Week of September 26 – October 2

Greetings, watchers of the Indigo Night. The best naked-eye viewing begins in the early morning hours at the start of this week, switching to nightfall by the coming weekend as the moon passes through its new phase in between. On Monday , Tuesday, and Wednesday, the slender waning crescent moon will be visible before dawn first in Cancer, and then in Leo. Mercury lights close each of these mornings, always in Leo. But the view I look forward to arrives late in the week, as the newly-waxing crescent reappears on Sunday evening, closely paired with 'Evening Star' Venus at the western horizon just after sunset.

 This conjunction of a razor thin crescent moon and radiant Venus has always been a favorite of mine, and is emphasized in the extensive mythology related to Venus and similar goddesses and gods across a variety of cultures.

 

Venus is the brightest object in the sky after the sun and moon, and although more similar in size and luminance to the host of stars and other planets, she is distinct enough from them to stand out as the 'Queen of Heaven' in many cosmologies. Her pathway through the sky, as seen from Earth, causes her to disappear from view and reappear at regular intervals, alternating between her aspects as 'Morning Star,' and 'Evening Star.' These movements give rise to mythological narratives that illuminate seasonal cycles of death and rebirth.

 While Venus appears in the west at nightfall as the 'Evening Star,' she only meets the waxing crescent moon at the horizon, as will happen this coming Sunday. In a number of cultural traditions, the moon in this connection becomes Venus's bull-consort, sometimes a son-lover. They dally for a few days, during which time the moon's illumination grows and its mythical symbolism eventually changes, but the period when the heavenly goddess of fertility and rebirth meets the virile presence of the bull-horned moon is regarded as auspicious for its generative and hopeful connotations.

Beyond this fleeting conjunction with the moon, the Great Cycle of Venus is a fascinating pattern of astronomical movement involving the second planet, Sun, and Earth that describes a pentagonal figure recurring with remarkable precision. This graphic model presents an earth-centered view – where the earth is assumed to be the center of the solar system – and shows/explains the retrograde motion of Venus.  One way to think of this is as a gigantic spirograph tracing out its contours inside the orbit of the earth. This link provides a clear illustration of the three bodies' movements around one another.

 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qWwOrUjFOFY

If you want to consider this in depth, and look at the actual Ptolemaic System (earth-centered or geo-centric model) that was in use for much of antiquity, check out this site:

http://astro.unl.edu/naap/ssm/animations/ptolemaic.html

Look west after sunset on Sunday to see the stunning reunion of the moon and Venus that has fired the human imagination for millennia.