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Frostburg State Planetarium
Oct.-Dec. 2014 Sky Sights for
Middle School & Intermediates
by Dr. Bob Doyle
Next Edition: Jan. 2015
Big Topics Treated
• Horizon, Finding directions, Sunrise/Sunset
• How Day Sky Works, Twilight AM & PM
Moon basics, It’s Origin,Why has varying shapes?
Bright points seen at night? Fall Planets
Best Stars & Groups Seen on Fall Evenings
3 Built in Mini Quizzes with answers supplied
Fall ‘14 Moon Schedule & Star tables
Horizon & Directions
When looking at sky, we may view ½ of universe!
Horizon surrounds us, the sky/ground boundary
At top of sky is zenith, 90 degrees from horizon
From North to right, East, then South and West.
Sun rises in East, face sunrise, left is North
Midday shadow N (1pm July – Oct.)
Sun sets nearly in West, face sunset, right is North
Can use Big Dipper’s pointers to find N. Star
Sunrise & Sunsets?
• Earth’s daily rotation makes it look as if sun rises
each morning & sets each afternoon
• Time of sunrise, sunset varies thru year
• Earliest sunrise & latest sunset in June
• Latest sunrise & earliest sunset in Dec.
• Longest days when sun highest, farthest N
• Shortest days when sun lowest, farthest S
• Change in sunrise/sunset vanishes at equator
• Change in sunrise/sunset increases as near poles
Let’s review these ideas
What point in sky is farthest from horizon?
Is it Celestial Pole? Zenith? Nadir?
Which direction recipe WON’T work?
S. Side of tree with moss? Shadow in mid day?
Place where biggest changes with seasons?
Polar Regions? Mid Latitudes? Equator?
Write down your answers for these questions.
Answers: Zenith, Mid day shadow, Polar regions
Interesting facts about day sky
Noon sun 400,000 x brighter than full moon
Day Sky max. polarization 90 deg. from sun
Maximum sunlight energy in early summer
Sun peaks around 1 pm July - October
Maximum sunlight energy in late June
To find North, face where sun goes down
and extend your right arm out, points North.
Twilight or Dusk?
• When sun disappears from our view, the air
overhead is still ‘seeing’ sun and glowing.
• When sun 6 dg. below horizon, turn on lights
• When sun 18 dg. below horizon, sky darkest
• To see faint star groups, sun must be 12 dg. below
• Arctic Circle cities have no darkness in June
• Equatorial places have shortest twilights
• Our twilights last about 90 min. at dusk & dawn
What about Moon?
• Our moon is 2160 miles across, ¼ Earth’s width
• Moon ¼ as big as Earth; if Earth a regular globe
(1 ft.wide), moon is a tennis ball.
• Earth-moon distance about 30 x Earth’s width.
• As Earth, Moon lit by sun with day & night halves
• As Moon orbits Earth, see varying part of day side
• After line up with sun, moon waxes (grows) 14 d
• After full moon, moon wanes (shrinks) 14 days
• Moon phase cycle 29.5 dy, approx. month length
Just a little bit more about Moon
Moon rocks reveal moon matter from Earth!
Moon due to planets colliding, debris hurled
Moon formed from ring of orbiting debris
Early moon closer, much stronger tides
Moon slowly spiraling out, lengthen our day
Earth has 1st natural moon from sun, 6th
largest moon in solar system
Another review of ideas..
As you face sunset, what points North?
Back of Head? Right arm (out)? Left ear?
If Earth 1 ft. wide, how far away is moon?
Is it 10 feet? 30 feet? 100 feet? 300 feet?
How long does moon ‘grow’ or ‘shrink’?
Is it A week? A half month? A month?
Write down your answers to above 3 questions.
Answers: Right arm (out), 30 feet, A half month
Bright points we see at night?
• Even the nearest planets appear as * (points) as we
see them with our eyes; for even these objects far
away Venus at closest 100x farther than our moon
• To tell a planet from a star, all night stars twinkle
and planets usually shine steady.
• Also satellites (especially Space Station) shine
steadily as creep eastward across sky
• Night stars are distant suns, really, really far away
compared to our planet neighbors.
• If Earth penny size, moon 22” away, sun 730 ft.
away (6.3 ft. wide), nearest star is 37,000 mi.away
Oct. – Dec. 2014 Planets
• Venus on far side of sun, very tough to see
• Bright Jupiter in morning sky, then late even. Dec.
Venus barely creeps out of W. dusk at year’s end
• Mars, dim & seen in western dusk thru yr’s end
• Saturn low in SE dawn in December
• Mercury-moon Oct.22 (dawn), Nov.21 (dawn)
Fall Even. Stars & Groups
Evening: Big Dipper hard to see, low in NNW
Two right scoop * point upward to North Star
In the West is bright white-blue star Vega
Vega is the brightest star in Summer Triangle
In Northeast, bright golden star Capella climbs
To right of Capella is 7 Sisters star cluster
Late fall evenings in late PM hours see Orion
B. Dipper & N. * on
Fall Evenings
North Star
Summer Triangle as seen in
Fall Western evening sky
Capella, 7 Sisters & Aldebaran
in the East on Fall Evenings
7 Sisters
Orion on late fall evenings in East
Orion on late fall evenings in East
October at Midnight, November at 9 pm
Aldebaran (Taurus)
Orion’s belt
Let’s review once more…
What is best evening planet this fall?
Is it? Venus Mars Jupiter Saturn?
Name two very bright fall evening stars.
Are they (North Star, Vega) or (Vega, Capella)
Special sight seen on fall evenings?
Is is (7 Sisters) or (Northern Lights)?
Write down your answers, Correct answers are
Venus, (Vega, Capella) (7 Sisters)
Fall ‘14 Moon Schedule
Full moon 10/8; shrinks & goes into morn.
Mid Oct.: ½ Morn. moon 11/15 (craters)
Late Oct.: ½ Even. moon 10/31 (craters)
Full Moon 11/6 then shrinks & into morn.
Mid Nov.: ½ Morn. Moon 11/14 (craters)
Late Nov.: ½ Even. Moon 11/29 (craters)
Full Moon 12/6 then shrinks & into morn.
Mid Dec.: ½ Morn. Moon 12/14 (craters)
Frequently asked questions
• What are shooting or falling stars?
• Pea sized space grit impacting upper atmosphere
and bursting into flame.
• What if planets aligned (as beads on string)?
• They can’t as orbits are not in 1 plane. But even if they
could, their pull very weak next to our moon.
• Why study other worlds? won’t ease our problems
• By understanding other worlds, better know Earth
• Your questions are welcome at our public programs.
Send any sky questions to….
• Bob Doyle email [email protected]
• Be sure that questions involve basics about sky,
moon, planets and stars

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