By Dr. Bob Doyle, Frostburg State Planetarium

Garrett County Skies for April 2018

Moon – Planet Encounters,  Much moonlight in early/late April,  Spring evening stars

April opens with an Oakland 7:03 a.m. sunrise and a 7:41 p.m. sunset. Each day, sunrises occur about a minute earlier while sunsets occur about a minute later than the previous day. Mid April has sunrises about 6:40 a.m. with sunsets about 7:55 p.m. April ends with a 6:21 a.m. sunrise and a 8:09 p.m. sunset.  During April, daily sunlight grows from 12.65 hours (4/1) to 13.8 hours (4/30). The above times are within a few minutes for any place in Garrett County.

April starts with the evening moon just past full. On the morning of April 2 the planet Saturn is 1.3 degrees above and to the left of the orange planet Mars in the Southeast dawn. On April 3, the moon appears near the bright planet Jupiter in the late evening sky. On April 7 and 8, the moon appears above the planets Saturn and Mars in the Southeast dawn. Also on April 8, the moon appears half full (like a reversed ‘D’) in the southern dawn.  On April 15, the moon shifts from the morning to the evening side of the sun. On April 17, a slender crescent moon appears below and to the left of the brilliant planet Venus in the 8:30 p.m. dusk. On April 18, the crescent moon appears just underneath the orange star Aldebaran in the western dusk. On April 22, the evening moon appears half full (like a ‘D’), offering the best views of the moon’s craters through a small telescope. The evenings before and after are also good for spotting lunar surface details with a telescope. The large craters are due to asteroid impacts billions of years ago. The Earth was clobbered even more, but our craters have been largely erased by plate movement, erosion or lie under sediments on the ocean floor.

The moon is full on the evening of April 29. On the evening of April 30, the moon appears near the bright planet Jupiter.

Starting In mid April, the two brightest planets Venus and Jupiter can be seen at dusk in opposite directions.  Venus is low in the West while Jupiter is low in the Southeast. Venus is on the far side of its orbit and shows only a gleaming disk through a telescope. Jupiter can be seen as a striped ball with its four big moons seen as points of light nearby. From night to night, the moons change positions relative to Jupiter.

The winter evening stars in the West appear lower in the West each night. You can still see Orion with his three star belt,  the orange star Aldebaran of Taurus (to right of Orion) and the night’s brightest star Sirius (to left of Orion). The East is where the spring evening stars appear.  Look for the Big Dipper high in the North. It has 4 stars in the bowl (on top) and 3 stars in its handle (underneath).  If you extend the Dipper’s handle away from the bowl, you will come to the bright orange star Arcturus, the brightest spring evening star. If you go further along this arc, you will come to Spica, the brightest star of Virgo.  Another bright spring evening star is Regulus of Leo, high in the East.  The stars Arcturus, Regulus and Spica form the spring triangle that points to the West.

You can print out a very nice monthly evening star map by going to  .

The Frostburg State University planetarium will have its last spring programs on April 11 and 25 (both Wednesdays) at 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. The Planetarium is in room 186 of the Gira Center.  The Gira Center entrance adjacent to the Planetarium is near the FSU Clock Tower.