Mercury, Solar System

What Is Mercury Retrograde?

Retrograde is a short-term phenomenon and it does change each year. For example, in 2017, a retrograde cycle is expected to start on April 9th and go through May 4th.
What Is The Mercury Retrograde?

If you follow either astrology or astronomy, you have surely heard the phrase “Mercury in retrograde,” but do you know what it means? When this planet is in retrograde, it is moving from west to east. Under normal circumstances, all of the planets move around the sun from east to west.

When Does Mercury Retrograde Happen?

Every year, Mercury retrograde happens three to four times. Retrograde is a short-term phenomenon and it does change each year. For example, in 2017, a retrograde cycle is expected to start on April 9th and go through May 4th.

What Happens During Mercury Retrograde?

You have surely heard about it having an impact on people’s moods and behaviors. However, in space, the situation is quite a bit different. You know it is moving from west to east, but this movement is actually a type of illusion. The illusion happens because as Mercury makes its way around the sun, when the Earth passes it, Mercury is going at a slower pace. This is what is responsible for the illusion.

mercury retrograde
Like the Earth’s moon, Mercury has only a very thin atmosphere, called an exosphere to stop impacts. Thus it is covered in craters. (NASA/JSCC)

What Happens After Mercury Retrograde?

Following a Mercury retrograde, the planet goes back to prograde. Prograde is simply the normal motion of the planet. During this time, it will go in the normal east to west direction as it is orbiting around the sun with the other planets.

The best way to explain this illusion is to think of yourself riding in a car alongside a train. The vehicle you are in is traveling at a higher speed. This makes it look like the train is going backward, but it is not. Mercury retrograde has the same look and feel.

Now you know about the basics concerning Mercury retrograde. You can use this information to increase your knowledge of space science and astrology.

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Lauren studies astronomy and physics at NYU.