For the thousands of years that humans believed Earth was the center of the universe, a puzzling fact about the heavens was the motion of the planets. They all move in one direction except every once in a while, they appear to stop, move backwards for a bit, and then revert to their normal path. This turning on their heels is known as retrograde motion and has nothing to do with your moods, star sign, or any bad omens. Mars went into retrograde on October 30, just in time for Halloween, so we're explaining what this is, and importantly, what it isn't.
Some people associate retrograde motions with mystical powers that can negatively affect people’s lives, but like all astrology, there is no truth to it. Poor Mercury is particularly blamed for many things whose fault is not in the stars but in ourselves, our institutions, and societies. It's not necessarily harmless either, blaming celestial motion robs people of responsibility and let’s those that could enact change off the hook.
What does Mars in retrograde mean?
Mars – or any other planet – in retrograde motion is an optical illusion; it's not a real motion. We don’t ascribe witchcraft to The Dress, whether you see it as black and blue or white and gold. The planets are all orbiting the Sun at different speeds; the closer they are, the faster they are going. If you imagine the orbits as concentric racetracks, it means that the Earth is about to lap Mars, and as it happens, it will look like Mars is moving backward as our planet moves faster. After a little while, Mars will go back to looking like it is moving forward.
This happens every 26 months. Mars entered this retrograde motion on Sunday, October 30 and it will continue to do so until January 12.
More interesting than the supposed direction of Mars is the shape it will draw in the sky over the course of the retrograde period, which can last many weeks. The orbits of the two planets have slightly different inclinations, so depending on their position, Mars appears to make a loop, an 'h' shape, or an 's' shape. Orbital mechanics is a fascinating subject.
Planets’ effects on humans have been known to be negligible for about 335 years, since the publication of Isaac Newton’s Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica in 1687, which laid out his laws of motion, gravitation, and planetary motion and helped define the Age of Reason.
According to Newton's third law, every action has an equal and opposite reaction. The effect of Mars on you, your love life, or your career is not existent, but if you want to believe that, just know that you are having the same effect on Mars, so the Red Planet can blame you for its love life drama too.