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The Real Difference Between Your Sun, Moon, and Rising Signs

Here's the Real Difference Between Your Sun, Moon, and Rising Signs


The stale first-date question of "What's your sign?" seems to be getting increasingly complicated. These days, it's not enough just to know your zodiac sign — people want to dive head first into their entire birth chart to get a better sense of who they are.

If this sounds intimidating, don't worry. POPSUGAR spoke with Narayana Montúfar, editor and senior astrologer of, and Laura Brown, astrologer and founder of Intuitive Alchemy, to get the details on the three most relevant signs in your chart: your sun, moon, and rising signs.

To make it simple, when you meet someone new, here's the order that you'll likely notice their signs: rising sign first (the mask), sun sign next (the self), and moon sign last (the heart).

Your Rising Sign — the Mask

"On a first date, it's really your rising signs that are meeting for dinner," Brown explained. So, say you meet at a dimly lit, romantic spot. Your Hinge date walks in and — hold on — you hate the fact that they wore a graphic tee to a wine bar!? And while you're sitting there contemplating why you even date at all, those first impressions — signified by their rising sign — could render some dealbreaking decisions. The saying about not judging a book by its cover should really be "don't judge a person by their rising sign."

Your rising sign is the mask you wear in public. According to Montúfar, it determines "how others see us and the first impression we give." It also "represents our physical body (including features) as well as the energy that drives it." It's "the version of ourselves that we put on display," Brown said.

Also known as your "ascendant," this sign is dependent solely on birth time, and it changes — wait for it — every two hours. This means someone born at 5:30 a.m. would have a different rising sign than someone born at 7:30 a.m. To get a little more in depth, the rising sign is based on where the Earth's eastern horizon is facing at any point in time, and because the Earth is continually rotating around the sun, the rising sign is always changing. So with 12 zodiac signs in the 24-hour period that it takes the Earth to make one full rotation around the sun, that gives each zodiac sign two hours on the eastern horizon.

Your Sun Sign — the Self

Your sun sign — the zodiac sign you're most likely to know — is more or less determined by your birth date. Each span is around four weeks long, which explains why it may be common for people with close birthdays to have similar personalities. (For instance, once you've gotten over your Hinge date's graphic tee, after you start talking, you might find you're both Leos and have more in common than you thought!)

The sun is about self, so, naturally, sun signs dig into our basic identity and surface-level characteristics. According to Brown, "Our sun sign is a lot like our first name; it's what people are most familiar with. It's our core, our innermost identity, and the space that we find the greatest ease and authenticity in leaning into."

Your Moon Sign — the Heart

"If the sun represents our conscious mind, the moon represents our subconscious mind," Montúfar said. Your moon sign is determined by birth place and time and changes signs every two-and-a-half days. This sign affects all the feelings. According to Montúfar, our moon establishes "our emotional needs, the way we desire to feel nurtured, and how we behave behind closed doors." So in our first-date scenario, this sign likely wouldn't even present itself. It might take months (or years!) of getting to know someone for the moon to finally appear.

On a more granular scale, this sign also suggests "how we relate to all nontangible things like dreams, imagination, intuition, and memory," Montúfar continued.

How to Read Sun, Moon, and Rising Signs Together

In order to understand a person as a whole, getting to know their sun, moon, and rising signs is crucial. And that's because there are so many facets to consider before you get the full picture. So two people with compatible sun signs aren't guaranteed to be best friends. Brown gave an example: a fiery Aries and an independent Sagittarius would typically get along like PB&J. However, if either has a rising Leo, the competitive attitude of this sign can create a power struggle between the two. Likewise, if two people have "incompatible" zodiac signs, it doesn't mean doom for a potential relationship.

In essence, sun, moon, and rising signs — the first signs any astrologer notices — help us understand the many variables that every human being encompasses: our basic self, our masked self, and our deep self.

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