Planet trail 3
When a planet is moving eastward compared to the stars behind it, it is said to be in direct motion. When it’s moving westward, it’s said to be in retrograde motion. Around the time it changes directions, it may slow down enough that to the naked eye it seems to hold still andĀ is thus said to be stationary. However, you will rarely find a planet in exactly the same position from one night to the next if you look closely through binoculars or a telescope. Sometimes, direct motion is called prograde motion.
The planets are not actually changing their directions so dramatically as they go around the sun. Instead, all the planets are going around in ellipses. But since theĀ planets and the stars beyond them are so far away, we don’t get the benefit of seeing them in three dimensions as we do for our surroundings here on Earth. If you walk through a room and see a fly buzzing around in circles, you can easily see how it’s moving. So try to imagine not being able to tell how far away the fly is. It would appear to be going back and forth. Depending on how you walk through the room, the fly may appear to zigzag. The same sort of thing is happening as the planets appear to move back and forth in the sky.
Some people who believe in astrology make a big deal about times when one planet or another is retrograde. They attribute various problems in their lives or in the world to it. All that’s actually happening as far as the astronomer is concerned is an optical illusion on an astronomical scale. Here are dates and times for the planets, Mercury through Neptune, to be I direct or retrograde motion in 2017.
Mercury begins 2017 in retrograde motion.
Jan-08 09:56 Mercury begins direct motion.
Apr-10 01:14 Mercury begins retrograde motion.
May-02 14:18 Mercury begins direct motion.
Aug-12 06:13 Mercury begins retrograde motion.
Sep-04 15:58 Mercury begins direct motion.
Dec-03 07:49 Mercury begins retrograde motion.
Dec-23 02:42 Mercury begins direct motion.
Venus begins 2017 in direct motion.
Mar-02 14:13 Venus begins retrograde motion.
Apr-12 23:46 Venus begins direct motion.
Mars is in direct motion during all of 2017.
Jupiter begins 2017 in direct motion.
Feb-06 18:04 Jupiter begins retrograde motion.
Jun-10 04:50 Jupiter begins direct motion.
Saturn begins 2017 in direct motion.
Apr-06 03:38 Saturn begins retrograde motion.
Aug-25 13:58 Saturn begins direct motion.
Uranus begins 2017 in direct motion.
Aug-03 05:41 Uranus begins retrograde motion.
Neptune begins 2017 in direct motion.
Jun-16 18:04 Neptune begins retrograde motion.
Nov-22 19:02 Neptune begins direct motion.

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