GARRETT COUNTY SKIES
By Dr. Bob Doyle, Frostburg State Planetarium
Sun and Moon this month Ė As December begins, the Sun appears in front of the stars of Ophiuchus, moving a degree a day eastward relative to the stars. In the early morning hours of December 18th, the sun enters Sagittarius, where it remains until January 19th. Both of these star groups are nearly lost in the Sunís glare in December. The star group Capricornus is to the East of Sagittarius so it sets after the Sun, appearing low in the southwestern dusk. The star group Libra, to the West of Scorpius and Ophiuchus rises before the Sun and is visible low in the southeastern dawn. In early December, sunrises in Oakland are about 7:20 a.m. while sunsets are about 4:55 p.m.(9.6 hours of daylight). Winter begins just past noon on December 21st , when the sun rises farthest South (of East), has its lowest mid day height and sets farthest South (of West). This the day of the least sunlight for the year, lasting only 9.4 hours. Around the end of December, Oaklandís sunrises are about 7:38 a.m. and sunsets occur about 5:05 p.m. (9.45 hours of daylight). So during December, the stars are last seen around 6:30 a.m.(early dawn) and then reappear about 6 p.m.(late dusk)
December opens with the moon as a slender crescent moon close to the planet Saturn low in the southeastern dawn. On the evening of December 2nd, the moon swings from the morning to the evening side of the sun. On December 5th, the crescent moon appears above and to the right of the brilliant planet Venus in the 5:35 p.m. dusk. On December 9th, the evening moon appears half illuminated in the southwestern sky. For a few days before and a few days after, the moon reveals its craters and mountain ranges on the lighted left edge of the moon where the sun there is rising. Binoculars held steadily or a small telescope will reveal the larger craters and the mountain ranges. On December 15th, the evening moon appears near the bright star Aldebaran, marking the eye of Taurus, the Bull. On the evening of December 16th, the evening moon will be fullest, appearing above the star group Orion. On the evening of December 18th, the moon will appear below and to the right of the bright planet Jupiter. On December 25th, the morning will appear half full in the southern dawn sky. You can observe the moonís craters even in the early daylight but beware of pointing the telescope at the sun! On December 29th, the crescent moon appears near the planet Saturn in the southeastern dawn.