A blog about the stars, astronomy gifts, and other starry musings by the folks behind Indigo Night.
by Van Wymelenberg
November 21, 2016
Our annual pre-Solstice sale runs from 'Black Friday' through 'Cyber Monday.' That's from the 25th through the 28th. All orders placed with the following code: Venus_Capricorn will be discounted 21%.
Note that these orders are for Christmas delivery, and not our usual 3 to 4 days turn-around. You'll have them for Christmas, probably well before Christmas, so not to panic. Order early, and tell your friends.
Looking southwest in early evening over the next few month you'll see Venus and Mars closing with each other amid the faint stars of Capricorn and Aquarius. Venus is the brightest object by far in this part of the sky… and Mars is noticeably rose-hued, above and left. Venus goes retrograde early in February, peeling off at the Pisces Circlet, but a lovely chase until then.
by Van Wymelenberg
October 28, 2016
by Grant Johnson
September 26, 2016
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.
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:
Look west after sunset on Sunday to see the stunning reunion of the moon and Venus that has fired the human imagination for millennia.
by Van Wymelenberg
September 19, 2016
It's the equinox this week. I love to verify and calibrate my internal compass during the weeks of the equinox, marking due east and west with the sun at the horizon (you know about that, right?) as I walk our puppy at sunrise. And drink one beer while I sit in my sailboat at sundown… still in my backyard, too many years in restoration, too few years on the bay.
AND it's our annual equinox sale, more to the point. Take 21% of your orders this Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. These orders will ship within a couple of weeks, sometimes sooner, sometimes a little later, based on volume… so don't be in a hurry for them, know that they'll arrive soon, but not our normal 3 business day turn-around.
Here is the code to use at checkout:
Orders will ship first in, first out, so order as early as possible if you have an event coming up in the next few weeks.
by Grant Johnson
September 17, 2016
Welcome, Indigo Night Sky watchers. This week, the Autumnal Equinox occurs on Thursday, the 22 at 10:21 a.m., EDT.
Our blog post is focused on the equinox, but will also mention a few celestial sights visible this week – if you are willing to stay up late enough.
In common usage, the word equinox refers to the two diurnal cycles in the course of a year (one in spring, one in fall) when the duration of daylight is approximately equal to the duration of night – 'equi' meaning 'equal,' and 'nox' meaning 'night.' More precisely, the moment of the autumnal equinox is when the sun appears to cross the celestial equator, heading southward. Due to the sun's direction of motion at this time, the event is also called the southward equinox, in contrast to the northward equinox, which occurs at the start of spring. The celestial equator can be understood as the Earth's equator projected outward to become the equator of the celestial sphere, the massive, hollow ball with the Earth at its center that serves as a useful model for mapping and predicting the apparent motion of 'fixed' stars as seen from our home planet. On the days of equinox, the sun rises directly in the east and sets directly in the west. Prior to the autumnal equinox, the sun has been rising and setting more to the north, resulting in summer for the northern hemisphere, and winter for the southern hemisphere. From the autumnal equinox forward, the sun will rise and set more and more to the south, bringing winter north of the equator, and summer to the south.
Due to its occurrence at the time of harvest in the northern hemisphere, the autumnal equinox has often been associated with festivals celebrating the fruits of agricultural labor, but my favorite association with this special day is that the French First Republic that was proclaimed (and the monarchy abolished) on September 21, 1792. Thus, the following day, September 22, 1792, which was the day of the autumn equinox that year (exactly 224 years prior to this year's autumnal equinox), became the first day of the 'Republican Era' in France.
This alignment of civic life to astronomy resonates for me in at least three meaningful ways. The first is that it represents the French Republic's commitment to science and rational thought as appropriate bases for sound governance. Understanding of astronomy had been growing at a rapid pace over the previous hundred years, largely due to the contributions of Isaac Newton at the start of the 18th century. By tying the start of the Republic to the equinox, the French made a bold statement of their faith in reason. The second powerful meaning in this equinoctial start to the Republic is that is demonstrates France's decisive turning away from the Sun Kings by letting the start of the nations's new republican day be determined by the movements of the real sun, instead. And finally, the choice of the equinox for the first day of the French Republic highlights the importance of égalité – 'equality' – as one of the three fundamental concepts driving the revolution (liberté, égalité, fraternité was the rallying cry: 'liberty, equality, fraternity'). To begin the new national government on the day of equal light and darkness was a profoundly meaningful choice, and although the Republican Calendar did not endure, I always enjoy recalling it as the autumnal equinox marks the onset of fall.
A rare and beautiful automata work, this Republican Clock has both Republican and Gregorian dials and others that indicate the age and phase of the moon, time of sunrise and sunset, equation of time, world time and signs of the zodiac. The clock synced with the Republican Calendar, in use between 1793 and 1805, designed in part to remove all religious and royalist influences.
As for celestial objects visible with the naked eye this week, the best bets are between about 10:30 p.m. and dawn each night. The waning moon, rising a little later each night through the week, reaches last quarter on Thursday, the day of the equinox. Early on the 23 – at roughly 2 a.m. for mid-northern latitudes – the quarter moon rises in Orion, surrounded by the bright stars and star clusters of Taurus, Gemini, and Auriga. If I was going to lose some sleep for the stars this week, I would pick that night to do it. Thanks for stopping by, and keep looking up. GEJ
The night sky print which arrives for no particular reason, other than to celebrate the gift of love that is your beloved, is cherished like no other.
Each of us has a story that begins in a single moment. Poets and philosophers from Shakespeare to Tennyson, from Moore to Jung, share a common fascination with the night sky at the moment of birth, and the idea that the moon and stars stand in timeless, silent witness to this moment.
The night sky print, showing the moon and stars just as they appeared on the night you met, the moment of your first kiss, or your wedding night, is an exceptional anniversary gift. Appropriate for any year, especially so for the 1st anniversary, the year of the ‘paper’ gift.
The night sky print, showing the moon and stars just as they appeared on the child’s first starry night, with your words – funny, wise, sweet, hopeful, perhaps a favorite quote from a story or song – makes a beautiful keepsake.