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Sky Report - April 2013

Astronomy Day on April 20th, Full Moon on April 25th and Saturn closest on April 27th

Weather permitting, on the evening of April 20th, the Cumberland Astronomy Club will set up their telescopes for public viewing at the Frostburg Recreational Complex, off Armstrong Avenue. Telescopes will be set up at twilight and then viewing can begin as it begins to get dark about 8:30 p.m. Objects then in view include the moon, the planet Jupiter and the planet Saturn (later in the evening). If you have a digital camera, bring it so you can capture a good view of the moon by holding your camera close to a telescope's eyepiece. This event will be publicized in local newspapers. But if it's cloudy or rainy, the telescopes will not be able to view the sky. In May, there will be another public telescope viewing at the same location, also publicized in the newspapers.

The moon will appear full on Thursday evening, April 25th. The moon then will appear below the planet Saturn.. The Full moon rises as the sun sets, and hangs in the sky all night long. Spring full moons make a quick departure from the evening sky, rising an hour later each night. The autumn full moons leave the evening sky more slowly, rising only a half hour later each night.

On the night of April 26-27, the planet Saturn will be closest to the Earth for 2013. Saturn will then appear in the star group Virgo. On that night, Saturn will be about 820 million miles from Earth. The light from Saturn's cloud tops will have taken 73 minutes to reach Earth. Saturn then will be 913 million miles from the sun. So sunlight takes about 81 minutes to reach Saturn and light up its cloud tops. If we add these two times, the light has taken 154 minutes or over 2.5 hours in its travels from the sun to Saturn and from Saturn to the Earth.

Early April Sights – The moon is in the morning sky, appearing half full in the southern dawn on April 3rd. On April 8th, a slender crescent moon appears near the planet Mercury low in the eastern dawn. On the morning of April 10th, the moon swings from the morning to the evening side of the sun. By April 11th, a slender crescent moon may be seen very low in the western dusk.

Mid April Sights – On April 13th, the evening moon will appear to the left of the 7 Sisters star cluster as it gets dark in the West. On the next evening, the moon will be to the left of the bright planet Jupiter. On April 18th, the evening moon will appear half full (like a tilted letter 'D'). For a few days before and a few days after, we have the best viewing of the moon's craters and mountain ranges, Using binoculars or a telescope, look along the moon's left edge where the sun is rising on the lunar surface.

Late April Sights – The moon is full on the evening of April 25th, appearing below the planet Saturn. On April 27th, the late evening moon will appear above the pinkish star Antares, that marks the head of the Scorpion. The Big Dipper appears high in the North, with its two leftmost stars (edge of the scoop) pointing down to the North Star. Orion is low in the West with its belt stars pointing left to Sirius, the night's brightest star. High in the East is the orange star Arcturus; you can find Arcturus by following the handle stars of the Big Dipper. Low in the Northeast is the bright white-blue star Vega, the first bright summer evening star to appear.

In April, our free public talk in the Science Discovery Center is "Predators of the African Plains and their Skies", including Lions, Leopards, Hyenas and wild cats. Also included is a look at Tropical Skies where Orion crosses overhead, the Southern Cross is stunning and the Milky Way is better viewed. Our half hour programs start at 4 p.m. Visitors may opt to go on a tour of the Science Discovery Center where some remarkable specimens are on display. The Compton Science Center is the large building close to the Performing Art Center. You can park in front of Performing Arts Center and walk around it to the right. Or you can park near Frampton Hall.

By Dr. Bob Doyle

To contact Dr. Doyle, his mailing address is Planetarium, Frostburg State University, Frostburg, MD 21532 or by email at rdoyle@frostburg.edu.









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