06 March 2011

Jupiter and Mercury: Prograde and Retrograde Motion

Elusive Mercury makes an appearance for the coming weeks in the evening sky, slowly progressing toward Jupiter as the two planets share the same space (from our point of view) just above the setting Sun. Although Jupiter is considerably farther away from Earth as Mercury, Jupiter's massive size more than makes up for that distance and makes it appear to us as a much brighter light on the horizon.

As Mercury rapidly arrives in the evening sky, it changes its location each evening quite a bit, and before long will be aligned with Jupiter, setting around the same time as Jupiter toward the end of March. As it reaches this point, it will then change its daily direction across the evening sky and move rapidly westward toward the Sun, something called "retrograde" motion. For a few weeks, people will say that "Mercury is in Retrograde" which is, from an astronomical point of view, very normal behavior for Mercury every few months. However, for many who follow astrology, this can be a very troubling time. Perhaps seeing Mercury with your own eyes changing location and moving gracefully across the sky, first in prograde motion (the basic motion of planets across the backdrop of stars, eastward), then in retrograde, will make its impact a little more friendly. Try it out for yourself and see.

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