Mercury Is in Retrograde Starting This Week — and It Lasts Until Election Day

Mercury is in retrograde starting this week — joining three other planets.

“Is Mercury in retrograde?”

You’ve probably heard this question posed by your astrology-loving friends from time to time when things go awry. Believers blame all kinds of mishaps on Mercury’s retrograde, and the dates for Mercury’s final retrograde of 2020 might even make skeptics wary of the planet’s backward motion.

Starting this week, Mercury will be in retrograde, and it won’t end until Nov. 3. That’s right, Mercury is going to be in retrograde until Election Day — you can file this under the list of stressful things to happen in 2020, alongside the pandemic, apocalyptic fires, and murder hornets.

Here’s what Mercury’s retrograde actually means.

Montage seen fr. moon: Earth (L) Sun (R-L) Jupiter, Venus, Mercury (top), Mars & Saturn; by Apollo 17, 8, 12, Pioneer Venus, Voyager 1, Mariner 10, Pioneer II & Viking.
Time Life Pictures/NASA/The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty Images

What does it mean when Mercury is in retrograde?

Merriam-Webster defines astrology as the “divination of the supposed influences of the stars and planets on human affairs and terrestrial events by their positions and aspects.” According to astrologers, Mercury’s movements can impact our daily lives, and Mercury’s retrograde is said to affect our communication, minds, technology, and even travel.

Without delving into astrology, we can explain why Mercury appears to move backward in the sky during its retrograde.

All the planets in our solar system orbit around the sun in the same direction, but some planets orbit faster than others. Mercury orbits the sun about four times in the same period that it takes the Earth to orbit once. Apparent retrograde motion is when planets appear to go “backward” in their orbit, creating what looks like a loop before returning to their usual direction. Note that it’s called “apparent” retrograde motion because the planet isn’t actually going backward in its orbit — it just looks that way from Earth because of the difference in orbit lengths.

If you do feel overwhelmed during this retrograde (either because of the planets or because 2020 has just been an intense year), now may be a good time to practice some self-care and pick up meditation or journaling.

When is Mercury in retrograde in 2020?

This year, Mercury was in retrograde from Feb. 17 to March 10, and from June 18 to July 12. Its final retrograde of the year starts this month on Oct. 14 and lasts through Nov. 3, which also happens to be Election Day here in the United States.

Mercury isn’t the only planet in retrograde. Mars, Neptune, and Uranus are currently in retrograde, too. Some might say 2020’s chaos was written in the stars.

How long is Mercury in retrograde?

Mercury is typically in retrograde three or four times a year, for about three weeks each time.

Elizabeth Rhodes is an associate digital editor at Travel + Leisure. Follow her adventures on Instagram at @elizabetheverywhere.

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