Planetary Returns in Astrology, Explained

If you’re in your late twenties or older, you’ve probably heard the term Saturn return bandied about. This astrological rite of passage is like a cosmic quinceanera or starry bar mitzvah, a moment when adulting becomes a real notion. And it’s just one of many planetary returns in astrology.

No, Saturn isn’t the only planet to make a return; in fact all the heavenly bodies in our solar system have “return” phases. So what do planetary returns mean anyway?

What are planetary returns in astrology?

Planetary returns happen when a planet makes one full orbit through the zodiac and “returns” to the same sign (and degree) and house that it was at when you were born.

These cosmic rites of passage are like astrological homecomings. Imagine a person who’s taken a trip around the world finally returning to their base. 

Planetary returns happen on a different schedule based on the celestial body’s proximity to the Earth (and Sun). While we know that the planets are rotating around el Sol, astrology is geocentric, meaning Earth is the center of the zodiac wheel. In your birth chart, you are the center of the universe, a shining star in your own right. 

How often do planets return?

A Planetary Returns Schedule 

PlanetReturns EveryHow we grow with these planetary returns
Sun365 daysSelf-expression, identity
Moon28-29 daysEmotional maturity
Mercury88 daysCommunication and social skills, thought processes
Venus225 daysLove relationships, ability to negotiate peacefully
Mars685 daysManaging conflicts, motivation
Jupiter12-13 yearsPhilosophies, risk assessment, worldliness
Saturn29.5 yearsBoundaries, structures, self-discipline
Uranus84 yearsCommunity building, innovation, activism
Neptune165 yearsN/A
Pluto284 yearsN/A
Lunar Nodes18-19 yearsKarmic growth, fulfilling a destiny, healing from trauma
Schedule of planetary returns

What planetary returns are important?

Here are some of the most common planetary returns that astrologers look at when considering timing of major life events.

Solar Return

Occurs: Once per year

This is a fancy way of saying your birthday. Once a year, the Earth orbits fully around the Sun—completing its journey through all 12 zodiac signs. As it returns to the position it was in at your birth, you add another year to your age. 

But here’s something cool! Since the rest of the planets will 99.9% likely never be aligned the same way you were the year you were born, you can create a one-year birthday chart for every year of life. This is called a Solar Return Chart.

Find your Solar Return

Calculate Yours!

Lunar Return

Occurs: Once per month

The moon takes between 28-29 days to cycle through the zodiac. Which means once every month, it will return to the same zodiac sign degree and house that is was positioned in at your time of birth. You guessed it: this is your monthly Lunar Return.

Since the moon directs the way we nurture ourselves, here’s a practice you might try. Declare your Lunar Return a monthly self-care day. Book a bodywork treatment or do a home meditation. If you’re lucky enough to make your own schedule, you might even turn the day into a 24-hour retreat. 

No matter where you’re situated, you’ll be most in-tune with your emotions on your Lunar Return day. Check the color of your metaphoric “mood ring” because you could get a strong hit about a situation—or a wave of feelings about something you’ve bottled up. While we don’t recommend flying into action based on these sentiments, there will be some real inner truth behind whatever arises. Break out your journal, call your supportive friends and guides. It’s processing time!

Jupiter Return

Occurs: Every 12-13 years

Every 12-13 years, Jupiter returns to the same sign, house and degree it was at during your birth. Where are you lucky in life with talents that come easily to you? What is your higher vision for yourself? What are you here to study, explore, expand into and learn? Jupiter returns are a like a continuing education program in your natural gifts. 

The first Jupiter return happens around age 12 when kids enter the tween phase. As the planet of independence and candor, it’s no surprise that this return tends to be when we start wanting freedom from our parents—testing their limits with the first acts of rebellion to gain that independence. 

Although Jupiter is a beneficent (primarily positive) planet, don’t expect to coast through its returns. These yearlong cycles illuminate big lessons—and epic mistakes too! Your unfiltered statements may churn up controversy and ignite conflict. Overindulging can bring tough lessons about tempering our appetites.

Fun fact: Jupiter cycles correspond with the Eastern zodiac. During your Jupiter Return, the zodiac animal you were born under will rule all or part of the year. For example, if you were born during the Year of the Dragon, 12 years later, you’ll have both a Jupiter return and a year where Dragon reigns.

Saturn Return

Occurs: Every 29.5 years

This is considered one of the major milestones in a person’s life and happens midway through your 29th year. Although, you’ll likely feel its effects for the entire three-year period that Saturn orbits through the same zodiac sign it was stationed in when you were born. 

Since Saturn is the planet of maturity and wisdom, your Saturn Return is an important rite of passage. Adulting alert! People tend to wake up to responsibilities and begin focusing on their true life path during the first Saturn return. Because Saturn tests your mettle, you may go through trials that force you to build char- acter. A second Saturn return occurs in your mid-50s when you enter a phase of eldership and mastery. The third one occurs in the mid-80s, a time for a retrospective of your life’s work.

Find your Saturn Return

Calculate Yours!

Nodal Return

Occurs: Every 18-19 years

The North and South Nodes of the moon are a map to your higher purpose; your cosmic destiny line. These are not planets, but rather points based on the eclipse cycle happening at your time of birth.

Situated in opposite signs, the Nodes reveal your innate strengths, pointing you towards your “true north.” The South Node is a “past life” point: It shows where you’re coming from on your soul’s journey, your core talents and your comfort zone. The North Node lights the path to soul growth. It ain’t comfortable or familiar but it illuminates where you have to stretch and challenge yourself in order to reach your higher purpose. Learning how to incorporate the North Node’s energy is a lifelong research project!

The first push into that “purpose-driven life” comes around ages 18-19, during our North Node return — when the Nodes return to the same signs they were in at your birth. A full eclipse cycle takes 18.5 years, and the Nodes correspond to eclipses, which explains the timing of this return.

Destiny calling! There’s a fateful awakening during your first North Node return, as if you’re being pulled towards a higher purpose. It’s a fascinating “coincidence” that this transit corresponds with our entry into adulthood, the time we leave for college or leave our parents’ nest to discover our unique paths. What do we REALLY want to do with our lives? This comes into sharper focus at age 18-19, with the North Node guiding us to stretch, explore and experiment. 

People born in a particular 18.5 month period will have the same North and South Nodes. And those born approximately 18.5 years before or after you will too. Consider them your soul tribe, as you’re all here to learn a similar grand lesson. Looking for teachers? People born 9-10 years before or after you are likely to have opposite Nodes. They’ve already mastered the lessons you’re working on and vice versa. While you can certainly push each other’ buttons, you might seek these folks out for guidance during your North Node return.

Learn more about North and South Nodes here



The AstroTwins

Identical twin sisters Ophira and Tali Edut, known as The AstroTwins, are the founders of and the authors of multiple bestselling astrology books. Their horoscopes reach millions here and through their resident astrologer column at ELLE Magazine.