Shop Windows to the Universe

Warnings: The True Story of How Science Tamed the Weather by Mike Smith tells the story of our storm warning system. See our online store book collection.
This image compares the retrograde rotation of Venus to the direct rotation of Earth.
Click on image for full size
Windows original, courtesy of Nate Proulx

What are the retrograde motions of planets in the sky?

It depends on which type of motion you are asking about. If you take a birds-eye view from the top of the solar system all the planets orbit around the Sun in a counter-clockwise (or direct) direction. Most planets also rotate counter-clockwise, so that the Sun rises in the east and sets in the west. A few rotate in the opposite direction, so that the Sun rises in the west. This is known as retrograde motion.

The planets with retrograde rotations are Venus, Uranus, and Pluto. Uranus' rotation is tricky. It is tilted so that its poles are pointed almost directly at the sun. Scientist argue about whether or not its orbit is truly retrograde.


Submitted by Kyle (Canada)
(June 17, 1999)

Shop Windows to the Universe Science Store!

Learn about Earth and space science, and have fun while doing it! The games section of our online store includes a climate change card game and the Traveling Nitrogen game!

Windows to the Universe Community

News

Opportunities

You might also be interested in:

What are the retrograde motions of planets in the sky?

It depends on which type of motion you are asking about. If you take a birds-eye view from the top of the solar system all the planets orbit around the Sun in a counter-clockwise (or direct) direction....more

How do Astronauts Live in Space?

Have you ever wondered how astronauts live in space? Did you know they do a lot of the same things we do here on Earth? Astronauts eat, exercise and sleep just like we do. However, their food isn't always...more

How far is the Earth from the Sun, the Moon and all the other planets? How far are all of the planets from the Sun? Do you know of a software that tracks the planets in real-time?

There is a really neat internet program called Solar System Live that shows where all of the planets and the Sun are. If you go to that page, you'll see an image similar to the one on the left. Below the...more

Is it really true that man never really walked on the Moon?

The picture of the American Flag (the one put there by the Apollo astronauts) is waving (or straight out) in the wind. How could that be possible if there is no atmosphere on the Moon? Was it some sort...more

How many planets orbit the sun?

I was wondering if there is a new planet? Are there planets (a tenth planet?) after Pluto belonging to our solar system? What are the names of the new planets discovered in the solar system? Are there...more

Did the Big Bang create any black holes? Wouldn't the universe evolve differently if some of the original energy had disappeared in black holes?

When an object has a really high energy, it can form a black hole. This is called a primordial black hole. Primordial black holes were formed near the beginning of the universe. Primordial black holes...more

Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part by the National Science Foundation and NASA, our Founding Partners (the American Geophysical Union and American Geosciences Institute) as well as through Institutional, Contributing, and Affiliate Partners, individual memberships and generous donors. Thank you for your support! NASA AGU AGI NSF