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Skywatch

Mon May 2, 2016 SPRING CROSS QUARTER DAY, VIRGO AS SKY MARKER

Divide the year up into four parts or quarters. Each quarter is marked by the beginning of a new season. The quarter days of Summer and Winter are known as solstices, when the noontime sun reaches its highest or lowest altitude in the sky; while during the equinoxes of Spring and Autumn, nights and days are of fairly equal length. Now divide those seasons in half and you get cross-quarter days, the midpoints of each season. May 1st marks the cross-quarter day for Spring, called Beltane in the old Celtic calendar. In traditional maypole dances, everyone moved clockwise around the maypole, mimicking the sun’s motion across the sky through the day. At the beginning of spring, the stars of the constellation Virgo, the springtime maiden, appeared in the east after sunset. Now Virgo is well up in the southeastern sky, and at summer’s beginning it will be high in the south. But as autumn approaches, Virgo will sink into the west, and we’ll lose sight of it as we move toward winter.