Your “Big Three” Zodiac Signs In Astrology, Explained

Here’s what your sun, moon, and rising signs say about your personality.

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When most people think of astrology, the first thing they're likely to think of is their sun sign. After all, that's usually the sign you’d reference when reading your horoscope or looking up the cosmic compatibility between you and your crush. But if you're ready to dive deeper into your personal astrology, understanding the difference between your sun, moon, and rising signs is a vital place to start.

Your sun, moon, and rising signs are known as your “big three” signs in astrology — think of them as your most significant astrological stats. These three signs are super important in your birth chart, and each rules over its own part of your personality and overall self. While the sun represents the core of yourself and the moon represents your inner self, you can think of your rising sign as being representative of your outer self.

“When getting to know someone, you'll most likely peel back the layers of their personality by meeting their rising, sun, and moon signs at different stages,” astrologer Renée Watt tells Bustle. “Typically, you'll discover their rising sign first, which acts as a bit of a social guard, followed by their sun sign personality — and once you've gained their trust, their moon sign will come out to greet you.”

Even if you’re not into astrology, it’s only a matter of time until someone asks you for your big three — so it’s due time you got yours down pat. Let's take a journey through the basic meanings and differences between sun, moon, and rising signs so you can start exploring your birth chart and making the most of astrology. Read on to get the scoop on this important astrological triad.

Sun Sign Meaning: The Core Of Your Personal Solar System

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Sun signs are by far the most well-known part of one's birth chart when it comes to mainstream astrology. For some people, it's the only sign they’re familiar with! Most horoscopes are based on sun signs, so that's usually what someone is referring to when they ask you what your sign is or tell you their own. If you want to confirm your sun sign, all you need in most cases is the month and date of your birth — you can plug your deets into an online sun sign calculator to find out for sure.

There’s a reason why the sun sign is so celebrated in astrology. Just as the sun is the center of our solar system, your sun sign represents the core of who you are. "Astrologically speaking, the sun in a natal chart is the luminary that symbolizes one's vital life force, spirit, intellect, and identity," astrologer Ashley Otero tells Bustle. "Being the only star amongst the other nine spheres that our Earth mingles with in space, the sun is the symbol of centeredness, illumination, and life — because without it, we'd cease to exist!"

Your sun sign rules over your ego and sense of self, as well as your sense of creativity, vitality, and drive. It speaks to your life’s big picture goals and grand-scheme motivations. "The sun is our ego and will. It shows what motivates and drives us, what pushes us to success," astrologer Lisa Stardust tells Bustle. "Our sun sign determines our passions."

In his book Astrology For The Millions, author Grant Lewi wrote:

You may think, dream, imagine, hope to be a thousand things, according to your Moon and your other planets: but the Sun is what you are, and to be your best self in terms of your Sun is to cause your energies to work along the path in which they will have maximum help from planetary vibrations.

The sun sign in astrology is ultimately considered our highest expression of self, so it makes sense that there's an added emphasis on this part of our birth chart. "Your sun sign is an indication of how you present yourself to the world and is associated with your unique identity," says Watt. "The sun’s placement in a chart will often tell us how one may express themselves and can often have an effect on creativity."

Moon Sign Meaning: Your Shadow Side

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Let's step out of the sunshine and journey into the sensitivity of the moon-ruled night. Just as the moon in the sky governs over the nighttime and all that hides in the shadows, so does your moon sign in astrology. It relates to the more private and emotional parts of us. In order to find out your moon sign, you're going to need your birth date, year, and in most cases, the exact birth time (including the time zone). When you've got that, you can either consult an astrologer or use an online moon sign calculator to find out what zodiac sign rules your lunar self.

"The moon represents the mother/maternal energy in our charts," Stardust says. "It represents our desires and emotions, our memories — all that we keep internalized and do not show to others." In other words, the moon in astrology rules over your intimate side — think vulnerable things like emotional intimacy, deep-rooted feelings, and sentimentality. It governs the more shadowy parts of your personality that only the people closest to you get to see.

"Moon signs tell us a lot about how one processes emotions and can give a lot of insight on how someone functions intuitively," Watt says. And lunar zodiac energy can manifest in very different ways, depending on what element rules your moon sign. "Water moons are often very empathic and need emotional validation, while earth moons generally find comfort through financial security,” Watt says. “On the other end of that, fire and air signs generally feel happiest when they’re free of responsibility and able to be their true selves.”

Your moon sign energy is much more internal than your sun sign’s is. It's associated with the more private side of your personality that wants to feel comfortable and safe before being revealed to others.

"The moon symbolizes the soul, our emotional reflexes, and our sense of belonging," says Otero. "It corresponds with the many stages of life, particularly early life when our existence depends on the sustenance of caregivers. Thus, the moon also symbolizes our past, our home, and our comfort zone."

Rising Sign Meaning: You At First Glance

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Your rising sign is also known as your ascendant, and it’s always the sign that rules the first house of your zodiac chart (which is where your birth chart begins). "Being the first of the chart's four angles, this point symbolizes the merge of spirit and body," Otero says. "The rising sign is the sign that was on the horizon the moment you took your first breath [and it’s] one of the most significant areas of a chart." But unlike your sun and moon signs, your rising sign isn't related to a planet or a luminary. "The ascendant is the point where the sky meets earth and it's where the sun rises each day, hence the interchangeable term 'rising sign,'" Otero says.

In order to find out your rising sign, you're going to need your exact birth date, time, and place, as rising signs change approximately every two hours. This means that even people born on the exact same day can have many different rising signs. Dig up your birth certificate or text your mom, then either consult an astrologer or use an online rising sign calculator to find out yours.

Your rising sign symbolizes the parts of yourself that show up immediately on a surface level — such as how you appear to others, how you react to things off-the-cuff, how you relate to other people, and your overall demeanor. It symbolizes "the body, its appearance, and the persona," according to Otero, so you might find that you look or dress more in accordance with your rising sign energy than that of your sun or moon signs. Think of it as your first-impression sign. "Rising signs can be the mask we wear when we are first meeting someone, to protect our inner selves," Watt says. "It also gives information on self-awareness and how one adapts to new surroundings."

Our sun sign is certainly a visible and important aspect of our personality, but the version of you that people see at first glance is actually more likely to be explained by your rising sign. "The rising sign or ascendent is the part of ourselves we show to the world. It’s the face we wear for others to see and view," Stardust says. "We show off more of who we are by our rising sign, meaning people pick up on the characteristics of this sign more than the other elements of our chart." If people don’t peg you for your sun sign very often, it’s probably because they’re reading your rising sign’s energy instead.

So You Know Your Big 3 Zodiac Signs — What Now?

Our unique astrological makeup can take a lifetime to explore, as there are so many different combinations of planets, signs, and connections to take into consideration. But getting your sun, moon, and rising signs down is a great way to begin making sense of it all. Consulting a professional astrologer will give you a comprehensive look at your chart, but you can also start reading your birth chart at home if you’re willing to do a little extra research. By tapping into the power of your big three, you’ll give yourself a solid foundation when it comes to exploring astrology and getting to know your cosmic self.

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