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Monthly Sky Report - May 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 to the left (North) of East. In mid day (around 1 p.m. DST), look at your shadow which then points North. The sun will set a bit to the right (North) of West.

During May, there is an average of 14.4 hours of sunlight each day. During May, the sunsets advance from about 8:09 p.m. to 8:37 p.m. Sunrises change from 6:15 a.m. early in the month to 5:49 a.m. at month's end. (All times are Daylight Times.) Stars begin to fade away an hour before sunrise and the star groups come into view an hour after sunset. As in April, the most prominent star group in May is the Big Dipper high in the North. The Dipper's two leftmost stars point down to the North Star, a modest star half way up in the North. The Big Dipper's handle can be extended outward to the bright golden star Arcturus, the brightest spring evening star. Below and to the left of Arcturus is the very bright white-blue star Vega, the first bright summer evening star to appear. Low in the Northwest is the golden star Capella, the last winter evening star seen. The planets Mars, Saturn and Jupiter are on evening view in May. All three bright planets appear as bright, steady points of light, in contrast to the twinkling bright stars. Both Mars and Saturn are in the western evening sky. Mars moves across Gemini in May, appearing below Gemini's two bright stars in mid May. Shining in Cancer, the Crab is the bright planet Saturn. The planet Jupiter appears low in the eastern evening sky in the star group Libra. The brilliant planet Venus can be seen low in the eastern dawn throughout May.

In the first few days of May, there's a crescent moon low in the western dusk. On May 2nd, the moon passes near the planet Mars. On May 3rd and 4th, the moon appears near the bright planet Saturn. On May 4th, the moon is half full and at its best to view the moon's craters with binoculars or telescopes. On that same evening, the planet Jupiter is closest to the Earth, rising as the sun sets and visible all through the night. On May 6th, the moon appears close to the heart star Regulus of Leo. May 10th has the moon close to Spica, Virgo's brightest star.

The evening moon moves from the star group Virgo, through Virgo and into Ophiuchus from May 10th through the 14th. The moon is near the very bright planet Jupiter on the evenings of May 11th and 12th. The moon is full on the evening of May 12th, shining for about 9.5 hours in the night sky. On May 13th, the moon appears in the claws of the Scorpion. After May 15th, the moon rises after midnight, then most conveniently viewed in the early daylight hours.

The moon has moved into the early morning sky, allowing better viewing of the fainter evening sights. On May 24th, the crescent moon appears near the brilliant planet Venus in the eastern dawn. On May 30th the crescent moon appears near the planet Mars. On May 31st the crescent moon appears near the bright planet Saturn.

Astronomy Activities
The Cumberland Astronomy Club will have their meeting on Saturday, May 6th at the Frostburg State Planetarium, starting at 7:30 p.m. After a planetarium presentation, telescopes will be used outside for viewing of the planets and moon. All interested sky gazers are welcome.

The featured May program at the Frostburg State Planetarium is "A Quick and Easy Intro to the Cosmos" with free Sunday showings at 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. on May 7th, 14th and 21st. The Planetarium is just off the front lobby of Tawes Hall in mid campus with convenient free parking. There will be free May sky charts available to visitors at the Sunday Planetarium programs. Call the Frostburg State Planetarium at (301) 687-4270 and press 4 to receive a free planetarium brochure which includes a map of how to reach the planetarium.










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