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 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?

Groundhog's Day on the Moon: this week on the Night Sky

Feb 1, 2016

This week, it’s Ground Hog’s Day, which is the way in American culture that we celebrate the fact that we’re halfway through the season. But have you ever wondered why a sunny day casting more shadow at this time means more winter, and not less?

Last year a social media friend of mine had a brilliant idea: What if the shadow that we should be considering right now is on the Moon, and not in Pennsylvania?

What makes a planet: this week on the Night Sky

Jan 25, 2016

There’s a lot of news about the planets right now, what with all five naked-eye planets putting on a show in the morning sky, and astronomers saying they’ve discovered a new, ninth planet. So, what’s a planet to you and me anyway?

The coldest night of the year: this week on the Night Sky

Jan 18, 2016

If legend holds true, then this week we can expect the coldest night of the year, and the sweetest dreams.

In the Christian calendar, January 21st is observed as the Feast of St. Agnes, and the eve of her feast day, January 20th, as the coldest night of the year. Agnes was a 4th century virgin martyr who is associated through legend with the romance and thrill of as-yet unconsummated love. The burning desire this can create inwardly was believed to result in the coldest time of year, outwardly.

  Why are we compelled to make resolutions at the beginning of every year? Could it be that the stars have made their annual right alignment so we can take new steps?

Every year in January, the star cluster of the Pleiades sails across the zenith, or uppermost part, of the night sky. Pleiades is known as the Seven Sisters, and they are everywhere among the most noted objects in the history, poetry, and mythology of the stars.

The first-born and most beautiful of the Seven Sisters is Maia, who’s notable as the mother of Mercury, the swift-footed messenger and trickster god.

King Arthur's Gold

Jan 4, 2016

In the mystery wisdom of the world there are always references to sleeping kings that lie hidden until something stirs them to wakefulness. And here at the beginning of 2016, an astronomy event is unfolding that is like the story of one of our favorite kings waking up to reclaim his gold!

The ‘big event’ is the Comet Catalina, which can now be found hurtling toward its closest approach to Earth. This means it’s becoming more and more visible to us and you can find it looking east into the early morning sky, from 4 to 6 am.

Beauty, vanity, and hideousness in the stars

Dec 28, 2015

There’s a story lingering in the media right now that’s remarkably similar to something we see in the sky every year at the end of December, and it has to do with the role of hideousness in relation to beauty and vanity.

Less than ten days ago in Las Vegas, the Miss Universe Pageant culminated in an uncomfortable moment that, despite its intense awkwardness, certainly gave viewers the opportunity to consider the purpose of beauty in the world.

The 12 Days of Christmas

Dec 22, 2015

Did you know that the 12 days of Christmas start on December 25th and extend to January 5th, which is known as 12th night?

These days, a lot of people confuse the advent season of preparation before Christmas with the 12 days that follow Christmas, which lends itself to the frustration and let down from all that preparation for just one day.

To be a star human

Dec 14, 2015

In the sacred traditions of the people native to the Great Lakes region of North America, there's a beautiful tale about finding the date of the New Year which, if applied to this year, reveals that we can all start our new year observances as early as Wednesday, December 16th.

Unveiled Mysteries

Dec 7, 2015

This weekend the Geminid Meteor Shower comes to its peak, Sunday, December 13. The Geminid is one of our most intense meteor showers of the year, and it presents to us a celestial mystery that defies explanation, even by astronomers.  Meteor showers are caused by Earth moving through the debris trail left by a comet as it whizzes toward the Sun.

The sun is not a lonely morning star

Dec 1, 2015

  In his 19th century treatise on natural living, Henry David Thoreau wrote: "The Sun is but a morning star," but if he were composing these lines right now, it would have been hard for him to overlook the other 'goddesses of dawn' this week.

I'm Mary Stewart Adams. This is the "Storyteller's Guide to the Night Sky."

The Cornucopia star: this week on The Night Sky

Nov 23, 2015

We all know that as a civic tradition, Thanksgiving originated as a way to show gratitude for the bounty that was shared with the early Europeans when they traveled to this strange new land~but did you know that the cornucopia, or horn of plenty that is used to decorate this season is actually connected to the stars, not just to national history?

The cornucopia star is Capella, the first magnitude star in the constellation Auriga.  You can find Capella high in the northeast about 8:30 each night this week, unmistakable because it’s the brightest star in that region of the sky.

Astronomy enthusiasts are gearing up for a viewing of the Leonid meteor shower, set to peak between midnight and dawn tomorrow.

Headlands International Dark Sky Park near Mackinaw City is welcoming a host of stargazers for one of the biggest meteor showers of the year. Mary Stewart Adams, program director at the Headlands International Dark Sky Park, spoke with Stateside about the Leonids.

The shower is produced when a comet coming through our planetary system breaks into pieces as it approaches the sun, Adams says. The Earth orbits through the comet debris, giving the appearance of falling stars.

Remembering the future through star knowledge

Nov 16, 2015

We are in dire need of more beauty in our lives, especially in our thoughts about the world. For this, the ancient Greeks appealed to the Muses, the nine goddesses of epic poetry, tragedy, comedy, sacred hymns, and astronomy.

Urania is the Muse of Astronomy, and she’s conspicuous among her sisters not only because she is the only Muse that governs a specific science, but because she’s the only one who can foretell the future. She does this by knowing the positions of the stars.

It’s the season of the Fall Funding Drive for Interlochen Public Radio, so I’m going to tell you about the constellation of philanthropy, which is not a gimmick that I’ve just made up. It’s actually one of the original 48 constellations ascribed by Ptolemy, and it’s visible overhead every night at this time.  

Beauty is everywhere a welcome guest

Nov 2, 2015

A THING of beauty is a joy for ever:
Its loveliness increases; it will never
Pass into nothingness; but still will keep
A bower quiet for us, and a sleep
Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing.

The Demon Star: this week on The Night Sky

Oct 26, 2015

There’s a demon star flickering overhead every year at this time, lending an air of legitimacy to that spooky sense that creeps in when we find ourselves outside in the dark late in October. 

The demon star is Algol, also known as the ‘eye of the Medusa’ in the constellation of the hero Perseus. If you know your Greek mythology, then you know that Perseus is sent on a quest to slay the Gorgon Medusa, a snake-haired beast that will turn you to stone if you find yourself in the unfortunate circumstance of encountering her face to face. 

Who's afraid of the dark?

Oct 19, 2015

The morning skies are spectacular again this week, with the planets Venus, Jupiter, and Mars still conferring in the vicinity of the heart star Regulus, an hour before dawn in the East. And though this is dazzling, we all know the daylight is waning, and our thoughts can’t help but turn toward things that stir in the dark.

While this conference of planets continues to brilliantly monopolize the morning stage, the evening sky is swallowing the Sun earlier and earlier. It’s no wonder, then, that in this season, it doesn’t take much to stir up sensational fears of the dark.

Discovering the world without technology

Oct 12, 2015

The phenomenon that's stirring up a craze about the night sky right now is not something you can see with the naked eye or telescopes, and it doesn't even require a dark sky.

A gesture to astonish the world

Oct 5, 2015

This week the constellation of the herdsman is setting, the hunter is rising, and the Moon will cascade down a stairway of morning planets like Cinderella come to the ball.

Michael slays the dragon of darkness

Sep 28, 2015

At Autumn Equinox the Sun sinks below the celestial equator and it’s as though the Northern Hemisphere surrenders the light of Summer to the season of gathering darkness. In esoteric traditions, this is the time when the inmost soul of the human being must stay awake, to battle the creature of the dark known throughout the ages as the dragon.