The Mystical Powers of Retrograde

There’s this Facebook page that has become an inside joke between Alex and I. From time to time it will appear on one of our feeds (usually Alex’s) because a friend of ours has liked or shared a post. This page is incredibly mystical and in every sense “woo-woo”. There are posts about your energy auras, your quantum feelings, and many many announcements involving various celestial bodies and how they impact your day-to-day life. Alex thinks they are hilarious and can’t help sharing these posts with me, even those he knows my reaction will result in an inevitable scoff and a glare.

So today I want to talk about one of these ‘powerful occurrences’ that cause you to ‘feel some strong emotions’ or whatever it is they say….  retrograde.

The definition of retrograde is directed or moving backward. In a sense, this is poor choice of words when describing the astronomical event of retrograde. We say a planet is in retrograde when, as it move across the sky throughout the year, in appears to move backward. It’s important to understand that the planet is not actually moving backward, nor is it even moving in the opposite direction as we are. It just appears to.

Why would that happen?

Let’s consider how we see a planet in the sky. If we head out at night and find a planet in the sky (right now, Saturn is visible in the early evening), we will see it, in a way, projected against the back drop of stars. If you were to go out at the same time every night for a month, you would see the stars mostly in the same place, but because the planet is closer, and on it’s own orbit around the sun, it will move with respect to the stars. We can then use this to describe the apparent motion of the planet in the sky.




Let’s say each point on the orbit describes where the planet is at that time. For time ‘one’, Earth is were the point 1 is on the inner orbit and Mars is where point 1 is on the outer orbit. Where we see Mars in the sky can then be described as where the line connecting both point 1’s hits the stars.




We can continue this approximation of Mars’ location in the sky for all the points throughout the orbit, keeping in mind that Mars will be at each location in logical numeric order




So we can see that at some point throughout the planets’ orbits Mars will appear to go backward! Point 4 is higher than the point before it. Looking at the diagram of the orbits, we can figure out when this happens. The points where Mars is appearing to move backward, are at the points where Earth has made more progress in its orbit than Mars has made in its orbit. Up until point 3, the fraction of the orbit each planet has covered is roughly the same, but past that point, the fraction of the orbit Earth has covered, is larger than the fraction of the orbit Mars has covered!

So there you have it, retrograde isn’t all that mystical. It just has to do with the fact that Earth moves through it’s orbit faster than Mars moves through it’s own. The same thing happens when Mercury moves through it’s orbit faster than Earth does – then you have Mercury retrograde. (The pictures for that is just a little more difficult to draw, due to the Sun being in the way).

Now that you know how retrograde works, I’ll let you decide whether or not it inspires strong emotions and deep desires…


4 thoughts on “The Mystical Powers of Retrograde

  1. So, now I’m waiting for you to give me my horoscope….my true mystical powers horoscope.

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