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Meaning behind Mercury in retrograde and how long it lasts

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Mercury is currently in retrograde until Sunday 2 October, and for those who believe in astrology – the phenomenon could be to blame for any recent bad luck.

Some choose to lead their lives by the guidance of horoscopes and star signs, which means that for these people, the placement of the planets is essential when making decisions.

Mercury is a particularly important planet movement in horoscope reading because in astrology, the planet is said to rule over travel, communication and technology.

What is Mercury Retrograde?

Mercury retrograde is an illusion that makes the planet appear – from Earth – as though it is moving in the opposite direction to usual.

Planets always orbit the sun anti-clockwise. The Mercury retrograde phenomenon happens because of differences in orbit between Earth and Mercury. Earth takes 365 days to orbit, whereas Mercury takes just 88 days. This sometimes makes it appear as though Mercury is slowing down or even going in the wrong direction.

Humans have observed the illusion for centuries – in fact, the first astronomical calculator (built some time between the 3rd and 1st century BC) accounted for the retrograde motion.

Mercury retrograde tends to happen three of four times a year – since Mercury orbits the sun roughly four times faster than Earth – and lasts for around three weeks at a time.

Roy Gillett, president of the Astrological Association, previously told i: “What you do is divide the celestial sphere into 12 segments like the pieces of an orange.

“Then you see where the planets are in terms of the background. When you look at Mercury from the Earth, it seems to be moving – every night it’s in a slightly different position if you see it through the telescope.

“Because of the different movements of the two bodies around the sun, sometimes it looks like Mercury is moving backwards, rather like when you’re sitting on a train and it’s not moving but the train next to you is, and you get the illusion that you’re moving backwards.”

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Why do people believe it’s bad?

In astrology, Mercury is said to govern travel, communication and technology, and the fact it is appearing to go backwards has negative connotations.

That means people who believe in it will blame things such as cancelled trains, undelivered texts and even miscommunications with friends on Mercury being retrograde.

“Different astrologers have different opinions. Some say, oh, Mercury is in retrograde, I can’t do anything, I’m always going to make a mistake,” said Mr Gillett.

“I don’t take such a simplistic view. My view is that when Mercury is going very quickly, it seems very easy to make up your mind.

“When it slows and goes into a retrograde motion, that’s when you make a mistake. But it’s often the case that mistakes tend to appear when Mercury is in retrograde that may have been made when it wasn’t.”

How long does Mercury retrograde last?

Mercury in retrograde typically lasts around three weeks and happens about three times a year – which is more regularly thank other planets in our solar system.

Mercury appears to go backwards so frequently because it is the closest planet to earth, meaning “we will be experiencing major cosmic shifts and changes throughout the year,” according to Lisa Stardust, the author of Saturn Return Survival Guide and The Astrology Deck.

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