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Home -> Astronomy -> Retrograde Sun

Retrograde Sun
Written & published: June 2007

In his astrological reference work 'Tables of Planetary Phenomena' Neil F. Michelsen wrote about the retrograde Sun.

From an Earth-centred viewpoint it is not possible for the Sun to be retrograde. It has this in common with the Moon. The two 'lights', as they are known, are the only two planetary bodies used in astrology that are unable to move in retrograde motion.

However from a Solar System-centred viewpoint it is possible for the Sun to be retrograde. How can this happen?

It is made possible by the fact that the Sun is not actually the centre of the Solar System. The Sun - and all the planets - revolves around the barycentre.

The barycentre is not an object, it is a point in space. The barycentre can be near the centre of the Sun, or it can move as far as one Solar radius outside the surface of the Sun.

The Sun normally orbits the barycentre in an anticlockwise motion. Sometimes, however, arrangements of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune cause the Sun to move clockwise. It is then considered to be retrograde, because it is moving in an opposite direction to its usual one.

This happens infrequently. According to Michelsen, it has happened just 7 times in the last 3,400 years. The most recent incidences of this are:-
  • 1989 to 1990
  • 1810 to 1812
  • 1632 to 1633
It has been proposed that these periods coincide with weather extremes, and of course the 1989 to 1990 period corresponded with the massive socio-political changes in the USSR and Europe.

Here is a diagram showing the last two Sun retrograde periods, marked by the longest vertical lines:

Sun Retrograde - 1810 to 1812 and 1989 to 1990

The next Sun retrograde period will occur in the 22nd century, in the years 2168 and 2169.

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