mary stewart adams

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.

The north pole of Saturn forms an unusual hexagon, in this image from the Cassini Mission

In their regular, or direct motion, The naked-eye planets appear to move eastward against the background of stars. But before 10 days have passed April, four of the five naked-eye planets will be moving backward, or retrograde. This means they will appear to move west word against the background of stars.

Because the first New Moon of the season occurs Monday evening, March 27th, we get to watch its beautiful crescent adorn the western horizon most of this week.

Up until very recently, the planet Venus brilliantly dominated the western horizon, casting her veil of love and beauty over the sunset world. But Venus has disappeared into the arms Sun, who is escorting her to her morning star position, where she’ll remain there for the rest of this year. 

The Sun strides over the celestial equator Monday morning March 20, and all at once, it’s Spring! In the words of Johnny Mercer, at such a moment “Ma Nature’s lyrical, with her yearly miracle, Spring, Spring, Spring!”

When the Sun moves over the celestial equator we say it’s Equinox, a moment that inaugurates what Irish poet William Butler Yeats called “the most beautiful and living of the year.” 

Recently my sister sent me a picture of Giovanni Battista Tiepolo’s 18th century masterpiece “Allegory of the Planets and Continents”, which shows the Ancient Greek Sun god Apollo, about to embark on his daily trek across the sky. Since the Sun is about to make its annual return to the northern hemisphere, I thought I’d look into a few of the names given to the Sun. 

With his famous belt of three stars, the constellation Orion is arguably one of the most well-known constellations around the world. And every year in March, he appears to fall toward the western horizon. But before he goes, there’s one more tale to tell!  

When you find Orion in the southwest region of the sky, you’ll see that he is flanked to the right by the constellation Taurus the bull, where we also find the star cluster of the Pleiades; and to the left, by the star Sirius, the brightest star in our sky.

Venus our brightest celestial companion after Sun and Moon, begins its rhythmic retrograde or apparent backward, motion this week. This means that very soon the planet will be swallowed up in the light of the Sun and will not be visible for awhile. But before Venus goes, there’s something we should be aware of…

When you’re a storyteller of the stars, you can’t help but look for them everywhere, not just in the sky, or in the myths and legends of the ancients, but in art and poetry, in architecture, in ceremony…

For this week’s “Storyteller’s Night Sky”, I’ve been looking for stars in one of my favorite places: the nursery rhymes of A.A. Milne, most famously known for his stories of Christopher Robin and Winnie the Pooh.

There’s a cosmic conspiracy setting up for all Valentines this week, and it includes the star that marks the heart of the lion, the star of a king, and the goddess of love and beauty.

First there’s Regulus, the star at the heart of Leo, the Lion, once considered the King of Heaven and lately cast into shadow by the penumbral eclipse.

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