Garrett County Skies

By Dr. Bob Doyle, Frostburg State Planetarium


Evening Moon in Early September,  Jupiter fades into twilight and  Fall begins
  On September 1, Oakland’s sunrise is at 6:46 a.m. with sunset at 7:50 p.m. with a little more 13 hours of sunlight.  In mid September, sunrise is about 7 a.m. with sunset about 7:25 p.m. In September, sunrises are about a minute later each day while sunsets are about 1.5 minutes earlier each day. On September 26, sunrise is at 7:09 a.m. with sunset at 7:09 p.m. During September, the amount of daily sunlight shrinks by 74 minutes (from beginning to the end of the month). Months for the first day of spring and first day of fall have the greatest changes in daily sunlight.
     Early September has a waxing (growing) evening moon with the moon being fullest on the night of September 5-6. Full moon rise about sunset and stay visible all through the night. On each following evening, the moon rises about 35 minutes later.  By the evening of September 12, the moon won’t be rising until the next morning. On September 13, the moon will appear half full (like a reversed ‘D’) in the southern dawn. At dawn on September 17, a crescent moon will appear near the brilliant planet Venus. On the next morning, the moon will appear near the planet Mars (rather dull compared to Venus). On September 20, the moon will swing from the morning to the evening side of the sun. With very good conditions, you may see the planet Jupiter below the moon at dusk on September 22. The moon will appear above the planet Saturn in the southwestern dusk on September 26. On September 27, the evening moon will appear half full (like a ‘D’), offering good views of the lunar craters and ridges through a telescope. For along the moon’s lighted left edge, the sun there is rising, lighted the crater rims and elevations while their surroundings are in darkness.
      This is the last month to see the giant planet Jupiter at dusk. Each evening Jupiter is setting several minutes earlier as its angle to the sun shrinks. Jupiter was first prominent in the evening skies last April, then being opposite the sun and staying in view all through the night. As we travel around the sun, the sun appears to travel eastward along the zodiac so it eventually catches up to the more distant planets.  Jupiter is in Virgo, a spring evening star group. So both Jupiter and Virgo seem to be shifting to the West and closer to the sun. On fall first day, the sun is in Pisces, the zodiac group opposite to Virgo. After being lost in the sun’s glare in October, Jupiter will creep into the southeastern dawn in November, appearing close to the brilliant planet Venus on November 13.
        The first day of fall this year is on September 22. This day, the sun’s direct rays cross the equator, moving South. On this day, the sun rises exactly in the East and sets exactly in the West. (Local compasses point 10 degrees to the West of true North. This deviation is due to compasses pointing at the Magnetic Pole, some 240 miles to the West of the North Pole (about which the Earth rotates).) Because of the refraction (or bending upward of the Earth’s atmosphere), daylight in Garrett County on September 22 is 11 minutes longer than night. By September 26, day and night will be balanced at 12 hours each.

         In September, the regular free public programs at the Frostburg State Planetarium resume on alternate Wednesdays. The September feature is “The Ringed Planet Saturn” with shows on September 6 and September 20 at both 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. Each program is preceded by a tour of the current night sky. There will also be a Saturday program on September 2 at 7 p.m. with the featured full dome movie, “Dynamic Earth”. The FSU Planetarium is in room 186 of the Gira Center.  The entrance to the Gira Center near the Planetarium is close to the FSU Clock Tower. The most convenient parking is close to the Performing Arts Center (a.k.a. the Pealer Center). Parking is free at the times of these programs.