A Michelangelo Moon

When the Moon blocks the Sun we call it an eclipse. When the Moon blocks a planet or a star, we call it on occultation, from the Latin word occult which means “to hide.” And this week, the Moon is at it again, occulting the star Antares, the red giant at the heart of the Scorpion.

These nights the Scorpion is rising in the southeast and about two hours after sunset on Thursday, the Moon will move in front of Antares, the brightest star in this region of sky. The Moon will be just a few hours past Full Phase, so at its peak illumination.

Image from the site Bright Star Occultations which shows the region of the US where the phenomenon will be visible. Occultation begins around 9:36 pm edt and lasts until 10:08 pm. Note that the Moon will be just a few hours past Full Phase, so through it’s a first magnitude star, Antares will not appear very bright.

The name Antares means anti-aries, or the rival of Mars, even though Mars was associated with this star’s parent constellation as its guardian and ruler. This ancient naming suggests that Antares has the power to resist or push back on Mars’ behavior, which is often described as aggressive and warlike.

It’s as though Mars’ energy would flow endlessly into aggressive activity, but Antares is there to resist all this, to give it form, or, like Michelangelo, to sculpt Mars as though it were a block of marble within which an angel can be seen, but which must be carved in order to be set free.

So we can imagine Antares is sculpting Mars like this, by resisting and thereby giving shape and form, directing the planet’s energies, but then the Moon will occult Antares, and it becomes our task to resist and sculpt the Mars forces.

So this week it is best to approach all Mars-like encounters with the inspiration of Michelangelo, who said:

The marble not yet carved can hold the form of every thought the greatest artist has.


This episode aired on Interlochen Public Radio Monday, May 20, 2024, and can be heard on podcasts everywhere, at anytime.