How Often Is Mars Retrograde? The Planet's Cycle Is A Little Unusual

By
Share

For fans of both astronomy and astrology, it's a special time of the year for the fourth planet from the sun. It's moving backward (sort of). So how often does Mars go into retrograde motion, anyway? There's a good reason Mercury in retrograde is probably a more famous phenomenon.

In general, Mars retrograde motion occurs every two years, as explained by NASA. This refers to the two months or so during which Mars appears to move from east to west in the night sky. To anyone watching from Earth, then, the planet Mars looks like it's moving backward during the time of retrograde motion. But the Red Planet isn't actually turning backward in its orbit, because the appearance of retrograde motion is a type of optical illusion. Imagine that the Earth and Mars are two race cars going around a track, with Earth on the inside lane. It moves much faster than Mars, and makes two laps in the same amount of time it takes Mars to go around once. So when the Earth overtakes Mars in its orbit every 26 months or so, Mars briefly appears to move backwards to observers on Earth, as further noted by NASA. It's a strange optical illusion for Earthlings.

Although this may not sound like a big deal, because planetary retrograde motion is a perfectly normal part of living in the universe as it is, people have ascribed all sorts of meanings to planets in retrograde motion. Remember, ancient people didn't have images from the Hubble Space Telescope or friendly accounts from Neil deGrasse Tyson to explain all these planetary phenomenons. To these people, Mars literally appeared to move backward in the sky for a few months every couple of years. Understandably, it kind of freaked out these ancient sky gazers, who attributed all sorts of strange events to planetary retrograde motion. Even today, people from all over will bring up retrograde motion as a reason for all sorts of problems. I mean, the popularity of IsMercuryRetrograde.com alone proves modern people are just as happy to blame the planets for their Earthly struggles.

Speaking of Mercury, many people are probably more familiar with its retrograde motion simply because it happens so much more often. In fact, Mercury retrograde happens three times over the course of 2018 alone, as noted by The Old Farmer's Almanac. When your whole day goes haywire, it's easier to blame Mercury retrograde because it's simply more common.

So what does it mean when Mars goes into a retrograde cycle, at least for people who enjoy astrology? First, it's important to consider the planet's general vibe in astrological terms. Also known as the God of War, Mars is the planet most associated with energy, animal instincts, and action, as explained by Cafe Astrology. Basically, it's the most aggro of all the planets. So when this bad boy is in retrograde, those are the forces at work. It's pretty raw stuff, in other words.

Mars retrograde can be a particularly intense time for many people. "One of the most important transits of the year, Mars’s station retrograde is a siren sounding. A sword raised. A red flag waving," wrote prominent astrologer Chani Nicholas on her website. Mars retrograde can be a time of personal and political chaos, as well as the revelation of repressed issues, as Nicholas further explained. While Mercury retrograde might cause your printer to go on the fritz, Mars retrograde might dredge up memories that make you reexamine your passion and purpose in life. It's potentially serious stuff, in other words. Thankfully, though, the Mars retrograde will end on August 27, 2018, according to Elite Daily. Then everyone can breathe a collective sigh of relief, at least for a couple of years.