Garrett County Skies

By Dr. Bob Doyle, Frostburg State Planetarium

      Watery Star Groups in Evening Sky,  Planets Mingle at  Dawn, and Full Moon before Halloween

Early October Oakland sunrises are about 7:15 a.m. while sunsets are about 7 p.m. Saturn remains the only evening planet, dropping lower in the Southwest each week. In the southern evening sky are an array of dim zodiac star groups. All three star groups (Pisces, Aquarius and Capricornus) are rather faint; the excuse is they are partially underwater.  In the southeast sky, Pisces consists of two fishes connected to a fishing line. In the line of stars leading to the western fish is the distant planet Uranus, nearly two billion miles from the sun. In the southern evening sky is Aquarius, the Water Carrier. There is a compact Y shaped star pattern in the center of Aquarius. A few degrees below the ‘Y’ is the faint planet Neptune, about 3 billion miles from the sun. The brightest of these watery groups is Capricornus, the mythical sea goat. Capricornus’ two brightest stars on the upper right side are double stars, easily viewed with binoculars. Not in the zodiac, but worth mentioning is the group, Southern Fish, low in the South. The bright star Fomalhaut marks the fish’s moth.

Mid October -  Bright  planets start to line up in the eastern predawn sky. On October 9, a narrow crescent moon will appear underneath the brilliant planet Venus.  On October 10th, the moon will appear below bright Jupiter and dull Mars.  On October 11th, a very slender crescent moon will appear near the planet Mercury.  In the early evening of October 12th, the moon will swing from the morning to the evening side of  the sun. On October 16th, the crescent moon will appear near the planet Saturn, very low in the western dusk. On October 18th, the bright planet Jupiter and Mars will appear close in the eastern predawn sky. On October 20th, the evening moon will appear half full (like a tilted ‘D’) in the southwestern sky.


Late October On October 25, the planets Venus and Jupiter will line up in the eastern dawn.  On October 26th, Venus will reach its greatest angle from the sun.   On October 27th, the moon will be full in the evening sky.  This is the Hunter’s Moon, a near rerun of September’s Harvest Moon. By Halloween (October 31st), the moon will be rising late after 10 p.m.  not helpful for trick or treaters.  On that last evening in October, we set our clocks back an hour as we go to Standard Time. 


Our October program at the Frostburg State Planetarium is “Finding Planets Orbiting Other Stars” with free public programs at 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. each Sunday. The Planetarium is in room 186 of the Gira (CCIT) Building close by the FSU Clock Tower  No food, drinks or gum is allowed. To see a helpful map of the campus and and its parking lots, go to