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Spring 2014
Sky Report: Middle Schools
by Dr. Bob Doyle, Portable Planetarium Teacher

Resources for Primary School Teachers

Spring (Apr. - Jun.) 2014 Middle School Sky Basics

On a clear night, you can see a dark sky, hundreds of near by stars, possibly our moon and perhaps a few planets (seen as bright steadily shining points). The night sky appears dark due to emptiness of space and the expansion of the universe. The night stars are distant suns whose light takes many years to travel to the Earth. These stars are likely still there as stars shine for million or billions of years.

The moon is our Earth's companion as we travel each year about the sun. The moon's visible shapes (phases) are due to the moon being lit by the sun as it orbits the Earth. The moon can be seen growing in lighted width in the evening sky for about a dozen days. The moon then appears full for an evening or two and then begins to shrink, spending just as much time shrinking in the morning sky as it did growing in the evening sky. Even the nearer planets are so far away compared to their distances that they appear as steady points in the sky. In order of brightness as seen from Earth, Venus is by far the brightest planet, with Jupiter in 2nd place.

Spring 2014 Sky Sights (April, May & June) for Middle School Students

The brightest point of light on evening evenings is the very bright planet Jupiter in the West. In the spring months, the Big Dipper appears upside down high in the North. It's 2 leftmost stars point downward to the North Star, a rather modest star about half way up in North. Follow the curve of the Big Dipper's handle to the bright golden star Acturus, spring's brightest evening star. Further along this arc is the bright star Spica of Virgo. To the right of Spica is the planet Mars, shining steadily.

A lot of progress has been made in the construction of our new Technology Building (the CCIT) at Frostburg State. This building features a digital planetarium with a tilted dome. Our Sunday public programs will resume once the CCIT gets its occupancy permit signed, likely in the early spring of 2014.

For additional information, contact:

Dr. Robert Doyle, Planetarium Director
Frostburg State University
Department of Physics and Engineering
101 Braddock Road
Frostburg, MD 21532-1099
(301) 687-4270





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