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Michaelmas and the Moon: this week on Storyteller's Night Sky

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Look for the waxing crescent Moon approaching Scorpio on Thursday, and then sweeping past the star Antares at the heart of the Scorpion on Friday, September 30. Image from Sky&Telescope.

The Moon was New on Sunday, first New Moon of the new season, and by Thursday, it will have “shed her silver seasons four upon the night,” as John Keats would say.

The fourth night of this Moon arrives at an interesting place in the sky, and on the calendar. Among the stars, it can be seen just approaching the threshold of the Scorpion, where three stars align somewhat vertically, to mark the point at which one crosses into the underworld.

This will happen on Thursday, September 29th, which is observed in the Christian Calendar as the Feast Day of the Archangel Michael. Michael is the divine being that defeats the dragon of doubt, fear, and hatred, those things that creep up in the night, you could say, as though from the underworld places, especially now that outer daylight has given way to increasing darkness.

It’s really no wonder that the Feast of Michael is celebrated at this moment in the cycle of the year, because now is when his swift sword of shining light is most needed. In the star picture, the constellation Virgo, the maiden, has just set, following Leo and Cancer over the western horizon. These constellations began to rise up in the Spring, at the same time that the serpent Hydra begins to lift its head into the night. The head of the Hydra is positioned beneath the constellation Cancer; its heart beneath Leo; and its tail snakes along beneath Virgo stars. So just now, as Virgo sets, the serpent, which has been coiling along beneath the high constellations of summer, slips out of sight. But there is Michael, to tame the beast, so that we can all make safe passage across the threshold of Scorpio and into the greater mysteries of the night.

Look for the waxing crescent Moon approaching Scorpio on Thursday, and then sweeping past the star Antares at the heart of the Scorpion on Friday, September 30.

Mary Stewart Adams is a Star Lore Historian and host of “The Storyteller’s Night Sky.” As a global advocate for starry skies, Mary led the team that established the 9th International Dark Sky Park in the world in 2011, which later led to her home state of Michigan protecting 35,000 acres of state land for its natural darkness.