astronomy

Although it won’t be full until next week, the Moon will put on a dramatic show at the end of this week, rising just as the Sun is setting, while making its way to its fourth and final Full phase of the Spring.

This first full week of June includes a New Moon on Monday and some illustrious dates, if you’re a storyteller of the night sky!

Did you know that in the 16th century Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe measured hundreds of stars and created a popular catalog of the night sky without ever once using a telescope? And that Polish astronomer Nicholas Copernicus also never used that handy device? 

At the middle of this week, Mercury comes to what I’ll call its “Full” phase, and at the end of the week, the Moon achieves its rare Blue Moon phase. We won’t see Mercury, and the Moon won’t appear blue, but still they’re both good for story!

Nearly 1000 years ago, a star went super nova in the region of the Bull’s Horns, in Taurus, and this week, the waxing crescent Moon will sweep over the very spot, opening the door on a fascinating bit of cultural and scientific history.

This week we’re already halfway through the Spring, when the “Cross Quarter” known as May Day occurs on May 2nd, which was a time celebrated in ancient Rome as the festival of Floralia, in honor of the flower goddess Flora, the daughter of Oceanus and the beloved of Zephyrus, the west wind.

Earth Day is celebrated every year on April 22nd, which makes it poetically coincident with the Lyrid Meteor Shower. The Lyrids take their name from the constellation Lyra, which bears a challenging story across the sky of lost love in the Earth.

There’s a Full Moon this week, and even though it’s not the first Full Moon of the season, it is the one that determines the Spring festivals of renewal this year, like Easter and Passover.

July this year will mark the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing on the Moon, the first space mission to put a human being on our only natural satellite. But 60 years ago this week, the first step took place that would lead to that historic step, ten years later.

Mars is the only evening sky planet this month, visited by the crescent Moon this weekend, but then returning to its solo journey through the stars for the rest of the month.

Today on Stateside, what will a lawsuit settlement that prohibits state-funded adoption agencies from refusing LGBTQ clients mean for Michigan moving forward? Plus, from full-length movies to one-minute shorts, we talk about the films you'll find at the 57th annual Ann Arbor Film Festival, which kicks off Tuesday.

At midnight this week, the constellation Virgo appears high in the east, holding the star Spica in her arms, and trailing the return of seasonal light in her wake.

A magic moment is upon us this week when the Sun appears to cross the Celestial Equator heading north, bearing greater daylight in its wake. There's also a curious thing happening with the Moon the very same day.

Upon a time, before the faery broods drove Nymph and Satyr from the prosperous woods,

Before King Oberon's bright diadem, sceptre, and mantle, clasp'd with dewy gem

Frighted away the Dryads and the Fauns, from rushes green, and brakes, and cowslip'd lawns,

The ever-smitten hermes empty left his golden thone, bent warm on amorous theft...

Last week the sky was tremulous as the Earth moved through a wide swath of solar wind, making way for all the terrific phenomena that's happening this week!

The planet Mercury begins its first retrograde of the year on Tuesday, which is Mardi Gras in the Christian calendar. If ever there was a festival that strikes the right mood for this trickster god, then Mardi Gras is it.

"We thus remove and absoltuely abolish the old calendar." 

With these words, written over 400 years ago this week, a universal ordering in the reckoning of time was established.

There's a Full Moon this week, the closest one of the year in fact, which lends itself to the illustrious anniversaries that also happen every year at this time.

There's President's day, honoring the births of Washington and Lincoln; and this is the week that Michelangelo died, in 1564; then there's the English Romantic Poet John Keats, who also died this week in 1821; and for the astronomy world, it's the anniversary of the birth of Nicolaus Copernicus, the Polish astronomer who formulated a model of our universe that placed the Sun, not the Earth, at the center.

The ever-smitten Hermes empty left

His golden throne, bent warm on amorous theft:

From high Olympus he had stolen light,

On this side of Jove's clouds, to escape the sight

Of his great summoner, and made retreat

Into a forest on the shores of Crete.

These few lines are from John Keats' poetic narrative "Lamia", and they describe how the trickster god, Hermes, the bringer of dreams and escort of souls, who also serves as the messenger divine, escaped the heaven world for Earth, in search of the beloved.

We're halfway through the Winter now, but if the cold of the season has you down, then it's time to lift your spirits with a hunt for the unicorn ~ in the stars!

The constellation of the unicorn is known as Monoceros, and though it is made up of faint stars, you can still find it mounting to its highest place right now, straddling the Milky Way while it frolics in the company of some of our brightest stars. This is in keeping with its legendary status as a symbol of undivivded sovereign power and its role as guardian of the Tree of Life.

The Moon will be our escort across the dawn this week, like a goddess cascading down the stair of morning planets, and only slipping out of view on Saturday, February 2nd, which is this season’s Cross Quarter Day.

Mary Stewart Adams

With the Lunar Eclipse only just behind us, the big celestial news this week is the coming together of the planets Venus and Jupiter in the morning sky, looking east before sunrise. 

Besides the beautiful apparition of Venus and Jupiter in the morning sky this week, the thing that will undoubtedly be most talked about is the coming Total Eclipse of the Moon, which will be visible across the United States, reaching maximum totality in the midnight hour of the eastern time zone.

The Crescent Moon is making a solo sweep up the evening sky this week, not meeting a single planet until it passes by Mars next Sunday.

At this great division of time between New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, it’s comforting to know that from one year to the next, there will always be eclipses, and meteor showers, and, of course, Mercury will make its several retrogrades. But even with all this predictability, one year differs from the next pretty dramatically in the course of human history, so the trick is to find the unfolding narrative. 

The waning gibbous Moon is activating a centuries old traditional story this week when it sweeps past the Beehive Star Cluster an hour before sunrise Christmas morning, and then past the star Regulus at the heart of Leo, the Lion the morning following.

The Beehive Cluster was first catalogued in 130 AD by the Greek astronomer Claudius Ptolemy in his “Almagest”. This fuzzy group of stars is at the heart of the constellation Cancer, and Ptolemy used a word to describe them that means both “hive” and “manger”.

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