Garrett County Skies

By Dr. Bob Doyle, Frostburg State Planetarium

Four Planets seen in evening skies,  Evening Moon seen in early & late May,  Star show at FSU Planetarium

   Early May – Oakland sunrises are about 6:15 a.m. while sunset times are about 8:12 p.m. The moon is full on the evening of May  3, shining in front of the stars of Libra.  The moon then rises in the East before sunset and sets about 45 minutes before sunrise. On May 5, the moon appears above the  planet Saturn.  After May 7, the moon rises after midnight and is best seen at dawn. The innermost planet Mercury is at its best in early May, setting about 90 minutes after sunset. Look for Mercury low in the West Northwest about 9 p.m. Above and to the right of Mercury is the brilliant planet Venus. Venus sets just before midnight. The planet Jupiter is high in the South at nightfall.  Binoculars held steady will show Jupiter’s large moons as tiny stars astride the planet.

Mid May  – Oakland sunrises are about 6:05 a.m. while sunset times are about 8:25 p.m. On May 11, the moon will appear half full in the southern dawn sky, appearing as a backward ‘D’.  On May 18, the moon will swing from the morning to the evening side of the sun.  On May 19, a slender crescent moon will appear low in the western dusk near the planet Mercury (look about 9 p.m.) Two days later, the moon will be near the brilliant planet Venus. Low in the North is the star group Cassiopeia, resembling a stretched out ‘W’.  The planet Saturn can be seen low in the Southeast in the early evening,  just above the claws of the Scorpion (three bright stars nearly in a vertical row).  In the Northeast is the bright white-blue star Vega. Late in the summer, Vega will pass nearly overhead in the early evening , the only bright star to do so throughout the year.  

Late May  – Oakland sunrises about 5:50 a.m. while sunsets times are around 8:35 p.m. The planet Mercury has plunged out of view and will nearly pass in front of the sun on May 30. On the evening of May 22, the planet Saturn is closest and brightest for the year. Saturn then rises in the southeast about sunset and stays in view all through the night. On May 24, the moon will appear below the bright planet Jupiter. On May 25, the moon will appear half full (like a tilted ‘D’)  in the southwestern evening sky. A few days before and after will be the best time to see the moon’s craters and mountain ranges with a telescope.  For along the moon’s straight or left edge, the sun is rising, lighting up the crater rims and mountain ranges. 

      There are Planetarium Programs in the CCIT building Room 186 on May 3, 10 & 17 at 4 p.m. and 7 p.m.  The entrance closest to the Planetarium is by  the FSU Clock Tower near the Lane University Center. The presentation, lasting about 45 minutes is “Our Sun and Other Stars”, going from our familiar star to the lives of stars across the galaxy. These presentations are free to the public. But food, drinks, snacks and gum are not allowed in the MLC.  Late comers will not be admitted. There will be tours of the Science Discovery Center at 5 p.m. at the above dates.