Star-gazing and planet-spotting is the gift that keeps on giving. Take Saturn, for example; although it turned retrograde on April 6, 2017, I was excited to learn that it's actually quite a common occurrence (that is, it's something we can celebrate time and time again). So, when is the next Saturn retrograde? If, like me, you're not sure what this means or why you should be bothered about the fact that this planetary activity takes place each year, allow me to shed some (star) light on the subject.
The word "retrograde" literally means to direct or move backwards, so the term "Saturn in retrograde" refers to the planet appearing to move backwards in the sky. I say "appearing" because, as Earth Sky notes, the planet itself doesn't actually change direction: "Though it baffled ancient stargazers, we know now that retrograde motion is an illusion caused by the motion of Earth and these planets around the sun," the astronomy site observes. As Bustle's Kiersten Hickman explained recently, retrogrades happen when planets are at parallel points in the solar system. When Earth and Saturn are parallel, as Hickman put it, "it gives the optical illusion that Saturn is moving backwards."
In 2017, from Apr. 6 until Aug. 25, Saturn is in its retrograde period — that is, for 140 days, it will appear as if it is moving backwards in our night sky to those of us looking up at it from here on Earth. But after this retrograde, we've got a long time to wait until the next one; Saturn retrograde for 2018 doesn't begin until April 17, almost exactly a year after 2017's started. It will turn direct, meaning its retrograde period will end, on Sept. 6 2018.
Although Saturn's retrograde is typically about once a year and lasts for 140 days, not all planets' retrogrades run on the same timeline. Why? Because not all planets take the same period of time to orbit the Sun. For example, Mars takes around two years to make its way around the Sun, stationing retrograde every two years and two months and staying that way for about 55 to 80 days. (The next time Mars is in retrograde is on June 26, 2018). This is very different to Mercury, which is retrograde for three weeks three to four times a year.
For those who follow astrology, Saturn retrograde can be quite important. Saturn is tied intrinsically to karma and change. Its annual period of movement is supposed to bring about good or bad karma to those who deserve it (depending on their past behaviors), help us solve big annoyances in our lives, and aid us in fixing past relationships and work on personal goals. Tarot and astrology website Tarot.com explains that the period of Saturn in reverse also challenges "the external boundaries we live within."
So whether you're keeping track of it now, or you have to wait until 2018 to really absorb the idea of Saturn retrograde, it could be a very welcome planetary activity.