The Footpath of the Moon: this week on The Storyteller's Night Sky

Nov 28, 2016

With the New Moon on Tuesday, November 29th, and the inner planets serving as the Moon's footpath, this will be a spectacular week of early evening stargazing.

The Moon is new Tuesday at 7:18 am, which means it might be possible to see the thin crescent as early as Wednesday evening, about 40 minutes after sunset. The Moon will be just to the right of the planet Mercury, and both of them will be very close to the horizon, in the west.

By Friday, the lunar crescent will be higher up and larger, now holding court with the brilliant planet Venus, also in the west, within an hour of sunset, which is early at 4:42 pm this week.

Because Mercury and Venus are closer to the Sun than the Earth is, they are referred to as the "inner planets." They never move very fare from the Sun and will never be seen on the opposite side of the Earth from the Sun. Because they were as though tied to the Sun in this way, the ancients believed Mercury and Venus were related to the forces of necessity in human destiny.

The "outer planets" Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn, because they are beyond the Sun Earth relationship, were believed to be connected to the forces of human freedom. A fitting poem to accompany your stargazing this week is from George Gordon, Lord Byron "She Walks in Beauty" which makes it easy (and beautiful!) to imagine the forces of necessity and freedom streaming toward the human being in Earth from the starry worlds that down gaze upon us.

She walks in beauty, like the night

Of cloudless climes and starry skies;

And all that’s best of dark and bright

Meet in her aspect and her eyes;

Thus mellowed to that tender light

Which heaven to gaudy day denies.

One shade the more, one ray the less,

Had half impaired the nameless grace

Which waves in every raven tress,

Or softly lightens o’er her face;

Where thoughts serenely sweet express,

How pure, how dear their dwelling-place.

And on that cheek, and o’er that brow,

So soft, so calm, yet eloquent,

The smiles that win, the tints that glow,

But tell of days in goodness spent,

A mind at peace with all below,

A heart whose love is innocent!