Cumberland Times-News

Opinion

December 28, 2013

Here are highlights for 2014 night skies

During the entire year, you can see the International Space Station (ISS) pass over our area. On close passages, the ISS rivals the brilliant planet Venus.

Each month, there will be as many as a half dozen good flyovers of the ISS. These flyovers tend to come in bunches, such as three flyovers during the convenient evening hours on two to four days (when the sun is below our horizon but the ISS is still being illuminated by the sun).

There are also as many inconvenient morning flyovers (when the sun has not yet risen but the ISS is being illuminated by the sun).

Unfortunately these flyovers can’t be predicted far in advance. You must have Internet access to find the times. Try googling “ISS SIGHTINGS.”

You will be directed to a website where you must specify the name of your town and state or the latitude and longitude. (Cumberland’s latitude is roughly 39.7 degrees North and 78.7 degrees West.)

I use www.heavens-above.com, a European website (in English) that provides the local ISS flyovers during the next 10 days.

This website tells you the evening and predawn sighting times, starting with the time when the ISS first appears at 10 degrees above the horizon and direction. Then the peak altitude in degrees and direction is specified. Lastly, the time and direction where the ISS disappears or drops below 10 degrees altitude.

When you first see the ISS, it will be moving slowly, speeding up as it ascends in height (it is getting closer to us). Typically, the ISS can be seen for three or four minutes, during which it slowly creeps across the sky.

In the first quarter of 2014 (January-March), the planet Jupiter is the brightest point of light in the evening sky. Jupiter also shines steadily in contrast to the twinkling stars.

A small telescope allows you to see Jupiter’s large moons. The planet Mercury may be seen very low in the southwest in the last week of January and early February.

The star group Orion with his three star belt is prominent in the southern evening sky. The belt stars point leftward to Sirius, the night’s brightest star.

In the second quarter of 2014 (April-June), the orange or yellowish planet Mars is conspicuous. Although not as bright as Jupiter, Mars draws attention for its tint (seen only when Mars is close to the Earth as it will be in April and May). Look for Mars in the southeast evening sky.

Then in May, the planet Saturn appears low in the southeast, among the stars of Libra. Saturn is only modest in its brightness, but its marvelous rings are easily seen with a small telescope at over 50 power.

Jupiter can still be seen in the west, dropping lower each week. The Big Dipper is high in the north with its leftmost stars pointing down to the North Star. The planet Venus is gorgeous in the Eastern dawn.

In the third quarter of 2014 (July-September), the planet Venus maintains its predawn visibility in July and August. Mars still lingers in the southwestern evening sky, but much dimmer than in April. Saturn moves into the west. The star group Scorpius resembles a starry ‘J’ low in the south.

In the fourth quarter of 2014 (October-December), there is an early evening lunar eclipse on Oct. 7. The moon is completely in the Earth’s shadow when it’s low in the East (about 6:39 p.m. EDT).

Mid-eclipse (moon darkest) will be 7:10 p.m. The moon will begin to creep out of the Earth’s shadow at 7:39 p.m. EDT. The early part of this eclipse occurs before the sky is completely dark.

The most conspicuous evening star group is the Summer Triangle, whose brightest star is Vega, seen in the western sky with its white-blue light.

October and November feature the Pleiades or 7 Sisters star cluster low in the east. December evenings feature the return of Orion, the Hunter in the late evening hours in the southeast.

SKY SIGHTS AHEAD: On Thursday, January 2 look about 5:40 p.m. for the brilliant planet Venus low in the southwest with a razor sharp crescent moon above Venus. This may be your last chance to see Venus in the evening sky until late in 2014.

Bob Doyle invites any readers comments and questions. E-mail him at rdoyle@frostburg.edu . He is available as a speaker on his column topics.

1
Text Only
Opinion
  • Support Canal classrooms with tax-deductible gift

    While your April 17 article (“Park Service opens Canal classrooms,” Page 1A) described this exciting program accurately, your readers may be wondering how they can help support this new educational opportunity for school children in Allegany County.

    April 18, 2014

  • Ivan Hall story brings back memories of a unique man

    I enjoyed Mike Sawyers’ Ivan Hall story. It was well written and brought back some wonderful memories of my Cumberland days and especially, an unique man.

    April 18, 2014

  • It’s a secret It’s a secret

    Could someone enlighten us about why not even the names of the two entities bidding on development of the Footer Dye Works building can be divulged?
    A Times-News article about the bids included an explanation from a lawyer for the attorney general’s office about the need to keep the names and other information secret at this time. Despite that, the logic of not divulging at least a little more information escapes us.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • What do we do about those who weren’t criminals after all?

    Now that Maryland has become the 17th state to (finally) decriminalize possession of marijuana, one could say that the legislature and governor should be patted on the back for doing the right thing.

    April 17, 2014

  • The first step The first step

    If all goes as planned, Frostburg State University will one day offer a doctorate in nursing, a physician’s assistant program and a new health sciences building on campus.

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • Translations differ, but the message is eternal

    This letter is in response to a recent letter titled “One cannot compromise on God’s word” (April 13 Times-News). I had previously written a letter titled “Why are compromises so difficult to achieve” (April 7).

    April 15, 2014

  • Closing the loopholes will help clear the regulatory waters

    After a decade of uncertainty over Clean Water Act jurisdiction following Supreme Court challenges in 2001 and 2006, the Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers announced a forthcoming administrative rule to close enforcement loopholes, restoring protections to 20 million acres of wetlands, more than half the nation’s streams, and drinking water for 117 million Americans.

    April 15, 2014

  • The first step Remember where your freedom comes from before criticizing

    The deal at Fort Hood could have been avoided if it was caught in time.
    When you think a GI is not acting right, have him or her checked out before you put them back on duty and give them a weapon. Post-traumatic stress disorder is a serious and dangerous problem if it is not taken care of right away.

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • Where to look Where to look

    Drive anywhere in Maryland and it seems there is one highway construction project after another. While it is good to see our roads and bridges being upgraded, it can be nerve-wracking for anyone traveling a long distance.

    April 14, 2014 1 Photo

  • Midterm elections give chance to return to American values

    A movement has been started by veterans of our armed forces to get out the vote in 2014. That includes Coast Guard and Merchant Marine personnel for those not familiar with the history of both and their sacrifice. This is no small special interest  group, but many millions of Americans who can have an enormous impact on the  outcome of the November election if they all respond.

    April 14, 2014