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, former Program Director and founder of the International Dark Sky Park at the Headlands, who has been telling stories of the night sky on IPR since 2013. 

The word “Solstice” is rooted in the early Roman reference to the “stopping” or “standing still” of the Sun. This occurs twice each year, when the Sun appears to attain a position highest above or furthest below the celestial equator. In the Northern Hemisphere, we mark these days as the first day of Summer and the first day of Winter, respectively.

Dark Sky Park: Ophiucus

Jun 13, 2014

This week we have a combination of two of our most popular superstitions: Full Moon and Friday the 13th.

The Moon arrived at exact Full phase just after midnight this morning, Friday, June 13th at 12:11 am, making this a phenomena only for people in the Eastern Time Zone of North America.

An all-new meteor shower makes its debut tonight, and astronomers say it could put on a show starting as early as 10:30 p.m. ET Friday and peaking early Saturday. Called the Camelopardalids, the shower is named after the giraffe constellation. It's expected to be visible in nearly all of the U.S., if skies are clear.

"No one has seen it before," NASA says, "but the shower could put on a show that would rival the prolific Perseid meteor shower in August."

Dark Sky Park: The Camelopardalids

May 22, 2014

This weekend there is the promise of a brand new meteor shower, known by the ungainly name "The Camelopardalids." Meteor showers take their names from the constellation in front of which the radiant is located. To form the name, astronomers use the constellation name and add the letter 'd', so that the meteor shower in front of Perseus becomes the Perseids; the meteor shower near Orion becomes the Orionids, and the anticipated shower near Camelopardalis becomes the Camelopardalids.

Donovan Shortey/Flickr

Northern Michigan could end up being one of the best spots in the U.S. to witness a dramatic and rare meteor shower this Memorial weekend. That’s if both weather and meteor predictions hold true for the early morning hours Saturday.

On Saturday, May 24th, the Earth will cross the path of Comet 209P/Linear. Because comets burn up as they speed through our system, they leave a trail in their path. When we cross these trails of stuff throughout the year, the stuff burns up in our atmosphere and appears to us as shooting stars, or meteors. The exciting thing about the possible shower on May 24th is that, if it happens, it’s the first time it will ever be seen, and it’s the first time in a long time that we’ll see a brand new meteor shower! So what do we call this new meteor shower? 

Dark Sky Park: Buddha Moon

May 7, 2014

In the Eastern tradition of Buddhism, the Full Moon in May is called Vesak, and is celebrated as the time that marks the birth, enlightenment and death of the Gautama Buddha. Informally referred to as “Buddha’s Birthday”, this Full Moon arrives on May 14th this year, at exactly 3:16 pm.  The celebration of Buddha’s Birthday is called Vesak after the name of the month in which it falls in the Indian calendar. 

Dark Sky Park: The Return Of Cygnus

May 1, 2014

The constellation Cygnus returns to the Northern Sky this month, rising up over the horizon in the northeast an hour after sunset. Cygnus is variously known as the swan, the Northern Cross, and the goose upon which the Old Mother Goose rides in the ditty: Old Mother Goose when she wanted to wander would fly through the air on a very fine gander. This is a whimsical reference to Cygnus, as it appears to fly along the path of the Milky Way.

Dark Sky Park: May Day

Apr 25, 2014

Next Thursday, May 1st, is May Day. Sometimes known as Beltane or International Workers’ Day, May Day is notable because it is a Cross Quarter Day. Those are the days in our calendar that mark the midpoint of a season. In this case spring. While the Equinox and Solstice Points mark the beginning of the seasons, the cross quarter days mark the middle.

Dark Sky Park: Lyrid Meteor Shower

Apr 18, 2014

On Tuesday next week the Lyrid Meteor Shower will happen overhead. Like all such events, the meteor shower takes its name from the constellation in front of which the stars appear to ‘shoot’, which in this case is the constellation Lyra, the lyre or stringed instrument of Orpheus.

