GARRETT COUNTY SKIES
By Dr. Bob Doyle, Frostburg State Planetarium
Sun and Moon this month – As May begins, the Sun appears in front of the stars of Aries, appearing to move a degree per day eastward relative to the stars. On May 13th, the sun enters Taurus where it remains till the early morning hours of June 21. Both of these star groups are nearly lost in the Sun’s glare in May. The star group Gemini is to the East of Taurus so it sets after the Sun, appearing low in the western dusk. The star group Pisces, to the west of Aries rises before the Sun and is visible low in the eastern dawn. In early May, sunrises in Oakland are about 6:15 a.m. while sunsets are about 8:15 p.m.(14 hours of daylight). Around the end of May, Oakland’s sunrises are about 5:55 a.m.and sunsets occur about 8:35 p.m. (14.7 hours of daylight). The above times are for places with a flat eastern and western horizons. During May, the stars are last seen around 5:10 a.m.(early dawn) and then reappear about 9:30 p.m.(late dusk).
On the morning of May 2nd, the moon is half full in the southern dawn.On May 10th, the moon swings from the morning to the evening side of the sun. On May 10th, a very slender crescent moon may be seen close to the brilliant planet Venus a half hour after sunset (8:50 p.m.) . The moon appears near the bright planet Jupiter on the evening of May 12th. The evening moon will grow to half full on May 17th. On May 22nd , the moon appears near the Saturn. The moon will be full on May 24th, then appearing in the claws of the Scorpion. As May ends, the moon will be rising about midnight.
Planets this month – The five nearest planets are easily seen by eye, four of them shining steadily in contrast to the twinkling stars. Of the five, Mercury is usually the most difficult to see due to its tight orbit about the sun. From May 23 on, there is fine grouping of three planets very low in the western dusk. The best time to spot this trio of planets is just after 9 p.m. Find a place with a flat western horizon. You will first spot the brilliant planet Venus. Next to be seen is the very bright planet Jupiter. The dimmest of the three planets is the planet Mercury, appearing above Venus. Binoculars will help in seeing the planets. The three planets will be only a few degrees apart. (Hold out one of your arms and extend your index finger so you see its nail; the index finger will be about 2 degrees across.) The planet Saturn is seen low in the southeast in the early evening sky. Saturn and a bright star to the right (Spica) form a triangle with the bright golden star Acturus, high in the East. The planet Mars makes a small angle to the sun in the morning sky and will not be visible in May.
Evening Stars this month - On May evenings, the Big Dipper is high and upside down in the North. Extend the handle outward and in one dipper's length, you will come to the golden star Arcturus, nearly overhead.
In May.. Follow the arc into the South, there you will spot Spica and Saturn. Another bright star sparkles in the Northeastern evening sky; this is Vega, the first bright star of summer to become prominent. A line from Vega through the North Star and extended takes us to golden Capella, a winter evening star dropping lower each week.
The author of this column is giving brief talks at 4 p.m. in the Science Discovery Center on the the Sundays of May 5, 12 and 19 in Compton Science Center, just off the first floor lobby. Our May talk is "Grazers of the African Plains and their Skies", considering the many varieties of African antelopes.In the Science Discovery Center we have a fine collection of these preserved antelopes on display.To receive a schedule (or bookmark), call (301) 687-7799 and state your name and mailing address. You can also access the Planetarium section of the Frostburg State website at www.frostburg.edu/planetarium .