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. 


Aug 21, 2014
August 2014 evening sky excerpted from Michigan State University Abrams Planetarium Sky Calendar, info available here:

Hello, this is Mary Stewart Adams with “The Storyteller’s Guide to the Night Sky”. 

This week looking southwest an hour after sunset, the planets Mars and Saturn can be seen near the brightest, or ‘alpha’ star in the constellation Libra, the scales. This star’s name is “Zubenelgenubi”, from the Arabic, and it means the “southern tray of the scales”.  

With Mars and Saturn in the region of the southern scale, we can imagine that the two planets are literally ‘hanging in the balance’ this week. 

Venus and Jupiter: An Ancient Rivalry

Aug 15, 2014

Hello, this is Mary Stewart Adams with “The Storyteller’s Guide to the Night Sky.”

The two brightest objects in our sky after Sun and Moon are the planets Venus and Jupiter, and this week they make a spectacularly close approach to one another in the morning sky.

On Monday morning, August 18, looking east about an hour before sunrise, Venus and Jupiter will make the closest planet-to-planet conjunction of the year.

Perseid Meteor Shower

Aug 8, 2014

Hello, this is Mary Stewart Adams with “The Storyteller’s Guide to the Night Sky.”

This year the month of August can rightly be described as a season of celestial superlatives:

We have a Super Moon this Sunday, August 10th, followed by the annual peak of the Perseid Meteor Shower overnight Tuesday, August 12th.

Then, our two brightest planets, Venus and Jupiter, make a rare and wonderful pairing in the morning sky on August 18th, followed by the evening pairing of the planets Mars and Saturn on August 25th.

The Delta Aquarid "Wishing Star"

Jul 25, 2014

Hello, this is Mary Stewart Adams with “The Storyteller’s Guide to the Night Sky.”

Overnight Tuesday to Wednesday, July 29 to 30th, is the peak of the annual Delta Aquarid Meteor shower. This meteor shower takes its name from the third brightest star ~or delta star~ in the constellation Aquarius, and the shower can be seen across the entire Earth.

It is commonly held that meteor showers result from Earth’s passage through the trail of stuff left in the wake of a passing comet. But with the Delta Aquarids, the ‘parent comet’ that might be causing the shower, is not known with any certainty.

However, to name a meteor shower, astronomers don’t use the name of the comet anyway, rather, they use the name of the constellation or star in front of which the meteors seem to shoot.

To find the story in this meteor shower, then, we have to consider the name of the delta Aquarius star. This star has the name Skat, which is derived from old Arabic star globes. The name Skat means ‘a wish’~so we could rightfully say that the delta aquarid meteor shower is a shower of wishing stars!

In 1756, the German-born astronomer Tobias Mayer noted a fixed star near where h was observing the radiant of the meteor shower. Twenty-five years later, William Herschel observed this same object and thought it was a comet, but afterwards realized it was a new planet, our Uranus.

Since it was found in the region of Aquarius stars, Uranus is said to have dominion over this region of the zodiac, and is related to all new technology~it being the first planet discovered with the use of a telescope.

The best time to look for the Delta Aquarid wishing stars is between midnight and dawn, especially Tuesday evening to Wednesday morning. And also note that many of these shooting stars leave persistent trains – glowing ionized gas trails that last a second or two after the meteor has passed. 

I’m Mary Stewart Adams, from Emmet County’s International Dark Sky Park at the Headlands.


Jul 18, 2014

The most storied about objects in our night sky have a beautiful gathering this week, looking toward the east before sunrise. These objects are the Moon, the star cluster known as the Pleaides, and the brilliant planet Venus.

Starting Monday, July 21st, the waning crescent Moon will sweep below the Pleiades, the seven sisters of ancient Greek lore that are the shoulder region of the constellation Taurus, the Bull.

On Tuesday, July 22nd, the Moon, now slightly thinner, will meet the campfire-orange star Aldebaran, the Bull’s Eye, also found in the constellation Taurus.

A Story of New Zeland for Mars and Spica

Jul 11, 2014

Hello, this is Mary Stewart Adams with “The Storyteller’s Guide to the Night Sky.”

On Sunday, July 13, the red planet Mars will makes its closest approach the blue-white star Spica in the constellation of Virgo, the maiden. This will be visible in the southwest, one hour after sunset.

Dark Sky Park: Bootid Meteor Shower

Jun 27, 2014

The Moon arrived at New Phase at 4 am this morning, which means that conditions are perfect for catching the Bootid Meteor Shower during its peak overnight tonight, Friday, June 27th. The constellation Bootes, which lends its name to this meteor shower, is overhead all night, so all you need is a comfortable setting in the dark where you have a full view of the sky overhead~the meteors can be seen anywhere throughout the sky.

The word “Solstice” is rooted in the early Roman reference to the “stopping” or “standing still” of the Sun. This occurs twice each year, when the Sun appears to attain a position highest above or furthest below the celestial equator. In the Northern Hemisphere, we mark these days as the first day of Summer and the first day of Winter, respectively.

Dark Sky Park: Ophiucus

Jun 13, 2014

This week we have a combination of two of our most popular superstitions: Full Moon and Friday the 13th.

The Moon arrived at exact Full phase just after midnight this morning, Friday, June 13th at 12:11 am, making this a phenomena only for people in the Eastern Time Zone of North America.

