The Storyteller's Night Sky

Like a scene out of the Celtic Wonder Tales, the morning sky this week takes on the appearance of a gathering of the wise beings that created the world, come together to await the noble deeds of human beings.

There’s a consistent wisdom in the world of fairy tales that weaves through every culture, and it’s this: what you put into the world will come back to you, filled with the goodness, truth, beauty, or negativity, that you put into it. So how are the stars involved in this?

 

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. 

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.

 


 

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. 

Did you know that there’s not always a Full Moon in February, and that only once every ten years can the February Full Moon be eclipsed? 

Next year, there will be no Full Moon in the month of February, and this year, the Full Moon, which comes this Friday, the 10th, will move through the outer edge of Earth’s shadow, causing what’s called a “penumbral eclipse.”

 


We’re nearly halfway through the season of winter this week, and the Moon is lifting the veil on a significant moment in the romantic narrative that’s been playing out over the western horizon for several months now…

On Sunday Mars crossed the celestial equator, which is the spot that marks the point of Vernal Equinox. This means we can imagine that Mars has emerged into the upper world.

There are some fascinating differences between Chinese and Western astrological traditions, and since Friday’s New Moon inaugurates the Chinese New Year of the Rooster, it’s a good time to consider those differences.

Tradition holds that the coldest night of the year will happen this week Friday, January 20th, which is known as the “Eve of St. Agnes.”

The meteor shower season continues this week with the peak of the Orionid overnight Friday to Saturday, and since Autumn is also the season for celebrating the dead, here’s an ancient myth to keep you entertained while you’re out wishing on the falling stars.

 


 

A lot has happened in the world since the goddess of love and beauty disappeared from view last March, and this week she’s welcomed back to the stage of the sky as evening star.

The goddess of love and beauty is the planet Venus and she was born out of the foaming waters of the sea. 

This week, Venus will emerge in the evening sky in the west, in front of the constellation Cancer, the crab.

The star-spangled oak at Headlands International Dark Sky Park Edit | Remove

Summer is upon us and the Moon will be a beautiful crescent moving up the sky from the western horizon this week. But did you know that today July 4 the Earth is as far away from the Sun as it can get on its orbital path?

Constellation-hopping is one of the ways you can find your way around the night sky, and this week it can help you to the radiant, or center point of an early summer meteor shower, called the Boötids.

The Boötids take their name from the constellation Boötes, the herdsman, and even though the falling stars don’t really come from the constellation itself, this kind of naming practice makes for some great storytelling.

So what story can we find in the Boötes region of the sky that might suggest that the meteor shower is his gift to humanity?


Finding your inner hero: this week on The Dark Sky

Jun 20, 2016

Today, June 20th, is Summer Solstice, when the Sun reaches its highest place above the Celestial Equator. Today the Moon also comes to full phase, and because this happens opposite the Sun, it means that today the Moon is at the lowest point, in the region of the sky where we find our galactic center.

The Flower Fairy in the Stars: this week on The Dark Sky

Jun 6, 2016

When you look into the night sky this week, you’ll see a beautiful line up of planets and stars that lend themselves to a French fairy tale by the Count de Caylus from the 17th century known as “The Fairy Gifts.”

  Today, Monday, May 9, the planet Mercury is making a rare transit across the face of the Sun. It would be easy to let such an event go by, because, afterall, a transit is not easy to see the way an eclipse is, and scientists learned a long time ago all the most exciting things about Mercury that a motion like this reveals. But for the storyteller, this is a great opportunity to visit the charming world of magic, music, the mischief of secrets and the power of promises.

The closest planet to the Sun bears the Roman name “Mercury” which to the Greeks was Hermes.

Mysteries of the Mercury Transit: this week on The Night Sky

May 2, 2016

Next week the planet Mercury will do an unusual thing that it does only once every 33 years in May. It’s called a “transit” and it happens when Mercury so lines up with the Earth and the Sun that it seems to move straight across the face of the Sun. To get ready for this, I want to talk about some of the ancient mystery wisdom associated with Mercury.

With Mercury turning retrograde later this week, more than half of the planets will be in their retrograde motion, which means they appear to be moving backward (or westward) through the sky. And for me, this is the perfect set up for the mischief you might not know is associated with the eve of May 1st.

 

Earth Day happens later this week, on Friday, which is also coincident with the oldest meteor shower in recorded history, the Lyrid’s, which is caused by Comet Thatcher, but gets its name from the constellation Lyra.

It wasn’t until the 19th century that astronomers began to figure out that meteor showers are related to comets, but historical records show that the stars falling through the sky from the Lyrid Meteor Shower were recorded as early as 2600 years ago!

"The days of the week wanted to have some time off so they could have a party. They were so busy the whole year round, and they were never free all at the same time; BUT every fourth year is leap year, when an extra day is added to February, to keep accounts straight. So they decided that on this day, they would have their party. And since it was in February, when Mardi Gras is, they decided to have a masquerade.”

The three Georges of 1781: this week on the Night Sky

Feb 22, 2016

Today, February 22nd, is the anniversary of George Washington’s birthday, and because this is “The Storyteller’s Night Sky,” I’m going to talk about how the first president of the United States is related to the stars.

 During the American Revolution, and specifically in the 1780s, there were three significant George’s in the world: King George of England, against whom the colonists were rebelling; George Washington, who was the leader of the Continental Army; and a brand new planet, discovered by William Herschel, and which he called the “Georgian Star”.

Galileo and the Moons of Jupiter: this week on the Night Sky

Feb 15, 2016

These days the news is filled with exciting reports of a new 9th planet and the first direct evidence of the astronomical phenomenon of gravitational waves, which confirm the presence of things unimaginably far away from us. But right now is the time to ask about something much closer to our celestial home, which one of my astronomy friends calls just so much “pebbles and dust”: Have you ever seen the moons of Jupiter?

Certainly you've heard that today marks the Chinese New Year of the Monkey. But to be more specific, did you know that this is actually the New Year of the Red Fire Monkey, which only comes around once every 60 years?