Garrett County Skies

By Dr. Bob Doyle, Frostburg State Planetarium


     Sun and Moon this month – As October begins, the Sun appears in front of the stars of Virgo, moving a degree a day eastward relative to the stars.. On October 31st the Sun enters the star group Libra  where it stays through late November. Both of the above star groups are nearly lost  in the Sun’s glare in October. The star group Scorpius is to the east of Libra so it sets after the Sun, appearing low in the southwestern dusk. The star group Leo (to the west of  Virgo)  rises before the Sun and is visible low in the eastern dawn. In early October, sunrises in Oakland are about 7:15 a.m. while sunsets are about 7 p.m.(11:75 hours of daylight). Around the end of October, Oakland’s sunrises are about 7:45 a.m. and sunsets occur about 6:15 p.m. (10.5 hours of daylight). So during October, the stars are last seen around 6:30  a.m.(early dawn) and then reappear about 7:40 p.m.(late dusk).

       October starts with the moon appearing half full in the southwestern dusk. Along the straight or left edge of the moon, the sun there is rising, lighting up the crater rims and mountain ranges. The moon is full on the evening of October 7th. This is the Hunters' Moon, a near rerun of September's Harvest Moon, where there is extra evening moonlight the following four nights. As dawn nears on October 8, the moon will pass through the Earth’s shadow. By 6 a.m., the moon will be darkest, but then dawn begins to lighten the eastern sky. Binoculars will be helpful in following the moon when it’s near the western horizon. There will be a much better lunar eclipse in late September, 2015. On the morning of October 18th, the crescent moon will appear near the bright planet Jupiter in the eastern dawn. On October 23rd, the moon swings from the morning to the evening side of the sun. At dusk on October 25, a slender crescent moon will appear near the planet Saturn. On October 28rd, the moon will appear near the planet Mars in the southwestern dusk. On October 31, the evening moon appears half full (like a tilted letter “D”) in the southwestern evening sky.

      October Planets  – The five nearest planets are easily seen by eye, four of them shining steadily in contrast to the twinkling stars. In October 2014, Mercury passes from the eastern dawn to the western dusk, keeping at a low angle to the sun throughout  the month. Venus is also close to the sun. Mars and Saturn are low in the southwestern dusk. Jupiter is very prominent in the eastern dawn.

     October Evening Stars – The  Big Dipper appears close to the northern horizon on October evenings and is out of view to most observers. The most prominent star group is the Summer Triangle, a trio of bright stars in the western evening sky. White-blue Vega is the prize Triangle jewel on the lower right tip In the northeastern sky gleams the bright golden star Capella.  As the evening hours pass, Vega descends and Capella climbs.

       The planetarium program for October is “Baked Planets, an Oasis and the Frozen World” showing each Sunday at 4 p;m. and 7 p.m. Each program lasts about 45 minutes.  Please arrive early to assure a good seat. Our planetarium programs are in the Multimedia Learning Center in Room 186 of the new Technology building (CCIT). To find the MLC,  take exit 33 of  U.S. Interstate 68. Drive North towards Frostburg. In about a mile, you will see on your left the main entrance of Frostburg State University. Make a left turn into the entrance and then an immediate right turn to enter into a large parking area. On the left is the Performing Arts Center (PAC).  Park near the PAC building and go around it to the left, You will see the FSU clock tower. To the right is the entrance to the CCIT building. As you go through the entrance, you will see the MLC to the right. Ushers will assist you in finding a seat. Our programs are free to the general public.