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Help, Matt:

Every day I read my horoscope in the paper. But I've just heard that somebody's discovered many new planets. Does that mean that everybody's horoscope is now wrong? What am I going to do? I really depend on them to plan my day.

-- Virgo, the net

I hope this is a case of locate cheek, insert tongue, Virgo. If Matthew Alice and the horoscopes guide your life, I'm afraid you're just lost in space. Perhaps you could add fortune cookies to your list for some international flair. My advice for today is, be careful crossing streets when Mercury is retrograde (or maybe that's "when a Mercury is backing up"; I get those confused); and the attractive stranger you're about to meet will eventually steal your credit cards.

There's been no general outcry from the worldwide horoscope community about this new-planet business, but that's likely because there are many different horoscope systems and no single spokesguru, and also because no new planets have been discovered. Astronomers are simply renaming galactic things that have been around since the beginning of time. It used to be an asteroid, now it's a planet -- that kind of thing. The definition of "planet" has always been a little sketchy, scientists are now willing to admit. Maybe Pluto's a planet, maybe not. Depends on your point of view. Today (Thursday, August 24), in fact, is the day the International Astronomical Union will announce exactly what a planet is. As a result, most people expect the number in our solar system to increase from 9 to 12, or maybe decrease to 8 if they boot out Pluto.

If history is our best predictor, the three new planets will be jiggered into what some entrepreneur will declare is the best and most complete and only true system of astrology. He'll gather followers, build a website, find a publisher, and one more type of horoscope will be added to the hundreds already existing. The rest of horoscope-ville will ignore them.

My only connection to the world of astrology is the chart builder that Grandma Alice resorts to when the elves are out of control. Grandma says she always comes away with some new insight or at least a new weapon in the battle for serenity when she is reminded that it's not really the elves, it's Aries causing all the uproar. So, in the interest of thoroughness, we got the local take on the new-planet revelation. "We will all wait and see what happens," our seer says, "but I don't believe anything astronomers find will change the way I work" (The feeling is mutual, of course.) For her the whole system is so ancient, the observations so consistent and go back so many centuries that they have been proven true. "These new planets are not new. They've always been there."

Personally, I wouldn't look for change on the horoscope page. I'd head straight for business and finance. The way Wall Streets works these days, if the astronomers' new definition finally boots Pluto off the official list of planets, Disney stock will take a beating.

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