Dark Sky Park: Total Eclipse Of The Moon

Apr 10, 2014

Tuesday morning there will be a total eclipse of the moon. It will peak at about 3 a.m. At that moment, the moon will be on the opposite side of the earth from the Sun. The moon will appear reddish-brown. (See picture)   

Dark Sky Park: Mars

Apr 3, 2014

Early next Tuesday morning there will be a Total Eclipse of the Moon. It will peak, or “achieve totality”, at about 3 am. At that moment the moon will be on the opposite side of the Earth from the Sun. As the moon moves through the deepest part of Earth’s shadow, it will appear reddish-brown to the eye. This is the first Full Moon of the Spring season, known as the Vernal Full Moon. At Equinox the Sun returns to the northern hemisphere, sometimes called the celestial hemisphere, and at this first Full Phase, the moon finally crosses to the southern hemisphere. This ‘trading of places’ betw

Dark Sky Park: Hydra & Serpents & Dragons

Mar 25, 2014

Spring festivals of renewal are related to the first full phase of the moon after Vernal Equinox. It used to be believed that the winding course of the moon was related to the constellation Hydra, the many-headed serpent.   

Dark Sky Park: The Northern Lights

Mar 19, 2014

Spring is a magical time of year with the Sun shining brighter and for longer periods of time. It's also time for the Aurora Borealis, a phenomenon best-known as the Northern Lights.   

Dark Sky Park: First Day Of Spring

Mar 13, 2014

March 20th is the first day of Spring, or the Vernal Equinox. One sign of Spring is the rise of the star Arcturus, one of the oldest known named stars. To see this star find the big dipper and follow the arc of its handle to Arcturus.   

Dark Sky Park: Mars, Spica and Aladdin's Lamp

Feb 28, 2014

During March, the path of Mars will bring it 15 million miles closer to Earth. It moves through Virgo with its star Spica; the Star of Abundance. In some cultures, Spica is known as a solitary lamp making the tale of Aladdin suitable for the season. Read Aladdin's story here

Dark Sky Park: Brothers

Feb 20, 2014

On this segment of "The Storyteller's Guide to the Night Sky," Dark Sky Park Program Director Mary Stewart Adams talks about brothers as seen in the night sky and in storytelling. The Gemini Twins are named Castor and Pollux and one star follows the other in the night sky. In literature, the Brothers Grimm's "The Two Brothers" make their way in a challenging world. Read "The Two Brothers" here.  

Dark Sky Park: 50 Moons Of The Olympiad

Feb 12, 2014

On this edition of "The Storyteller's Guide to the Night Sky," Dark Sky Park program director Mary Stewart Adams talks about the mythology at the root of the Olympic rhythm of four years. The rhythm is based on a story of love and the moon. The full moon takes place on Valentine's Day, when the Olympics are being held. 

Dark Sky Park: The Star Capella

Feb 6, 2014

On this edition of "The Storyteller's Guide to the Night Sky," Dark Sky Park program director Mary Stewart Adams discusses the star Capella. It's one of the brightest objects in the sky this season. Mary talks about how various ancient cultures interpreted the star.   

Dark Sky Park: The Chinese New Year

Jan 30, 2014


The New Moon on January 30 triggers the lunar new year in the Chinese calendar and ushers in two full weeks of celebration. Chinese tradition differs from Western tradition in that, in China, the astrological tradition moves year by year instead of the Western model which moves month by month. 

Dark Sky Park: Catherine And Her Destiny

Jan 21, 2014

The moon will move past Saturn and the southern scale of Libra on Friday, bringing to mind fairy tales of weighing, testing and endurance. One example is the fable, "Catherine and Her Destiny." The story is told here. 

Dark Sky Park: Venus, The Morning Star

Jan 17, 2014

Starting now, the Morning Star isn't a star at all but the planet Venus. To ancient Romans Venus "matured" the mysteries of the night skies. In ancient Egypt, Venus was related to Isis, the bringer of new life.    

Dark Sky Park To Get Observatory

Jan 17, 2014
courtesy of Petoskey architect Rick Neumann

Visitors to the Headlands International Dark Sky Park will have a new vantage point to see the stars. The park is getting an observatory. Emmet County commissioners moved the project forward at last night’s board meeting.

It will replace the Beach House. Emmet County Commission board chair, Jim Tamlyn says officials had first considered renovating the historic summer home.

"The price tag on that was approaching a million dollars to do all of the rehab that the building needed," he said. "No one wanted to take the building down. But there was really no use for it."