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Every Monday morning at 6:49 and 8:49, 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.

Damp Drizzly November in the Soul: this week on the Storyteller's Night Sky

Moon 11.3.21.jpeg
Sky&Telescope
The Moon wanes toward New Phase this week, leaving the watery region of stars behind as it encounters Mercury in the morning twilight, escort of souls.

This week we pass through the veil that separates the beginning of Autumn from its end, the time when the wind tears the remaining leaves from their branches and hurtles them earthward. It’s the season that inspired Herman Melville’s Ishmael to enlist in an epic adventure, across waters shimmering beneath the stars, where lay a universe of gliding monsters.

After introducing himself at the outset of “Moby Dick,” Melville’s main character Ishmael goes on to describe how, whenever it is damp, drizzly November in his soul, then he accounts it high time he get sea as soon as he can.

Out at sea, away from the imposition of artificial light, the autumn sky is glorious. And there glides the mighty ocean beast Cetus, the whale, high in the southeast, in the watery region of the sky where we also find Pisces the Fishes and Aquarius, the Waterman. This is the perfect set up for Melville’s epic, and especially this week, when the Moon has left the night behind, as it treads through the dawn, and there encounters Mercury, escort of souls.

After greeting Mercury on Wednesday, the Moon joins the Sun at New Phase on Thursday, and the two of them standing opposite the planet Uranus in the sky. Uranus has a reputation for being a harbinger of sudden change, the kind that results from encountering things that come from out of the unknown.

For this star lore historian, all of this combines to make this a magical week, one in which we can pass through the veil of the season into secret worlds, escorted by Mercury and undercover of a dark undisturbed by moonlight, to seek out the new and the unknown, which is the only way to find the best kind of places, which, as Melville described, are never drawn on any map.