Headlands International Dark Sky Park

“In folklore, angels tickle harps and the Devil plays the violin. So it is hardly surprising that extraordinary musical ability in mere mortals has long been explained by way of heavenly blessings or, more frequently, dark pacts…” So begins the tale of “The Dark Fiddler ~ The Life and Legend of Nicolo Paganini”.

I recently took my stories of the stars to Davenport, Iowa, and while I was there, I visited the Figge Museum downtown, where there was a fabulous exhibit of the art of Gary Kelley, for his book on the notorious 18th century Italian violinist Paganini.

The monarch butterfly migration has been terrific this year, so I’ve been researching stories and constellations to see if I could find some way to tie the migration into “The Storyteller’s Night Sky”, but try as I might, there’s nothing specific.

The Harvest Moon occurs this week, when the Moon comes to Full Phase at 2:41 pm on Thursday, October 5th and begs the question: Why do we dance at Harvest, and is there an answer in the stars?

Last week there was a lot of chatter about the configuration of Sun, Moon and planets triggering biblical prophecy. So, what was that all about?

The set up was Sun and Moon in the constellation Virgo, with the three planets Venus, Mars and Mercury in Leo.

After the drama of causing last month’s Total Solar Eclipse, the Moon wanes out of sight in the morning sky this week, and comes to New Phase on Wednesday, just two days before Autumn Equinox, when Sun and Earth achieve their twice-each-year seasonal balance, and day and night are equal in length.

Even though the date of Equinox is determined by the relationship between Earth and Sun, the mood of the season is very much determined by the Moon. 

The big news in the sky this week is all about Cassini, the spacecraft that will plunge into Saturn on Friday, after 20 years of fascinating voyage and discovery.

The Cassini spacecraft was named for Giovanni Domenico Cassini, the 17th century Italian astronomer who discovered four of Saturn’s moons and the division of Saturn’s rings, all at a time when the concept of the Earth orbiting the Sun was still stirring up trouble. 

 

This week’s Full Moon is not the Harvest Moon. Harvest Moon is the name given to the Full Moon closest to Autumn Equinox, and this year, that Moon will happen in October. So what becomes of September’s ull Moon when it’s not Harvest Moon? 

 

In some traditions, the September Full Moon is then known as the Wine Moon. This Moon will come to Full Phase at 3 a.m. on Wednesday, September 6.

So why Wine Moon? This may be connected to the region of the sky that’s settling into the horizon after sunset at this time. 

In the aftermath of the Great American Eclipse, the moving Moon goes up the sky, as though merely fulfilling its routine tasks, meeting and greeting all the planets and stars. And though the eclipse is over now, I like to think we can feel it still.

More than half of the Summer has now passed,  and there’s a deep mystery that presents itself each year at this time.

We’re just about seven weeks from Summer Solstice,  and in the cycle of the plant kingdom, now is the time when we can tell whether the blossoms that were offered up to the Sun at its highest hour were well-received. We can tell this in the nature of the harvest.

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.

Did you know that meteor showers take their names from the constellations, even though they’re caused by comets? It’s an interesting practice that’s rooted in a time when it was not understood that comets are the cause for the meteors that fall through our skies. This way of naming can inadvertently keep comet discoverers hidden. But not this week!

The Moon and Venus will strike a remarkable pose this week on Thursday, July 20th, when they grace the morning sky in the east an hour before sunrise.

 


 

If you only know the story of “Beauty and the Beast” by the movies, then you may want to revisit the tale in its original form this week, when the morning sky challenges us to see whether we’re judging things based solely on appearances.

 

Nature's fireworks: this week on the Storyteller's Night Sky

Jul 3, 2017

The goddess and love and beauty graces the morning sky all season, leaving the fireworks to the evening sky, where the father and son gas giants dominate the night.

These two giants are Jupiter and Saturn, the largest and furthest visible to us with the naked eye of all the planets in our system. 

On Friday this week, the waxing crescent Moon will sweep over the star gamma virginis in the constellation Virgo with Jupiter standing by, south of the Moon where the star Spica is at its back. This is a beautiful sight and it triggers one of the most famous legendary elements of Roman history.

The gamma star in Virgo is named Porrima, for a goddess of prophecy. Porrima was one of many types of female oracles that populated the ancient world, which included among them the sibyls.

The cycle of the year is like a breathing process for the Earth, with the full in breath completing at Winter Solstice, and the full out breath completing at Summer Solstice, which happens this week on Wednesday. And if we imagine ourselves to be involved in this process, then right now is the time to ask: what are we breathing out into cosmic spaces with the Earth this year?

The starry roots of why June is ideal for getting married are being spectacularly written across the sky this month, and I’d like to share them for this week’s “Storyteller’s Night Sky.” 

This week the Moon comes to Full Phase, and because it’s the farthest away and smallest Full Moon of the year, I’ll call it the “Thumbelina Moon”.

 

The exact Full Moon moment is 9:10 am on Friday, June 9th, which is about 15 hours after it has reached the place on its orbital path that is farthest away from the Earth. This is called “apogee”, which means, literally, “off earth distance.”

 

This week the crescent Moon will lead the way to the place among the stars where the Great American Solar Eclipse is going to happen, and since the stars can become visible when the Sun is eclipsed, now is a good time to get out and learn your way around this region of the sky.

This week, the Moon comes to New Phase on Thursday, May 25th, which is Ascension Day in the Christian calendar, and which marks the onset of Ramadan in the Islamic calendar.

This week we are within 100 days of the solar eclipse that will cast its shadow over the entire United States, from “sea to shining sea.”

 

The “Great American Eclipse” of August 2017 will be total along a 67-mile-wide path from Newport, Oregon to McClellanville, South Carolina, racing along through 14 states and swallowing five state capitals in its shadow before skipping off the continent and exhausting itself somewhere over the Atlantic. In Michigan, we’ll see 80 percent of the Sun eclipsed.

 

The constellation Cygnus wings back into the sky this month, trailing the better part of the Milky Way and a mighty quest in its wake.

Cygnus is variously known as the Swan, and the Northern Cross, on account of its shape. The outstretched wings of the swan appear like the t-bar on a cross as the stars rise up in the northeast on May evenings.

We typically associate ghosts and witches with Autumn and the season of the dead, but did you know that there are traditions for observing the same thing during the last week of April when life is springing up from the Earth?

The Lyrid Meteor Shower starts this week and comes to its peak overnight Saturday. What’s the best thing to know about it? It’s story, because if you find yourself under cloudy skies, you’ll still have something to marvel at!

There’s a terrific tale of King Arthur unfolding among the stars this week.

So here’s the set up: It’s Spring, and the two inner planets Mercury and Venus are both at retrograde, and the Moon is about to make its first opposition to the Sun for the season.

Mercury, as messenger, is moving backward out of the evening sky, so it’s like the post office is closed, and we can all expect communications to be mixed up or delayed.

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