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. 

Dark Sky Park: Year Of The Meteor Shower

Jan 3, 2014


IPR: Now that we're nearly one week into the New Year can you share what the celestial highlights are for the coming year?

MARY: Some of the most popular celestial events in any year are the meteor showers and this is because we can predict when they'll occur but we can't always predict what we'll see. There are actually three dominant meteor showers that most people are familiar with: The Quadrantids, which occur here in January, the Perseids, which occur in August, and the Geminids which happen in mid-December every year. 

Dark Sky Park: Comet Lovejoy

Dec 13, 2013

MARY: Each year there are many comets that visit our inner solar system (the Astronomical Almanac lists 42 anticipated in 2013) but most of them are very faint.

We've had some big news makers with Comet PANSTARRS in March and then, most recently, Comet ISON which fizzled out after it came close to the Sun on Thanksgiving Day. 

Dark Sky Park: The Feast Of St. Nicholas

Dec 5, 2013

IPR: Friday, December 6 is the Feast of St. Nicholas who is largely regarded as the individual behind the legend of Ole St. Nick and Santa Claus. Who was he really?

MARY: The legends of St. Nicholas are based on an actual individual, the Bishop of Myra (in modern-day Turkey), from the 3rd century. He was known for secret gift-giving and for multiplying abundance.

Dark Sky Park: December's New Moon

Nov 29, 2013

IPR: ISON has been all the rage of late, but what else can we look for in the night sky and its stories this week?

 MARY: The December New Moon arrives Tuesday, December 2nd. This is considered the beginning of the phase, and marks the onset of a period of the Moon grows in brightness, then so grows those things which we associate with 'moon'. 

Dark Sky Park: The Rod Of Aesculapius

Nov 21, 2013

IPR: According to the astronomy community Comet ISON is brightening to naked eye visibility but now it is coming closer to the Sun making it more difficult to see. What has been your experience with ISON?

Dark Sky Park: ISON and the Leonids

Nov 21, 2013


IPR: The news is heating up about Comet ISON. Why is ISON important?

Dark Sky Park: Cross-Quarter Days

Oct 24, 2013

IPR: We are one month into the season of Autumn but already we've experienced a blast of winter this week. How do the seasonal quarters relate to what's happening? 

MARY: During the last week of October each year we approach the point in the seasonal cycle that is referred to as "cross-quarter." This is the mid-point in the season which marks the halfway point between Autumn Equinox and Winter Solstice. 

Historic Beach House To Be Demolished

Oct 11, 2013

A Beach House with some historic significance west of Mackinaw City will be torn down. Emmet County officials say it doesn’t serve the growing number of people using the county’s Dark Sky Park.

Officials estimate the Beach House needs more than a million dollars of work to bring it up to code. They left open the possibility for a private group or person to step forward with funds to save the building. But there were no takers.

County administrator Lyn Johnson says the plan is to build a new structure to handle several hundred people instead of several dozen.

Dark Sky Park: Antares

Oct 9, 2013

IPR: You're getting ready for a big event at Headlands with author Paul Bogard who wrote the book "The End of Night: Searching for Natural Darkness in a World of Artificial Light" next week on the 18th. What makes this a good time of year for getting together to share stories in, and about, the dark?  

Dark Sky Park: The Mischievous Month of October

Oct 7, 2013

The Headlands International Dark Sky Park was pleased to participate in the inaugural MidWest Space Fest held over the weekend at the Traverse City ECCO Center. Guest speakers included Jerry Dobek, from Northwestern Michigan College and Mary Stewart Adams, Program Director for the Headlands, with keynote speaker, Dr Alex Filipenkko from UCLA, Berkeley discussing "Dark Energy."

Dark Sky Park: ISON

Sep 23, 2013

IPR: The astronomy news of Friday morning is that Comet ISON is appearing through telescopes just above the red planet Mars, looking east at dawn. What can you tell us about ISON?

MARY: I like to start with what the acronym ISON means. It stands for "International Scientific Optical Network" which is a group of observatories in ten countries that have organized to detect, monitor and track objects in space. It is managed, in part, by the Russian Academy of Sciences.

