Bakersfield Night Sky – August 16, 2008
By Nick Strobel
Venus, Mercury and Saturn form a tight trio in the early evening twilight sky (see chart A). You’ll need a pair of binoculars to pick out Mercury and Saturn from the twilight glow low in the west but Venus may be possible to see through the haze without binoculars. All three will fit in the field of view of a typical pair of binoculars. Tonight or tomorrow night will probably be the last time you can see Saturn. Mars is 15 degrees up and to the left of Venus (about the distance between the tip of your ring finger and your thumb when you stretch them out at arms length). Jupiter still blazes bright in the southeastern sky after sunset. It will be a quarter of the way up in the sky about half an hour after sunset and get up to its highest point a third of the way up in the sky by around 10 PM. Jupiter will still be easily visible despite the Full Moon. The last week of August will be better for star gazing as the Moon will be a waning crescent and a New Moon on August 30th.
At 9 PM, Hercules is right overhead (see the chart in the August 2nd column). To the right of Hercules is the kite-shaped Bootes with the very bright star, Arcturus, at the tail. To the left of Hercules are the Summer Triangle constellations, Lyra, Cygnus, and Aquila with their brightest stars Vega, Deneb, and Altair (respectively) making the Summer Triangle.
I am pleased to see that there is some movement underway to preserve dark skies in at least some parts of Kern county. I hope our county supervisors take this matter seriously (see krvr.org and click on “DARK SKY” for more on this effort). The fact that just about everybody finds a star-filled sky breath-taking when they get away from the city points to an instinctual need for a truly dark sky. If that seems too “touchy-feely” to act upon, there’s the more practical fact that fully-shielding our lights keeps all of the light energy down on the ground where we need it instead of wasting all of that energy trying to light up the rest of the universe. Check out www.darksky.org for what you can do to shield your lights.
Director of the William M Thomas Planetarium at Bakersfield College
Author of the award-winning website www.astronomynotes.com
last updated: August 11, 2008
Webpage contact: Nick Strobel