Garrett County Skies

By Dr. Bob Doyle, Frostburg State Planetarium

     Sun and Moon this month – As November begins, the Sun appears in front of the stars of Libra, appearing to drift a degree a day eastward relative to the stars. On November 24, the sun moves into Scorpius where it stays until November 30. On the last day of November, the sun moves into Ophiuchus. (These dates correspond to the actual star group boundaries, not the dates of the Astrological signs.)  All of the above four star groups will be lost in the sun’s glare in November.  At dusk, the star group Capricornus may be seen low in the Southwest. The best zodiac group seen on November evenings is Taurus, the Bull in the East. On November dawns, the star group Virgo may be seen low in the southeast. Prominent zodiac groups seen in the November predawn skies are Leo and Gemini. In the early morning hours of November 2nd, we set our clocks back an hour. We will be on Standard Time till the second weekend of March, 2015. In early November, sunrises in Oakland are about 6:45 a.m. Sunsets are then 5:15 p.m.(10.5 hours of daylight).  Around the end of November, sunrises are around 7:15 a.m. while sunsets are about 4:55  p.m. (9.67  hours of daylight).. So during November, the brighter stars are last seen around 6 a.m.(early dawn) and then reappear about 6 p.m. (late dusk).

       At the start of November, the moon is just past first quarter, appearing a little more than half full in the evening sky. On November 6th, the moon is full, rising near the time of sunset and hanging in the sky all through the night. On November 14th, the moon is half full in the late evening, appearing near the bright planet Jupiter. The moon will be conspicuous in the early morning sky of November 17, diminishing the Leonid meteor shower then. (The meteors will seem to streak out of the star group Leo.) On November 18, the crescent moon will appear south of Spica, Virgo’s brightest star low in the southeastern dawn. On November 22nd, the moon will swing from the morning to the evening side of the sun. On November 26th, the crescent moon will appear near the planet Mars. On November 29th, the evening moon will appear half full (like a letter “D”) in the southwestern evening sky. A few days before and afterwards are the best time to spot the moon’s surface features with binoculars or a telescope. Along the left side of the moon, the sun is then rising, lighting up the crater rims and mountain peaks.

November  Planets  – The five nearest planets are easily seen by eye during a year, four of them shining steadily in contrast to the twinkling stars. (Mercury, only seen close to the horizon, may flicker.)  In early November, the planet Mercury can be seen low in the Southeast about 40 minutes before sunrise. Mars is setting in the west about 8:15 p.m. The very bright planet Jupiter is rising in the East about midnight in mid November. The brilliant planet Venus is very close to the sun, appearing very low in the bright western dusk in late November. The planet Saturn is lost in the sun’s glare in November.

     November Evening Stars –The star group Cassiopeia, resembling a stretched out letter ‘M’ is high in the North. The brightest evening star group is Orion with his three star belt low in the Southeast in the late evening hours.  In the Northeast is the bright golden star Capella.  In the Northwest is Vega, seen in the Northwest. As the evening hours pass, Vega drops lower and Capella gets higher.

    November Planetarium Presentations are held in the MLC (Multimedia Learning Center) in room 186 of our new Technology Building at 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. each Sunday in November. The Technology Building or CCIT was built on the same ground as Tawes Hall (demolished)  The closest parking area is near the Frampton building just off University Drive. You will be entering the Technology building on the second floor. So either come down a flight of steps or take an elevator down to the first floor. Room 186 is near the FSU Clock Tower. You will see the cylindrical wall of the MLC from both inside or outside the Technology building. Admission is free but no drinks, food, candy etc. are allowed. (A cooler is provided for those with such items.)  The November program is “Life Among the Giants?”, covering the most unusual moons of the giant planets that likely have subsurface oceans. The program is live and lasts about 40 minutes. Following a brief intermission following the 4 p.m. MLC program, visitors are invited to visit the Science Discovery Center in the Compton building, across the street from the Technology building. On display are over 100 preserved specimens from 5 different continents. Cameras are welcome as the animals are always posing.  To receive a flyer covering both the MLC programs and the Science Discovery Center, call (301) 687-7799 and state your name and mailing address. This flyer includes a FSU map showing the Compton building and the nearby parking areas. These presentations/tours are free to the public. But please arrive early as no late comers will be admitted.