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Monthly Sky Report - July 2006

To find the planets, bright stars and groups, you need to know the compass directions where you watch the sky. Lacking a compass, you can use the sun at the start, middle and end of the day. As you face the rising sun - it will be rising nearly in the East. In mid day (around 1 p.m. DST), look at your shadow which then points North. The sun will set nearly in the West.

During September, there is an average of 12.5 hours of sunlight each day. During September, the sunsets drop back from 7:46 p.m. to 6:59 p.m. Sunrises change from 6:45 a.m. early in the month to 7:10 a.m. at month's end. Stars begin to fade away an hour before sunrise and the star groups come into view an hour after sunset. In the early evening, there are two very bright stars visible, golden Arcturus low in the West and white-blue Vega nearly overhead. Arcturus lies along the curve of the Big Dipper's handle. The star Vega is the peak star of the Summer Triangle, a trio of bright stars. Low in the Southwest is Sagittarius, whose brighter stars form an old fashioned tea kettle. On moonless evenings, the Milky Way can be seen as a gentle glow running from low in the Northeast, then below Vega and down to Sagittarius in the Southwest. The brightest point of light in the evening sky is the planet Jupiter, appearing low in the West in the early evening. In September, the planets Mars, Venus and Mercury are too close to the sun to be easily seen. The planet Saturn can be seen low in the Southeast at dawn, shining in eastern Leo.

At the start of September, the moon appears about half full low in the western twilight. The evening moon grows to full on September 7th, then near the Aquarius-Pisces border. This is called the Fruit Moon, a full moon that lingers for the next few nights in the early evening sky. With luck, you may see the brilliant planet Venus low in the eastern dawn, then rising only an hour before sunrise.

After mid September, the moon rises after midnight and is best viewed at dawn. The early evening will then be great for viewing the Milky Way, the ghostly glow along the central plane of our galaxy. As it gets dark, the Milky Way can be seen in the eastern sky, running from the northeastern horizon, then into the East and then downward to the southern horizon.

On September 26th, the crescent moon appears near the brilliant planet Jupiter low in the western dusk. The next evening, the crescent moon will appear to the right of the bright star Antares of the Scorpion. On September 29th, the evening moon appears half full off the spout of the Teapot (of Sagittarius). This is the best time of the month to view the moon's craters with binoculars or a telescope.

The Cumberland Astronomy Club will have their meeting on Friday, September 15th at 7:30 p.m. at the LaVale Public Library. All interested sky gazers are welcome.

Our regular Planetarium programs on Sundays will resume on September 10th. Our September feature is "Asteroids & Comets: Treats or Treasures?" with showings in at 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. each Sunday. The Planetarium is in Tawes 302, near the middle of the Frostburg State campus.










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