The Storyteller's Night Sky

Every Monday morning at 6:30 and 8:30, IPR News Radio looks into the night sky with Mary Stewart Adams, Program Director of the Headlands International Dark Sky Park in Mackinaw City. Mary talks about the moon and the stars and the mythology associated with them. 

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.

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.”

If you watch the Moon this week, dancing through the snow clouds, you’ll notice that it’s getting higher and higher in the nighttime sky, all the way until overnight Wednesday, when it mounts itself toward Full Phase Thursday morning and becomes the highest Full Moon of the year.

It’s a New Year, so it’s time to start a new trend I’ll call “Super Earth!”

So “Super Earth” is not really a fabrication, especially if you put it in the context of the “Super Moon” craze that’s been going on!  A Super Moon is technically known as Perigee Moon, or Moon closest to Earth, which happens every month.

It's Winter Solstice this week, at 5: 44 am Wednesday, December 21st, when the Sun reaches the point furthest below the celestial equator and there is a deep inner pause in the yearly breathing process.

The Sky is Falling: This Week on The Storyteller's Night Sky

Dec 12, 2016

Despite another “Super Moon” and the Geminid Meteor Shower this week, I’d like to talk about the constellation Ursa Major, and its better-known asterism the Big Dipper.

It’s December, which means it’s time for the annual discourse about whether or not there really was a Christmas Star, so here’s my “Storyteller’s Night Sky” perspective.  

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