Garrett County Skies

By Dr. Bob Doyle, Frostburg State Planetarium


            Early full moon, Venus & Jupiter separate & drop into Dusk,  Late full moon (‘Blue’ Moon)

   Early July – Oakland’s sunrises are about 5:54 a.m. while sunset times are about 8:49 p.m. (All the sunrise and sunset times in this column are for flat eastern and western horizons.  Valley dwellers may see the sun appearing up to ˝ hour later  and the sun disappearing  up to ˝ hour earlier.) On the evening of July 1st, the  full moon shines above the ‘tea kettle’ (Sagittarius).  The moon then rises in the southeast about a half hour before sunset and can be seen till after sunrise.  Full moons can be seen before sunset and after sunrise when the moon lies North of the sun’s path or ecliptic.  The brilliant planet Venus and bright Jupiter in the western dusk are slowly pulling apart with Venus on the left and Jupiter on the right.  Each night both planets are a little bit lower in the twilight.  In the late afternoon of July 6, we are farthest from the sun at a distance 0f 94.5 million miles.  The sun seems more prominent in the day sky now because our part of the world it then tipped towards the sun. At the same time In the southern hemisphere, the sun appears low in the day sky. Over many populated regions in the southern hemisphere, the added distance of the sun (1.6 % greater than average) scarcely affects the daytime temperatures. After July 6, the moon rises after midnight. On July 8, look for the moon in the southern dawn sky when it appears half full (like a reversed ‘D’) .

Mid July   Oakland’s sunrises are about 6:05 a.m. while sunset times about 8:43 p.m. On July 11, Venus will be at its brightest in the evening sky.  This event is due to Venus’s closeness to both the sun and Earth. Venus will then appear 16 times as bright as the nearest night star (Sirius, seen in winter). In the late afternoon on July 15, the moon will swing from the morning to the evening side of the sun (New Moon). On July 18, a slender crescent  moon may be seen below brilliant Venus and bright Jupiter in the 9:15 p.m. dusk. The twinkling bright star near Venus and Jupiter is Regulus, the heart star of Leo, the Lion.

Late July - Oakland’s sunrises are about 6:15 a.m. and sunsets about 8:35 p.m.  On July 23, the evening moon appears half full (like a ‘D’); this is also called the first quarter phase as the moon has traveled one quarter of the way around its orbit since New Moon. For the rest of July, the moon will appear wider and brighter each evening. The moon will be full again on July 31. This second full moon of July is termed a ‘blue moon’, for being the second full moon in a calendar month. ‘Blue moons’ don’t appear blue!  The most common moon ‘color’ is silvery or golden when the moon is high in the sky. When the moon is close to the horizon, it may appear orange from dust in the air scattering out the shorter waves of blue and green light. At the end of July, both the planets Venus and Jupiter are too low in the sky as it gets dark to be seen.  The only evening planet visible then is the planet Saturn, shining in the southwest at it gets dark. Saturn is in Libra and to the right of the star group Scorpius, resembling a starry ‘J’.


      There is one free July public Planetarium Program. It will be held  in Frostburg State’s Gira  building,  Room 186 on July 22 at 8 p.m. The program will last about 45 minutes, concluding with a full dome presentation.  Weather permitting, telescopes will be taken outside for observing the moon, Saturn and other sky sights after the program. The Gira building entrance closest to the Planetarium is by the FSU Clock Tower near the Lane University Center. Food, drinks, snacks and gum are not allowed in the Planetarium. There are rest rooms and water fountains just down the hall. Because the need for darkness for our presentations, late comers will not be admitted.  So please come early.