Knowing your rising sign, or ascendant, is an essential piece of your personal astrological puzzle.
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What Is My Rising Sign?
Credit: Stocksy

If you're in the habit of guessing people's signs, you've probably found yourself stumped as to why you could have sworn that a new app match, coworker, or your favorite Peloton instructor comes off like a particular sign, but their birthday says otherwise. The likely reason: Not only is there so much more to a person's individual astrological profile than their sun sign, but the sign we generally get a glimpse of at first blush is their rising sign, or ascendant. 

And if you've been reading the horoscope for your sun sign — as opposed to your rising sign —  you could be missing out on crucial intel. Here's what that is, how to pinpoint your rising sign, and a quick rundown on what you can expect from each of the 12.

What Your Rising Sign, or Ascendant, Means

If you've never cast your birth, or natal, chart, you're missing out on a bevy of details, including your rising sign. Once you know the precise time and location of your birth, you can create — via software, but it was traditionally done by hand — an accurate snapshot of the sky at the time of your birth, which will illustrate not only what signs the planets and luminaries (the sun and moon) were in when you were born but other info that offers even more insight into your astrological wiring, like houses, degrees, and aspects. 

The sign that was ascending on the eastern horizon at the time of your birth is considered your rising or ascendant. It speaks to the image you project out into the world — some say the mask you wear — and it offers insight into your skills, talents, and strategies you might adopt to make your way in life. If you've always felt like people don't initially perceive you as your sun sign, that's because they're probably picking up on your rising.

Case in point: Say you were born on December 17, so you've been told that you're an unfiltered, truth-seeking, wanderlust-filled fiery mutable fire sign Sagittarius. But your rising sign is social, conflict-averse cardinal air sign Libra, so you come off as diplomatic, often trying to keep the peace at all costs. 

Because it speaks to the external self, your ascendant can also affect your physical appearance. For example, Scorpio risings tend to have an intense, magnetic, mysterious vibe, have a commanding, possibly even intimidating presence, and enjoy wearing darker colors, while Leo risings might pay special attention to their hair (manes, if you will), come off as effortlessly charismatic, and gravitate to bright, cheerful, golden hues.

It also bears noting that the ascendant always lands in your first house, which is all about your personal brand — the first impression you give people, the way you take the reins in life, how you first formed your self-image early in life, as well as your physical appearance.

And pro-tip: Most horoscopes are written with a person's rising sign in mind, so once you know yours, the predictions for your rising might be more accurate than your sun (although it doesn't hurt to read both). 

How to Figure Out Your Rising Sign 

In order to identify your rising sign, you need an exact time of birth and place, which you should be able to find on your long-form birth certificate. (Or by texting your mom.) This info is critical because the position of the horizon changes so often, and therefore, rising signs change quickly throughout the day — approximately every two hours. Therefore, only by having a precise time will you be able to get the most accurate rising sign.

Once you have your birth info, you can nail down your rising by casting your chart. You can do this on a ton of free sites, such as cafeastrology.com or astrology.com, where you can plug in your info and receive your birth chart in an instant.

If you're hoping to zero in on your rising alone, cafeastrology also has a rising sign calculator.

What Each Rising Sign Means

Now that you know your rising sign, read on for the basics of each one. 

Aries Rising

Because your ascendant is in the cardinal fire sign Aries, ruled by aggressive Mars, action takes precedence over just about anything else. You'll move through life at a breakneck speed, following your gut impulses as opposed to analyzing or planning ahead. You come off as playful, competitive, direct, and self-reliant.

Taurus Rising

With your ascendant in fixed earth sign Taurus, ruled by beauty-loving Venus, you come off as unflinching in your values, down-to-earth, loyal, and easygoing. But it can also be tough for you to shift gears, preferring to stick with what you know — be that a place you've always lived, a long-term relationship you identify with, or a professional path you've been on since you were a kid.

Gemini Rising

Thanks to your ascendant in mutable air sign Gemini, ruled by communicator Mercury, you come off as social, playful, and even impish, chatty, and quick-witted. You tend to flit from one thing to the next and have an airy, light, noncommittal energy. You might give off the vibe that you lead with your head over your heart.

Cancer Rising

With your ascendant in the cardinal water sign Cancer, ruled by the luminous, intuitive moon, you come off as nurturing, heartfelt, genuine, sympathetic, and gentle. You come off as truly compassionate, emotionally generous, and show up for the people you love — sometimes to a fault. 

Leo Rising

WIth your ascendant in the fixed fire sign Leo, ruled by the vitality-bringing sun, you strike others as positive, cheerful, charismatic, full of joie de vivre, and fired up to get after your dreams and goals. You're basically sunshine personified, and people often gravitate to you for that very reason.

Virgo Rising

Thanks to having your ascendant in the mutable earth sign Virgo, ruled by messenger Mercury, you come off as down-to-earth, social, communicative, and eager to find solutions at every turn. People find you approachable, knowledgeable, and service-oriented.

Libra Rising

With your ascendant in the cardinal air sign Libra, ruled by romantic Venus, you strike others as an artistic, balance-loving, conflict-averse social butterfly. You give others the impression that you're highly appreciative of the arts, polished, kind, and fair.

Scorpio Rising

Moving through the world with your ascendant in fixed water sign Scorpio, co-ruled by gung-ho Mars and transformative Pluto, you come off as charismatic, intense, charming, and mysterious. Others perceive you as a go-getter — and highly magnetic to boot. 

Sagittarius Rising

With your rising in mutable fire sign Sagittarius, ruled by go-big-or-go-home Jupiter, you come off as dynamic, magnetic, exciting, funny, and pumped about life, love, and everything the world has to offer. People find you exuberant, entertaining, and fun to be around.

Capricorn Rising

Thanks to your ascendant in cardinal earth sign Capricorn, ruled by taskmaster Saturn, you come off as practical, down-to-earth, traditional, and incredibly career-oriented. People perceive you as sensible, grounded, and serious. 

Aquarius Rising

With your ascendant in fixed air sign Aquarius, ruled by game-changer Uranus, you give others the initial impression that you're future-minded, inventive, friendly, and dedicated to bringing people together for the greater good. They come off as endlessly intellectually curious and likable. 

Pisces Rising

Because your ascendant is in mutable water sign Pisces, ruled by dreamy Neptune, you come off as gentle, humanitarian, kind, and creative. People can't help but see you as sensitive, heartfelt, and empathic.