th century (29 claims). The 24th century is in second place (12 claims). Campion, by the way, is director of the Sophia Centre and Course Director of the M.A. in Cultural Astronomy and Astrology at the University of Wales, Lampeter. See Campion’s credentials here.

An illustration of Aquarius, this time a younger man, with goat from Capricornus by his side.
A star chart, from M. J. Fortin’s Atlas Celeste de Flamsteed, published 1776, showing Capricornus and Aquarius. In the dark sky, the “water” pouring from the Water Jar of Aquarius is the most noticeable part of this constellation. It’s a zig-zag line of stars. Image via Barry Lawrence Ruderman Antique Maps / Wikimedia Commons.

Did it begin in 2012?

Some astrologers say the Age of Aquarius actually began in 2012. That’s because they believe the star Regulus in the constellation Leo the Lion marked the ancient border between the constellations Leo and Cancer. This star moved to within 30 degrees of the September equinox point in 2012, meaning that Regulus left the sign Leo to enter the sign Virgo in that year. Presuming equal-sized constellations in antiquity, that places the border of the constellations Pisces and Aquarius at 150 degrees west of Regulus, or at the March equinox point. By this reckoning, the Age of Aquarius started in 2012.

So you can see that there’s firm reckoning by many for how to calculate the beginning of an age. But there is no agreement between the various people doing the calculations. See these Wikipedia lists for what various writers have claimed.

To reiterate, we at EarthSky look at the subject from an astronomical perspective. If any knowledgeable astrologers out there would like to show us other ways of determining the Age of Aquarius, please do! We welcome your comments.

And, by the way, Terry MacKinnell responded to our request for comments, claiming that in ancient Babylon a new zodiacal constellation rising over the eastern horizon before sunrise on the morning of the Northern Hemisphere spring equinox indicated the arrival of a new age. Read more at An Age Old Mistake That Still Haunts Astrologers.

Illustration showing red dots moving along a star field.
View larger. | The vernal equinox point moves westward in front of the backdrop stars. This illustration shows of the equinox point along the ecliptic over a 6,000-year period. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

>Definition of terms: Vernal equinox point

The March or spring or vernal equinox point is a point on the imaginary celestial sphere surrounding Earth. It’s where the ecliptic – or path of the sun across our sky – intersects the celestial equator, or line around the sky directly above Earth’s equator. It’s sometimes called the First Point in Aries, because the sun used to be located in front of the constellation Aries at the time of the vernal equinox. For the past 2,000 years, though, the sun has been in front of the constellation Pisces at the time of this equinox. That’s the significance of the so-called Piscean Age. At some point, the sun at the equinox will be in front of Aquarius. That’s when the Age of Aquarius begins.

How did the Age of Aquarius enter popular culture?

The Age of Aquarius in the U.S. is associated with the hippies of the 1960s and ’70s, and now with the New Age movement. In both cases, the arrival of the Aquarian age has been associated with … well, harmony and understanding, sympathy and trust abounding. And that brings us to the 1967 smash-hit musical “Hair,” with its opening song Aquarius, by a musical group called the 5th Dimension. The song opened with the lines:

When the moon is in the Seventh House
And Jupiter aligns with Mars
Then peace will guide the planets
And love will steer the stars
This is the dawning of the Age of Aquarius

It’s hard to describe how “Hair,” which seems daring even today, affected people when it opened on Broadway in 1968. It subsequently ran for 1,750 performances on Broadway and 1,997 performances in London, with simultaneous productions in cities across the United States and Europe, and with accompanying recordings (the original Broadway cast recording sold three million copies). Almost single-handedly in the late 1960s and early 1970s, this Broadway musical brought the Aquarian Age concept into the popular culture. The video below isn’t the original, but you’ll get the idea.

Bottom line: The Age of Aquarius begins when the March equinox point moves out of the constellation Pisces and into the constellation Aquarius. But there’s no definitive answer as to when that will be.

January 8, 2021
Human World

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Bruce McClure

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