By Dr. Bob Doyle, Frostburg State Planetarium

Garrett County Skies for November 2017 by Bob Doyle, Emeritus, Frostburg State University


     Early Full Moon, Jupiter–Venus Encounter, Leo Meteor Shower and Half Full Evening Moon

   November 1 has an Oakland sunrise at 7:45 a.m. with sunset at 6:17 p.m. On November 5, we go to Standard Time, setting back our clocks an hour before retiring Saturday night (November 4). Then the November 5th sunrise will be at 6:50 a.m. with sunset at 5:13 p.m. Mid November sunrises will be about 7 a.m. with sunsets about 5 p.m. At the end of November, sunrise is at 7:17 a.m. with sunset at 4:55 p.m. November closes out with 9 hrs. and 38 min. of sunlight, compared to 10 hrs. and 32 minutes at the start of November.

     The evening moon will be fullest on November 3, rising about sunset and hanging in the sky all night long. (The actual time of full moon is 1:23 a.m. on November 4.) The full moon is the time when the moon’s grey lava plains are most conspicuous, covering about 40 per cent of the moon’s near side that we see. By November 10, the moon will appear half full (like a reversed ‘D’) in the southern dawn. In the early morning sky, several planets are on display. In the eastern dawn on November 13, the two brightest planets, Venus and Jupiter will be only about a moon width apart. There is no danger of collision as Venus is 153 million miles away while Jupiter is 437 million miles farther out. Look around 6:15 a.m. to see this planetary pairing. On November 14 at dawn, the crescent moon will be closest to the planet Mars. On the morning of November 16, the crescent moon will appear North of the planets Jupiter and Venus. All three objects will be very low in the East so be sure to watch from a place with a flat eastern horizon.

     The morning hours of November 17 will be the best time to spot the Leonid meteor shower. Meteor showers occur when the Earth passes through a comet’s orbit and gets pelted with comet grit. The grit is about the size of a pea. In the morning hours, the grit is hitting the Earth head on. At about 50 miles up, the meteoric grit is incinerated by air friction and bursts into flames. These meteors can be traced back to the star group Leo. Perhaps 10-15 meteors may be seen an hour. The meteors may appear in any direction. The best strategy to see as many meteors is to lie horizontally on a tarp so you will able to see meteors in any direction.

    On the evening of November 25, the evening moon will appear half full (like a ‘D’) in the southwestern sky. Along the moon’s lighted left edge, the sun is rising; the sun’s rays there will catch the crater rims and any ridges. So the evenings of November 23-27 will be best for spotting the moon’s craters with a telescope.

    The Frostburg State Planetarium will have free public planetarium programs at 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. on November 1, 15 and 29 (all Wednesdays). The Planetarium is in room 186 of the Gira Center, near the FSU Clock Tower.