Dark Sky Park: Autumn Equinox

Sep 18, 2013

IPR: On our wall calendar it says that Sunday is the first day of Autumn. How is that so? What's happening to make that the date where we change from the Summer season to the season of Autumn?

MARY: Sunday, September 22nd is the day that the Sun appears to cross the celestial equator into the southern celestial hemisphere. This happens at exactly 4:44 p.m. our time and this is the moment when we have left the summer world of warmth and light behind and begun our sojourn through darker and colder times.

Dark Sky Park: Friday the 13th and Ophiucus

Sep 12, 2013

IPR: Here we are on Friday the 13th, which is still a pretty notorious date when it comes to the superstitious. Is this related in any way to the night sky?

Dark Sky Park: Last New Moon of Summer

Sep 6, 2013

IPR: Thursday's New Moon marked the last New Moon of the summer season. Does this indicate any particular significance in the evening sky?

MARY: Right now we're seeing the brilliant planet Venus in the west, 45 minutes after sunset, and drawing near to Venus from above and left, the golden planet Saturn. This doesn't happen every year in this season, but this year, it means that the waxing crescent Moon will appear to sweep up and "cup'" these two, first Venus, on Sunday, Sept 8, then Saturn, the following evening. 

Dark Sky Park: Fomalhaut

Aug 27, 2013

IPR: We're almost at the end of the month and the end of the current lunar cycle which means there should be several evenings of great night sky viewing this week. What should we be looking for in the sky and in the stories that accompany what we're seeing?

Dark Sky Park: Sol, Luna, Aurora

Aug 20, 2013

IPR: August can bring some of our best views of the Milky Way but this year we have a lot of moonlight to contend with. What do you recommend this week for stargazers?

MARY: There's a lot of poetry and mythology in the moonlight and in former cultures it was believed that new souls came to birth along the moonbeams.

In Ancient Rome there is a lovely set of siblings: Sol, Luna and Aurora. We know these three as Sun, Moon and the Northern Lights.

Dark Sky Park: Blue Moon

Aug 13, 2013

Mary Stewart Adams: On Tuesday, August 20, 2013 at 9:45 pm EDT the Moon will come to Full Phase. Typically there are three Full Moons in each season (1 Full Moon per month) but because there are four Full Moons in the Summer of 2013 this third one is the official Blue Moon. 

Dark Sky Park: The Perseid Meteor Shower

Aug 7, 2013

IPR: It's all over the news about the Perseid Meteor Shower this week. What can viewers expect?

Dark Sky Park: Cross Quarter Day

Aug 1, 2013

On this visit to Mackinaw City's Dark Sky Park we discuss Cross Quarter Days and telling time by the stars. 

Dark Sky Park: The Constellation Bootes

Jun 26, 2013

IPR: One of the most prominent constellations in the evening sky is Bootes with the bright star Arcturus. What stories belong to this part of the sky?

MARY: Bootes is coming to the zenith or the highest region of the sky overhead this month. To find Bootes it helps to locate the Big Dipper asterism first. When you've found the Big Dipper you follow the arc of it's handle to Arcturus. This is easily done in early evening as the Big Dipper and Arcturus are some of the first visible objects in the sky at this time.

Dark Sky Park: Summer Solstice

Jun 12, 2013

IPR: We're approaching summer solstice and the longest day of the year. What is the story in current celestial phenomena?

Dark Sky Park: Last New Moon Of Spring

Jun 6, 2013

IPR: The New Moon on Saturday will be the last New Moon of the Spring season. Does it have a name, or does it bear any particular significance in the realm of mythology?

Mary: Ancient and indigenous people, as well as poets and dreamers, typically named the Full Moon and in religious observance it is the moon when it is first visible after new phase that indicates the onset of a particular practice, so there are certainly associations, but no name.

IPR: Today we bring the month May to its close. It's evident from the blossoming flowers and the "busy bees" that this is a peak season of fertility. What stories are there in the starry world about this season?

Dark Sky Park: Scorpius

May 23, 2013

IPR: There will be a Full Moon on Saturday in the early hours, just past midnight, and while full moonlight can diminish stargazing, it's great for storytelling. What stories are connected with the May Full Moon?