The Storyteller's Night Sky

Every Monday morning at 6:31 and 8:31, 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 cow jumps over the Moon this week when the waxing crescent sweeps up through the stars of Taurus the bull, looking west an hour after sunset on Thursday.

This is “The Storyteller’s Night Sky”  and this week’s waning Moon means it's International Dark Sky Week 2021. 

The Full Moon happened Sunday, March 28th, and though Full Moon happens nearly every month, sometimes twice a month, this particular Moon is exceptional in the cycle of the year because it marks the time when the Moon trades places with the Sun in the celestial hemispheres.

In the early Christian centuries, and well into the Middle Ages, there was a date on the calendar that marked the actual beginning of all that is, and that date was March 25th. So no surprise, then, that in settling the dates for honoring the feasts festivals of the year, March 25 would be reserved for something significant. 

This week culminates on Saturday when the Sun crosses the Celestial Equator, also known as the Vernal Equinox in the Northern Hemisphere, and spring breaks out in a blanket of flower buds and birdsong.

Neptune passes superior conjunction with the Sun on March 11 among the stars of Aquarius, and though we can’t see it, we can certainly dream into it! 

In ancient astrological tradition, the region of Taurus stars is related to the organs of speech in the human being, including the eustachian tubes and the larynx. And while the constellation of the starry bull is connected to the organs of speech, it was the planet Mars that actually imparted the capacity for speech to the human being, and this week, we can see them together as Mars moves among Taurus stars, high in the West about two hours after sunset.

The Queen of the Moon can be seen wandering through her snowflake palace this week when she dons her gibbous gown and passes through the asterism of the Winter Hexagon. There are six first-magnitude stars here setting a terrific stage for her to cast her snowflakes from on high, including among them our brightest star, Sirius.

Nearly 50 years ago this month, the Soviet Venera Mission approached the planet Venus and later landed there, sending back the first color images of the planet’s surface, unveiling the goddess of love and beauty for a new generation of poets and dreamers.

This week on Thursday, February 11, we arrive at the time of the New Moon, or the  “Neomēniá,” which is a term used to describe both the festival of the Moon or simply the beginning of the lunar month.

When We're Halfway: this week on the Storyteller's Night Sky

Feb 1, 2021

This week we come to Winter’s Cross Quarter Day, which means we’re halfway through the season, so does that mean the warmth is already returning? 

The Wolf Moon occurs this week on Thursday, January 28th, so I’d like to talk about the spiritual mystery of what I’ll call a “wolf initiation” as it can be imagined through the Russian fairy tale of the Firebird.

Mars meets Uranus during the first quarter Moon on Wednesday, January 20th, and though we usually describe the planets in relation to the zodiac, I want to talk about the stars lying beneath them right now, which are those of Cetus, the whale, a seemingly unremarkable patch of sky that is related by ancient astrology to impulses arising from the collective unconscious, impulses that are either of great insight, or of chaos.

The first New Moon of the New Year happens this week, overnight Tuesday to Wednesday, but not before shedding its old light into the lap of love as a way to make ready for what lies ahead.

Every New Year begins with the Earth making its closest approach to the Sun, and with a meteor shower of a now-defunct constellation. For me, this is the perfect set up for wandering into the new with the poets among the stars. And here’s why.    

Hindsight is 2020: this week on the Storyteller's Night Sky

Dec 28, 2020

By Friday this week we’ll all be able to look back with hindsight on 2020, and in the world of the Storyteller’s Night Sky, that means looking at what the planets and stars have been up to.

It’s the still time of the year. Sun and Moon have had their last meeting and it was exact, causing a total solar eclipse. Jupiter and Saturn come to their great conjunction today, December 21st, and it’s exact, their closest approach to one another since the 1600s. Venus watches over the gate of dawn; Mars guards us through the night.

The moment of Winter Solstice arrives Monday morning, December 21st, when the Sun seems to rest in quiet stillness, waiting for the Earth to complete its seasonal in-breath. Through every age of humanity, this has been observed as one of the most sacred moments of the year, and when we add to it the fact that this year, the two largest planets in our system will come to their once-every-20-years Great Conjunction on the same day, then it starts to seem like we’re being given a divine clue.

The biggest news this month is the Great Conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn that comes at Winter Solstice, but we shouldn’t overlook next week’s Total Solar Eclipse, even though it won’t be visible to us in North America. The mystery of this eclipse at this time is still important in the unfolding narrative of 2020, which is now in its final chapter.

There was an eclipse in the early hours of this Monday morning, when the Moon came to Full Phase among the stars of Taurus and slipped into the outer edge of Earth’s shadow, which begs the question astrologically: which is easier to deal with, a full shadow, like at total eclipse; or the barest hint of shadow, like this one?

In many traditions, this last full week of November draws to a close the season of honoring loved ones who have died, and now ceremonial tradition turns toward the celebration of light that comes at the darkest time of year with Winter Solstice, next month.

There are three active meteor showers remaining for 2020, bringing the magic of more celestial light to the sky while greater darkness settles in across the northern hemisphere.

In the medieval legend of Parzival, the hero comes to be known as the Red Knight, so this week, we’ll consider him Mars. He also has several significant encounters with his cousin, Sigune, whom we’ll consider Venus. This week, the two of them are dramatically opposed in the starry heaven, with Venus/Sigune as morning star in the East, opposing Parzival/Mars in the West, where he will be setting as she rises.

The Moon is carving an interesting path through the sky this week, calling to mind a significant event in history, both in the Christian world and in the world of astronomy. Image detail from Abram's Planetarium Sky Calendar. Edit | Remove

So it’s election week in the United States, and what, you may ask, are the stars doing? For me, it’s not so much what they portend, but what they call to mind from the past.

With a Blue Moon at Halloween, followed by a Friday the 13th next month and a Total Solar Eclipse after that, it’s time to take a look at cultural superstitions in relation to the stars.