Garrett County Skies

By Dr. Bob Doyle, Frostburg State Planetarium

Venus seen most of the evening, Jupiter peaks in South, Saturn in late evening sky

   Early April – Oakland sunrises are about 7 a.m. while sunset times are about 7:45 p.m. The moon is full on April 4, shining in front of the stars of Virgo, rising in the East at sunset and staying visible till dawn. This full moon, the first of the spring season, triggers Easter to fall on April 5.  The planet Venus is a beautiful sight in the Northwest, shining brighter than any of the other planets and night stars. This month, Venus is setting more than 3 hours after sunset.  In April, the star group Orion drifts closer to the western horizon each week. Orion’s three star belt points rightward to the bright star Aldebaran of Taurus  and leftward to Sirius, the brightest night star.  The Big Dipper is high in the North, with its scoop upside down and dumping soup on the North Star below. Extend the Big Dipper’s handle outward to the golden star Arcturus. On April 7 & 8, the moon appears near the planet Saturn in the late evening sky.

Mid April – Oakland sunrises are about 6:40 a.m. while sunset times are about 7:55 p.m. By April 8, the moon will have shifted into the morning sky, rising after midnight. On April 12, the  moon will appear half full (like a backwards “D”) in the Southern dawn sky. The moon’s large craters can be seen with binoculars held steadily. Venus is glorious in the southwestern dusk, setting after 11:15 p.m. Jupiter peaks in the South during twilight. Find the Big Dipper’s handle high in the North. Extend  the Dipper’s handle outward and you will ‘arc to Arcturus’, a bright golden star.  Further along this arc, you will ‘speed onto Spica’, a bright white-blue star in Virgo. As flowers begin to bloom, the winter evening stars drop lower in the western dusk. Rigel, Orion’s foot star will be the first to drop below the western horizon. Then the Pleiades or Seven Sisters star cluster will vanish. Leo, the Lion is high in the South with its sickle on the right and a starry triangle  to the left.

Late April   Oakland sunrises about 6:25 a.m. while sunsets times are around 8:05 p.m. On April 18, the moon will swing from the morning to the evening side of the sun. On April 19, a very slender crescent moon will appear near the planet Mercury very low in the 8:40 p.m. twilight. On April 21, the crescent moon appears near the brilliant planet Venus.  On April 25, the evening moon appears half full (like a ‘D’) in the southwestern evening sky. The moon’s dull patches are huge lava plains that reflect less sunlight than the whiter areas (where the craters predominate). On the next night, the moon will appear close to the bright planet Jupiter. The planet Mercury is at its best for the year, shining low in the West Northwest below and to the right of the planet Venus The best time to spot Mercury will be about 8:50 p.m. from a place with a flat western horizon. The planet Saturn is now rising about 10 a.m. low in the southeast.  

There are April Planetarium Programs in the CCIT building Room 186 on April 12, 19 and 26 at 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. (No programs on Easter, April 5). The presentation, lasting about 45 minutes is “Music of the Spheres”, reviewing  the great telescopic discoveries in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. These presentations are free to the public. But food, drinks, snacks and gum are not allowed in the MLC.  Late comers will not be admitted. There will be tours of the Science Discovery Center at 5 p.m. at the above dates. April 25 is National Astronomy Day with outdoor telescopic viewing near the Planetarium of the moon, Venus and Jupiter. There will also be a Planetarium program.  Outdoor observing starts at 7:30 p.m.