An all-new meteor shower makes its debut tonight, and astronomers say it could put on a show starting as early as 10:30 p.m. ET Friday and peaking early Saturday. Called the Camelopardalids, the shower is named after the giraffe constellation. It's expected to be visible in nearly all of the U.S., if skies are clear.

"No one has seen it before," NASA says, "but the shower could put on a show that would rival the prolific Perseid meteor shower in August."

Dark Sky Park: The Camelopardalids

May 22, 2014

This weekend there is the promise of a brand new meteor shower, known by the ungainly name "The Camelopardalids." Meteor showers take their names from the constellation in front of which the radiant is located. To form the name, astronomers use the constellation name and add the letter 'd', so that the meteor shower in front of Perseus becomes the Perseids; the meteor shower near Orion becomes the Orionids, and the anticipated shower near Camelopardalis becomes the Camelopardalids.

Donovan Shortey/Flickr

Northern Michigan could end up being one of the best spots in the U.S. to witness a dramatic and rare meteor shower this Memorial weekend. That’s if both weather and meteor predictions hold true for the early morning hours Saturday.

On Saturday, May 24th, the Earth will cross the path of Comet 209P/Linear. Because comets burn up as they speed through our system, they leave a trail in their path. When we cross these trails of stuff throughout the year, the stuff burns up in our atmosphere and appears to us as shooting stars, or meteors. The exciting thing about the possible shower on May 24th is that, if it happens, it’s the first time it will ever be seen, and it’s the first time in a long time that we’ll see a brand new meteor shower! So what do we call this new meteor shower? 

Dark Sky Park: Buddha Moon

May 7, 2014

In the Eastern tradition of Buddhism, the Full Moon in May is called Vesak, and is celebrated as the time that marks the birth, enlightenment and death of the Gautama Buddha. Informally referred to as “Buddha’s Birthday”, this Full Moon arrives on May 14th this year, at exactly 3:16 pm.  The celebration of Buddha’s Birthday is called Vesak after the name of the month in which it falls in the Indian calendar. 

Dark Sky Park: The Return Of Cygnus

May 1, 2014

The constellation Cygnus returns to the Northern Sky this month, rising up over the horizon in the northeast an hour after sunset. Cygnus is variously known as the swan, the Northern Cross, and the goose upon which the Old Mother Goose rides in the ditty: Old Mother Goose when she wanted to wander would fly through the air on a very fine gander. This is a whimsical reference to Cygnus, as it appears to fly along the path of the Milky Way.

Dark Sky Park: May Day

Apr 25, 2014

Next Thursday, May 1st, is May Day. Sometimes known as Beltane or International Workers’ Day, May Day is notable because it is a Cross Quarter Day. Those are the days in our calendar that mark the midpoint of a season. In this case spring. While the Equinox and Solstice Points mark the beginning of the seasons, the cross quarter days mark the middle.

Dark Sky Park: Lyrid Meteor Shower

Apr 18, 2014

On Tuesday next week the Lyrid Meteor Shower will happen overhead. Like all such events, the meteor shower takes its name from the constellation in front of which the stars appear to ‘shoot’, which in this case is the constellation Lyra, the lyre or stringed instrument of Orpheus.

Dark Sky Park: Total Eclipse Of The Moon

Apr 10, 2014

Tuesday morning there will be a total eclipse of the moon. It will peak at about 3 a.m. At that moment, the moon will be on the opposite side of the earth from the Sun. The moon will appear reddish-brown. (See picture)   

Dark Sky Park: Mars

Apr 3, 2014

Early next Tuesday morning there will be a Total Eclipse of the Moon. It will peak, or “achieve totality”, at about 3 am. At that moment the moon will be on the opposite side of the Earth from the Sun. As the moon moves through the deepest part of Earth’s shadow, it will appear reddish-brown to the eye. This is the first Full Moon of the Spring season, known as the Vernal Full Moon. At Equinox the Sun returns to the northern hemisphere, sometimes called the celestial hemisphere, and at this first Full Phase, the moon finally crosses to the southern hemisphere. This ‘trading of places’ betw

Dark Sky Park: Hydra & Serpents & Dragons

Mar 25, 2014

Spring festivals of renewal are related to the first full phase of the moon after Vernal Equinox. It used to be believed that the winding course of the moon was related to the constellation Hydra, the many-headed serpent.   

Dark Sky Park: The Northern Lights

Mar 19, 2014

Spring is a magical time of year with the Sun shining brighter and for longer periods of time. It's also time for the Aurora Borealis, a phenomenon best-known as the Northern Lights.   

Dark Sky Park: First Day Of Spring

Mar 13, 2014

March 20th is the first day of Spring, or the Vernal Equinox. One sign of Spring is the rise of the star Arcturus, one of the oldest known named stars. To see this star find the big dipper and follow the arc of its handle to Arcturus.   

Dark Sky Park: Mars, Spica and Aladdin's Lamp

Feb 28, 2014

During March, the path of Mars will bring it 15 million miles closer to Earth. It moves through Virgo with its star Spica; the Star of Abundance. In some cultures, Spica is known as a solitary lamp making the tale of Aladdin suitable for the season. Read Aladdin's story here

Dark Sky Park: Brothers

Feb 20, 2014

On this segment of "The Storyteller's Guide to the Night Sky," Dark Sky Park Program Director Mary Stewart Adams talks about brothers as seen in the night sky and in storytelling. The Gemini Twins are named Castor and Pollux and one star follows the other in the night sky. In literature, the Brothers Grimm's "The Two Brothers" make their way in a challenging world. Read "The Two Brothers" here.