This week marks International Dark Sky Week, because of the New Moon on Wednesday, April 22nd, which is also the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, and the peak of the Lyrid Meteor Shower.
International Dark Sky Week is celebrated every year during the April New Moon, which means it’s not alway coincident with Earth Day and the Lyrid Meteor Shower. It’s a week that’s observed around the world as a time to raise awareness about light pollution and our use of artificial light at night, as well as a time for finding your way around the night sky.
The planet Venus is our brilliant evening star, while the planets Jupiter, Saturn and Mars can be seen in the morning sky. The morning sky is also where you might catch most of the meteors, because the rule of thumb with meteor showers is that they are the most active when the constellation that lends its name to the shower is highest overhead ~ that means you want to be looking for the constellation Lyra, which is rising up in the northeast around 10 pm this week, and mounting highest in the sky toward dawn.
The Lyrid Meteor Shower is one of the oldest-known meteor showers, and it’s active from April 16 to the 30th. It’s also connected to a very old love story, involving the great ancient musician Orpheus and his beloved Eurydice. Orpheus loses Eurydice to the underworld shortly after they’re married because she gets bitten by a venomous snake. He uses his musical talents to charm his way into the underworld and convince Hades to let her return with him, and Hades agrees, on condition that Orpheus not look back.
Poor Orpheus was not able to succeed in his task, so he lost his beloved a second time, but I like to think that when his meteor shower peaks overhead every year in April, then that’s the time to listen for the song of his beloved Eurydice rising up from the earth, in birdsong, in wind, in wave, and in all the things that seem to rise up from the Earth with love in this season.
You can hear this week’s episode of The Storyteller’s Night Sky on Interlochen Public Radio, and here are some of my favorites about International Dark Sky Week from the IPR radio archives:
We are the stars that shine,