The Moon climbs into good view by midnight tonight. It’s just a couple of days before last quarter, so sunlight illuminates a bit more than half of the lunar hemisphere that faces our way.
The rising Moon has played a big role in the skylore, mythology, and even the artwork of many cultures. The Luba and Tabwa cultures of modern-day Congo, for example, have associated it with divination. The rising Moon represents a heightened state of awareness, and shamans often paint their faces with a white pigment that represents moonlight.
Special bowls created for those ceremonies are among the artworks on display at a new exhibit at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art in Washington, D.C. Called “African Cosmos: Stellar Arts,” it’ll continue until December.
The exhibit shows how the Moon, Sun, stars, and other sky phenomena have inspired African artists from ancient times to the present. It includes more than a hundred sculptures, masks, paintings, and other objects.
An Egyptian mummy board, for example, shows the sky goddess Nut. And sculptures by the Dogon people of Mali depict origin myths that connect Earth and the sky — a disk for each realm linked by giant trees.
And if you can’t make it to the museum, you can always get your own inspiration from the rising Moon and the rest of the night sky — a great canvas with a new picture every single night. And we’ll talk about one of those pictures — a star and two planets — tomorrow.
Script by Damond Benningfield, Copyright 2012
For more skywatching tips, astronomy news, and much more, read StarDate magazine.