Garrett County Skies

By Dr. Bob Doyle, Frostburg State Planetarium

 Full Moon in midmonth,  Saturn and Venus encounter at end of October

SUN & MOON:  At the start of October Oakland sunrises are about 7:15 a.m. with sunrises about 7 p.m.  In  October, the sun appears in the star group Virgo until October 30, when it moves into Libra.  At the end of October, local sunrises are about 7:45 a.m. with sunsets about 6:18 p.m. During October, the amount of daily sunlight drops by 1 hour and  20  minutes. The moon shifts from the morning to the evening side of the sun on October 1st (New Moon). On October 3, the moon may be seen below and to the left of the brilliant planet Venus (look around 7: 30 p.m.).  The crescent moon appears near the planet Saturn on the evenings of October 5 and 6. On October 8, the half full moon appears above the yellowish planet Mars. The moon is fullest on the evening of October 15, shining in front of the stars of Pisces. The distant planet Uranus then appears several degrees above the moon. (Uranus is about 2 billion miles  from the Sun and Earth so it is barely visible to the eye.)  For the next three nights, there will be some extra evening moonlight. October’s full moon is known as the Hunters’ Moon. Two days after full, the moon will be at its closest to the Earth for the month, making  it a little brighter. By October 22, the moon will have shifted into the morning sky, appearing half full at dawn. On October 28, a slender crescent moon will appear near the bright planet Jupiter in the 6:30 a.m. southeastern dawn. On October 30, the moon again shifts from the morning to the evening side of the sun.

PLANETS:  Mars can be seen as a ‘yellowish’ star low in the Southwest dusk. The dimmer planet Saturn appears to the right of Mars.  Each night, Saturn drifts  a little farther from Mars and closer to the horizon. In the last few days of October, Saturn and brilliant Venus can be seen together low in the western dusk (try about 6:50 p.m. from a place with a flat western horizon). The planet Jupiter’s angle to the sun increases in October.  Jupiter will be tough to view in early October; in late October, it will be higher and  easier to spot.  The innermost planet Mercury may be seen in early October, low in the 6:45 a.m. eastern dawn.

EVENING STARS & GROUPS:   The brightest star pattern in October is the Summer Triangle, appearing high in the western evening sky. It’s brightest star is Vega, appearing high in the West.  Above and the left of Vega is Deneb, the highest of the Triangle stars.  Then below Vega and Deneb is Altair at the tip of the Triangle.  The long sides of the Triangle point roughly South. On moonless evenings (late October), the Milky Way can be seen as a delicate glow running near the Summer Triangle. Near the eastern horizon is the bright golden star Capella.  Further to the right is the Seven Sisters star cluster, resembling a tangle of lightning bugs. 

DAWN STARS & GROUPS: At 5 a.m., the brightest jewels of the winter evening skies are on display, including Orion, the brightest night star Sirius, and Taurus.  The Big Dipper seems to be standing on its handle.  In the East, Leo is prominent with his sickle (head and chest) climbing into the sky.

   The Frostburg State Planetarium has free public programs each Wednesday at 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. There will also be a Saturday program on October 8 at 8 p.m. The Planetarium is in room 186 of the Gira Center. The October feature is “The Lives of the Stars – Part One”.