Bakersfield Night Sky – February 21, 2009
By Nick Strobel
The early morning sky just before sunrise will exhibit some nice views of the planets and Moon for the next few days and the evening sky will have to wait until the end of the month for its chance to "shine". The pre-dawn morning of the 22nd will see the very slender Waning Crescent Moon in line with Mercury, Jupiter, and Mars low in the east-southeast (see chart). The three planets will all fit comfortably within the field of typical binoculars. As Mercury drops back closer to the Sun, it will pass just under Jupiter on the 24th and all three planets will be at their closest arrangement on our sky.
On the evenings of the 26th through the 28th, you will see the very slender Waxing Crescent Moon slide past the very bright Venus in the west (see chart). The thin Moon will be less than 2 degrees left of Venus on the 27th and it may be possible for you to find Venus in broad daylight in the late afternoon if you use the Moon as a guide.
On the night of February 25th take a look with binoculars near the triangle on the left side of Leo. About half your fist's width held at arm's length to the right and up from the triangle will be the smallest of the dwarf planets and the largest asteroid, Ceres. Two finder charts are given below---the last one shows the view as seen in binoculars. That night is the closest that Ceres will be to us between the years 1857 and 4164. Ceres is a rock-ice world that will be explored by the Dawn spacecraft for several months in the first half of 2015. Dawn was launched in September 2007 and it will first explore the asteroid Vesta at the end of 2011 before using its sophisticated ion engine to head for Ceres. See the asteroids section of my Astronomy Notes for further study.
Along with the spring Planetarium shows, another local astronomy event to be sure to check out is Astronomy Day that will be held at Foothill High School on March 28th. There will be free afternoon sessions on solar observing, solar system scale model and telescope clinics followed by star gazing at night. See www.kernastro.org for more details.
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