The Storyteller's Night Sky

Every Monday morning at 6:42 and 8:42, 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. 

This month marks the 172nd anniversary of the discovery of Neptune, the only planet in our system that can’t be seen with the naked eye, and this week, it comes to its annual opposition with the Sun.

The planet Venus moves close to the star Spica this week, where the star is held in the arms of Virgo, the maiden. What can it mean?

 


On Sunday the planet Mercury completed its retrograde and resumed its direct, or eastward motion. This coming weekend, the planet Mars will do the same thing when it completes its apparent retrograde.

 


After last Saturday’s New Moon, we entered the sacred sequence of days leading up to the 7th Night of the 7th Moon in the Chinese tradition, which brings us to the portal between the worlds. 

The Qixi Festival is celebrated during the most romantic time of the year, when the Crescent Moon sweeps across the western horizon toward the thickest part of the Milky Way.

The Perseid Meteor Shower reaches its peak just after New Moon this weekend, which means that if the weather cooperates, the conditions are ideal for a terrific show of falling stars.

 

You can see the meteors whizzing through the sky after 11 pm, once the constellation Perseus has mounted into the sky. This hero rises in the north east, carrying the severed head of the Medusa in his left hand as his trophy. 

We’re halfway through the Summer, and now the meteor showers begin!

 

The end of July marks the halfway point in the season, known traditionally as “cross quarter day.” But before we get to that point this year, we pass through a dramatic close encounter with the planet Mars, especially Thursday this week, July 26th.

 

The story I really want to tell this week is about the early 20th century American socialite and art collector Isabella Stewart Gardner, so I’m going to try to connect it to what’s happening in the stars! 

 

Isabella Stewart Gardner was known as a brilliant and unconventional patron of the arts, and this week marks the 94th anniversary of her death on July 17, in 1924, at the age of 84.

 

There’s so much happening in the sky this week, starting with the planet Jupiter, which changes direction after nearly four months of retrograde motion; there’s a New Moon that will cause a partial solar eclipse in other parts of the world; and after Friday the 13th, it will be possible to view all five naked-eye planets and the Moon in one night! 

 

 

This week the Earth arrives at that place in its orbital path that is furthest away from the Sun. This is called its “aphelion” and it will happen on Friday, July 6, even though it seems like a complete contradiction that Earth is furthest away from the Sun during the Northern Hemisphere’s Summer ~ but so it is.

 

 

The end of this week brings the end of this month, but not before the ringed planet Saturn opposes the Sun and the Moon comes to Full Phase.

 

Saturn and the Moon are locked in a beautiful harmony, and they’ll appear right next to each other in the evening sky this week, especially Thursday, June 28th, looking southeast an hour after sunset. 

 

There’s something unique happening this week just after the Sun stands still at its Solstice moment early Thursday morning: Venus and Mars will fall into position on opposite sides of the Earth, drawing our attention to the great mystery of understanding the beloved.

 

 


The last New Moon of the Spring happens this week on Wednesday, and for the occasion, the night sky is getting decked out in its favorite jewels: the evening star and the starry crown. And in between, a beautiful imagination develops over the Western edge of the world, where the ancient goddesses known as the Hours join in the dances of the gods. 

Next month, the planet Mars will make one of its closest-ever approaches to the Earth, and this week, to get ready, the red planet rises at midnight in the region of Capricorn, appearing as a mighty warrior guarding the ancient gateway of the gods.

 

The Godiva moon: This week on the Storyteller's Night Sky

May 28, 2018
Sky and Telescope

 

In 1678, the Godiva Procession was instituted in Coventry, England to commemorate and honor Lady Godiva, who rode naked on horseback through the main street to protest her husband’s intent to raise taxes on the poor. Nearly 200 years later, in 1842, Alfred Tennyson found himself waiting on a train in Coventry and penned his iconic poem about it, which we can imagine is being written across the evening sky this week as the moon comes to full phase and sweeps past the outer planets Jupiter, Saturn and Mars. 

Nine moths ago, on August 21st in 2017, the Moon eclipsed the Sun and its shadow entirely bisected the United States, from sea to shining sea. Since nine months is the amount of time it takes for a normal human gestation, it’s fitting to consider that phenomenon then, and see what’s going on now.

 

 

 

This week the stage is set for some love tricks among the planets, with Jupiter and Venus facing one another across the great horizon of stars, and the crescent Moon sweeping in, to witness the goings on.

 

The set up of Moon and planets this week brings to mind an intriguing myth from the Ancient world that has to do with the God of the Olympians Jupiter/Zeus and his trick to get even with the Goddess of Love and Beauty, Venus/Aphrodite.  Here’s the set up:

earthsky.org

Jupiter comes to its annual opposition with the Sun this week, a king among gods, who’s appearing these nights as though he were stepping into the southern tray of the scales in the constellation Libra. Such a set up begs for a tale from “The Storyteller’s Night Sky” so here’s one!


The mighty constellation Hercules is rising up in the night sky this week, in the east after 10 pm, and bearing mystery in his wake.

 

Before the Ancient Greeks saw the hero Hercules in this region of sky, the constellation was known as the Kneeler, because the figure appears upside down on bended knee.

 

The Starry Crown after the Snow

Apr 24, 2018

Next week we’ll be halfway through Spring, and in the sky you’ll notice that the constellations of the bull and the giant are setting, while the golden crown and the lyre are rising. And if you want to make your way through the lingering snow on the ground this late in April, then consider this tale from the Brother’s Grimm.

 

The tale is “Mother Holle” and it’s got the usual set up of stepmother-dislikes-beautiful-stepdaughter-and-prefers-her-own. 

The April New Moon occurred Sunday, April 15, which means that night sky advocates around the world are celebrating International Dark Sky Week, with the intent to create greater awareness around light pollution and what it costs us in energy use, in habitat stewardship, and in our own health and well being.

 

I loved you, so I drew these tides of

Men into my hands

And wrote my will across the

Sky in stars…

 

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