By Dr. Bob Doyle, Frostburg State Planetarium

Garrett County Skies March 2021 by Bob Doyle, Emeritus, Frostburg State University

Crescent moon underneath planets at dawn in early April, moon near Mars on April 16 & 17, full moon on April 26

April opens with an Oakland dawn starting at 6:03 a.m., sunrise at 7:02 a.m., mid day at 1:22 p.m., sunset at 7:41 p.m. and dusk ending at 8:40 p.m. April 1 has 12 hrs. and 39 min. of sunlight. The sun shines in front of the stars of Pisces through April 18, shifting into Aries for the rest of April. In early April, the moon is in the morning sky, appearing half full (like a reversed ‘D’) in the southern dawn on April 4. On April 6, the crescent moon appears below the planet Saturn in the 6 a.m. southeastern dawn. On the next morning, the crescent moon will be underneath the bright planet Jupiter.

On April 11, the moon shifts from the morning to the evening side of the sun (New Moon). This is the start of the lunar cycle when the moon spends two weeks in the evening sky, followed by two weeks in the morning sky. You can also see the moon in the daytime sky, especially a week before and after full moon. In mid April, you will see a crescent moon in the western dusk. On April 16, the moon will appear below the planet Mars in the western evening. On April 17, the moon will appear above Mars. Mars appears as a steady point of light with a yellowish tint. On April 20, the evening moon appears half full (like a ‘D’) in the southwestern evening sky. Along the moon’s left (straight) edge, the sun there is rising, lighting up the raised rims of the craters. The evenings around April 20 are best for spotting the moon’s craters through a telescope. The moon grows to full on April 26 among the stars of Virgo.

The best three sights in the evening sky are:  the Big Dipper (7 stars) high in the North, Leo, the Lion in the South and the brilliant star Sirius low in the Southwest. The Big Dipper is high in the North, dumping its soup into the Little Dipper. The two leftmost stars of the Dipper’s bowl point down to the North Star, a modest star about hallway up in the North. The Little Dipper is rather faint except for the North Star and it’s bowl stars. Follow the curve of the Big Dipper’s handle towards the eastern horizon to the bright golden star Arcturus.  Leo is high in the southern evening sky. Leo’s brighter stars form a sickle or backwards question mark. At the bottom of the sickle is the bright star Regulus, marking the lion’s heart. The rest of the lion is a starry triangle, representing the lion’s hindquarters. Sirius is spectacular low in the southwest, sparkling in all the colors of the rainbow. This star’s brilliance is due to its closeness (8.6 light years away) and it’s power (24 X our sun’s). Sirius (sounds like serious) is the brightest night star; you can be sure of Sirius as Orion’s belt stars point to this star.