People love to freak out about the mysterious phenomenon that is "Mercury retrograde", sharing pictures and memes about the mysterious and poorly understood phenomenon.

The astronomical happening has been observed for hundreds of years and is steeped in astrological superstition tied to ancient Roman Gods and mythology. It's also an increasingly popular search term on Google, reports News.com.au.

But do we really know what it means for Mercury to be retrograde?

The retrograde period is associated with frustration, stagnation and poor communication. As the planets in our solar system are observed to be literally going backwards, it's believed this energy is reflected in our everyday lives.

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A Google search of Mercury retrograde will bring a slew of confusing results from astrology sites explaining that the regularly observed period is one of chaos and confusion. However, this isn't entirely correct.

WHAT IS MERCURY RETROGRADE?

Retrograde describes the observance of all the planets in the solar system appearing to periodically go into a backwards motion in their orbit around the sun.

What does this mean? The planets, at certain points when they pass by Earth, appear to reverse and temporarily move in the opposite direction to their usual directional orbit.

The observance of this retrograde in the planets is generated by the way the Earth and other planets move in their orbit around the sun.

Mars retrograde observed by astrophotographer Tunç Tezel. Photo / Tunç Tezel
Mars retrograde observed by astrophotographer Tunç Tezel. Photo / Tunç Tezel

The planet with the clearest observable retrograde is Mars, not Mercury, according to Vox.

But Mercury retrograde occurs three to four times a year because of the layout of the solar system. Mercury, closer to the sun, orbits faster than Earth, Mars and other planets.

MERCURY RETROGRADE: ASTROLOGICAL BELIEFS

While astronomers will point out that other planets can be observed in retrograde motion, astrologers associate Mercury, which passes by the Earth three to four times a year, with various difficulties.

The planet Mercury, linked to the ancient Roman god, is the ruler planet of communication and codes, travel and movement, and contracts and agreements.

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Astrologers interpret Mercury retrograde as a period when you can expect all things related to the above to falter, confuse and frustrate you.

Have you been waiting to be handed your new contract at work? Expect issues and complications at every turn that stop you from being handed that sealed envelope with your name on it.

If you try to communicate with a friend about something that's been bugging you, expect to be wildly misinterpreted at every turn.

If you're looking to launch any kind of new project, look to be stymied with frustrating technical issues that completely stagnate your work flow and put unforeseen holds on things.

Need to urgently get somewhere? Expect your phone to die and the taxi drivers to go on strike. Expect the trains to shut down and your bank to have technical issues so you can't pay for your Uber.

Some astrologers say the period shouldn't be scary and can be a productive time of rest. They advise people to embrace the lack of rapid activity and move actively into the enforced rest. After all, it only lasts a couple of weeks, if you believe it's real.

MERCURY RETROGRADE DATES FOR 2019 AND 2020

October 31 – November 20, 2019

February 18 – March 9, 2020

June 17 – July 12, 2020

October 13 – November 3, 2020