Bakersfield Night Sky – January 17, 2009
By Nick Strobel
Venus blazes brightly in the west-southwestern sky in the evening. It will be the first star-like object you see after sunset (look southwest) and will be visible until about 8:30 PM. Nothing in the southern or western sky comes close to its brightness until near the end of the month. A very thin waxing crescent Moon may be barely visible low in the west-southwest on January 27th just after sunset but it may be until the following night that you'll be able to pick out the crescent. The waxing crescent Moon will pass by Venus on the 29th. If you happen to be in the Indian Ocean or parts of Indonesia on the 26th, you may be able to see the new Moon pass directly in front of the Sun—a solar eclipse! However, the Moon will be too far from the Earth to totally block the Sun so there will be a ring (an "annulus") of sunlight from the Sun's surface around the Moon—an annular solar eclipse.
Mercury and Jupiter are now too close to the Sun to see. Mercury will pass between the Earth and Sun on January 20th and Jupiter will pass behind the Sun on the 24th. While Venus dominates the western sky, turn around to see the bright stars of Orion and the very bright star, Sirius, at the neck of Canis Major in the southeast (see the chart). Sirius is the brightest star in the night sky. A line through Orion's belt going downward will lead you to Sirius. To the left of Sirius and slightly higher is the bright star, Procyon, in Canis Minor. Above that is Gemini with the two bright stars, Pollux and Castor at the heads of the twins. Straight up from Orion will Taurus with the beautiful Pleiades cluster. About 3 fist-widths at arm's length to the left of the Pleiades is the bright star Capella in the constellation Auriga (above Gemini).
Saturn continues to shine below the tail of Leo. It will get above the mountains at about 9:45 PM tonight but at the end of the month, it will be that high at about 8:50 PM. Saturn will be high in the south at 3:30 AM and later it will be in the southwest (still below Leo) in the pre-dawn hours. A view of Saturn with the telescope will show its rings almost edge-on.
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 2, 2009
Webpage contact: Nick Strobel