Garrett County Skies

By Dr. Bob Doyle, Frostburg State Planetarium


Sun and Moon in June:  During June, the sun moves from Taurus to Gemini on June 21.  On June 20, the sunís vertical rays reach farthest North (latitude 23.5 degrees North, about the latitude of Havana, Cuba). This event marks the beginning of summer. In Oakland on that day , we have the highest sun of the year at 73 degrees altitude with daylight lasting 14 hours and 57 minutes. In early June, Oakland sunrises and sunsets are about 5:53 a.m. and 8:40 p.m. In late June, sunrises and sunsets are about 5:54 a.m. and 8:49 p.m.  June begins with the moon as a crescent in the predawn sky. The moon swings from the morning to the evening side of the sun on June 4 (New Moon). On the evening of June 11, the nearly half full moon is below and to the left of the bright planet Jupiter. On the evening of June 17, the moon appears above and to the right of the orange planet Mars. On the next evening, the moon will appear above the planet Saturn. On the night of June 19-20, the moon is full,  shining  in front of the star group Ophiuchus  (Serpent Bearer). On June 27, the moon appears half full in the Southern dawn sky. June ends with the moon appearing as a crescent in the southeastern predawn sky. Summer full moons are the opposite of the summer suns, shining low in the South in the middle of the night.

Planets in June:   Mercury is tough to see, appearing  low in the eastern dawn. Venus nearly passes in back of the sun on June 6 and is lost in the sunís glare; our neighbor world will not be easily seen until dusk in September. Orange Mars is close and bright, appearing in Libra in the southeastern evening sky. The bright planet Jupiter can be seen in the southwest at dusk, appearing in southern Leo. Jupiter is the best June planet for telescopes, displaying its 4 large moons as tiny points of light near the planet.  Saturn is closest to the Earth on June 3 at a distance of 840 million miles. Light from Saturnís cloud tops takes 75 minutes to reach Earth. This also means that when we view Saturn, we see it as it was 75 minutes earlier. Only late on June evenings will Saturn be high enough above the horizon for clear telescopic views of its rings.

Best Evening Star Sights in June: Low in the western dusk, the star group Gemini stands upright with the heads of the Gemini brothers marked by Pollux (right) and Castor (left).  Two other bright stars form a starry arch of winter evening stars about to drop out of view. From left to right, the arch stars are Procyon, Pollux, Castor and Capella. The Big Dipper is high in the North with its handle pointing upward. Extend the handle in an arc and youíll come to golden Arcturus, now the brightest  evening star. The eastern evening sky features the big Summer Triangle, peaked by the bright white blue star Vega. On dark, moonless nights, the Milky Way can be seen running through the Triangle. Low in the South in the late evening is the Scorpion, whose brighter stars form a letter ĎJí.  Near the top of the ĎJí is the bright pinkish star Antares (means rival of Mars). Late in the evening, the star group Sagittarius appears, whose brighter stars form an old fashioned tea kettle.  

Best Predawn Star Sights in June: With the first glimmer of dawn in the East, the Big Dipper is low in the North Northwest, as if to fill up with dew. The Summer Triangle is high in the West. Low in the East is golden Capella. On moonless mornings, the Milky Way stretches across the sky from the Northeast, through the top of the sky and down to the southwestern horizon.

There will be a free public planetarium program on June 11 at 8 p.m. at Frostburg State University. The Planetarium is in room 186 of the Gira Center. Weather permitting, telescopes will be set up after the program to view the moon and the planet Jupiter.