Eclipses and the Four Royal Stars of Persia: This week on the Storyteller's Night Sky

Aug 7, 2017

The Moon captured by Joe Komjathy through the Takahashi Telescope at Headlands Observatory, summer, 2017

This week marks the onset of the eclipse season, with an eclipse of the Full Moon on Monday that’s not visible in the US, followed two weeks later by the Solar Eclipse that will be visible either totally or partially throughout the entire US.

What’s rare about eclipses is not when they happen, but where. The geographic location where the shadow of an eclipse falls changes from one eclipse to the next, and the big deal about the Solar Eclipse on August 21st is that it will entirely bisect the United States from “sea to shining sea.” We haven’t had an eclipse do that in nearly a century.

What I want to talk about, though, is not where the eclipse shadow will fall cross the Earth, but where the Sun will be in the sky when the Moon sweeps in front of it, causing the eclipse. This will happen in the region of the constellation Leo, the Lion, where every year at this time the Sun moves in front of the star Regulus~the star at the heart of the Lion.  Regulus is known as the King, the Mighty One, the Hero, and it was the lead star of the Four Royal Stars of Persia, stars that marked the equinoxes and solstices of the ancient world and were believed to be the great guardians of the heavens. 

So the Moon will eclipse the Sun on August 21st, as it greets Regulus, the star of Kings. And it doesn’t end there, because then the Moon will move on and come to its first quarter phase near the star Antares, another member of the Four Royal Stars. At Full Phase, about a month from now, the Moon will be near the star Fomalhaut, also one of the Royal Stars, and finally, at last quarter phase, the Moon will stand directly in front of the star Aldebaran, the fourth member of these Royal Stars of Persia.

So the great starry guardians of the heavens are being activated in the coming lunar cycle, starting with an eclipse of the star of kings, and fulfilling with the Moon blocking out the star known as the “light of heaven”. 

What challenge does the Moon offer us, and the heroes and kings and leaders in such a gesture? It’s an ongoing celestial narrative that we can watch for in the coming weeks.