Bakersfield Night Sky – February 7, 2009
By Nick Strobel
Several people noted to me last week the gorgeous pairing of the thin waxing crescent Moon with the brilliant Venus in our evening sky (looking southwest). They’re right---it was a beautiful sight! On the nights that the Moon was drawing close to Venus, I was out at some evening activity without my camera. I would make a mental note to have my camera ready “tomorrow” but I forgot. (Sigh! My short-term memory is all filled up and there are no upgrades possible.) Another chance will happen when a very thin crescent Moon passes by an even brighter Venus on Feb 27th. Venus will get steadily brighter in our west-southwestern evening sky as it catches up to the Earth in its faster orbit. No other point-like object comes close to Venus’ brightness. Tonight the Moon is almost full in the constellation Cancer (the Crab) that is right of the brighter constellation, Leo (see the chart). It is full the morning of February 9th and careful observers may be able to spot the Full Moon going into the Earth’s partial shadow (the penumbra) in the pre-dawn hours.
My previous column had a chart showing Orion and its surrounding constellations (see the Planetarium’s website for an archive copy). Today’s column has a chart of Leo (the Lion) with Saturn below the hip (left side). Saturn rises at about 8 PM. The chart is for the night owls---it is the view at midnight tonight looking high in the south. To find Leo, first find the Big Dipper and go south of the bowl part of the Big Dipper. Look for a backward question mark on the sky---the “Sickle” part of Leo. Saturn continues to creep westward and a telescope will show its rings slightly more open from nearly edge-on than they were a couple of weeks ago.
Mercury has now swung to the other side of the Sun on our sky and you may be able to see it low in the southeast before sunrise. It will be farthest west (right) of the Sun on February 13th. Look for it to the left of the Teapot handle of Sagittarius. Jupiter will be visible in the pre-dawn morning sky after the middle of the month (also low in the southeast).
Tickets are on sale for all of this spring’s Planetarium shows only at the BC Ticket office. The February shows will be “Dawn of the Space Age” on February 20+21. Tickets are NOT sold at the door.
Want to see more of the
stars at night and save energy? Shield your lights so that the light
only goes down toward the ground. See www.darksky.org for how.
Director of the William M Thomas Planetarium at Bakersfield College
Author of the award-winning website www.astronomynotes.com
last updated: February 15, 2009
Webpage contact: Nick Strobel