By Dr. Bob Doyle, Frostburg State Planetarium

Garrett County Skies for October 2019

Jupiter and Saturn slide westward,  Hunters’ Full Moon  and Fall star sights in evening

October opens with an Oakland dawn beginning at 6:15 a.m. , sunrise at 7:13 a.m., mid day at 1:06 p.m. (when sun highest in South), sunset at 7:02 p.m. and dusk ending at 8 p.m. Sunlight lasts 11 hrs. and 49 min.  The sun appears in Virgo for nearly all of October. At the end of October, dawn begins at 6:45 a.m., sunrise is at 7:44 p.m., mid day is 1:01 p.m., sunset is at 6:19 p.m. and dusk ends at 7:18 p.m. Sunlight then lasts 10 hrs. and 35 min. So during October, we lose an hour and 14 min. of sunlight.

On October 3 at dusk, the moon appears above and to the left of the planet Jupiter. On October 5, the evening moon appears half full with the planet Saturn close by. The half full moon is great for spotting the moon’s craters with a telescopes as the sunlight lights up the raised crater rims. The moon will be full on the evening of October 13, appearing in the star group Pisces (the Fishes). This full moon is called the Hunters’

Moon as it offers extra evening moonlight for several days afterwards. Colonial farmers used this extra moonlight to spot animals crossing their freshly harvested fields. Late on the evening of October 17, the moon appears near the bright star Aldebaran (the Bull’s eye).The moon shifts from the morning to the evening side of the sun on October 28 (New Moon). Soon after sunset on October 29, a narrow crescent moon may be seen with the bright planet Venus underneath. On October 31 at 6:40 p.m. look in the West for the crescent moon with the bright planet Jupiter below. Then very close to the horizon you may see the brilliant planet Venus farther down and the planet Mercury lowest.

As the sun shifts 1 degree eastward/day along the zodiac, the planets Jupiter and Saturn are drifting towards the West. (The sun’s apparent motion is due to Earth’s orbiting the sun.)  At the start of October, Jupiter is setting about 10:20 p.m., which drops to 8:45 p.m. at the end of the month. For the planet Saturn, setting time on October 1 is shortly after midnight, dropping to 10:20 p.m. at month’s end.

One sign that fall is finally here are the fall star groups appearing in the Eastern evening sky.

You will probably first notice the bright golden star Capella (kah-PELL-ah) in the Northeast. This star represents the eye of a Charioteer. Nearby is a triangle of three star that represents his kids (baby goats).  To the right of Capella is the 7 Sisters star cluster, which resembles a tiny dipper. Most people only see 6 stars in this group.

You will see many more ‘sisters’ through binoculars. This is an open cluster whose light has taken 400 years to reach us.

As part of my portable planetarium service, I have created a number of Space STEM activities involving satellites, the planets, interplanetary travel, your weight on other planets and moons, etc.  Each is one page in length and can be sent as an attachment via email. The only equipment needed is a basic calculator that can multiply, divide and take square roots. If any schools, teachers or students are interested, I will send a brief description of these activities and you can state which activities you would like to have.  Make your request to .  It is a free service.

     An easy to use monthly evening Sky chart can be printed by going to . This is the Orion company web site.  Look for the community section and after some searching you will find the monthly sky chart, both in color and black/white. You can print out the black/white version which shows the prominent star groups and the planets’ position in these groups.  It is free.