Bakersfield Night Sky – June 6, 2009
By Nick Strobel
Saturn is high in the southwest after sunset below the triangle of Leo on the left side of Leo (see chart A). The nearly full Waxing Gibbous Moon washes out most of the stars in the southeast. As it is rising, it will be uncovering the bright heart of Scorpius, the orange-red supergiant star, Antares. By the time the sky is truly dark (about 9:30 PM and after), the Moon will be to the left of Antares. The Moon will be full tomorrow night.
Chart A is centered on Virgo in the south-southwest at 9:30 PM. Scanning the area between Virgo and Leo with binoculars or even better, a telescope, will show a number of fuzzy spots that are galaxies in the closest large galaxy cluster to us, the Virgo Cluster (dashed circle in the chart). It is a rich cluster with about 2000 galaxies of all shapes and sizes. The chart shows the location of the largest ones (M87, M49, M86, M84), giant elllipticals that have become large by gobbling up smaller galaxies that have wandered too close. M87 is at the heart of the cluster. It has a supermassive black hole at its center with over 2 billion times the mass of the Sun.
In the pre-dawn sky Jupiter blazes to the left of Capricornus (see chart B). Due east you will see the very bright Venus draw closer to the dimmer Mars to the lower left of Venus over the next few weeks. They will be closest to each other on June 21st (the start of our summer). The waning gibbous and crescent Moon will scoot across the field from the 13th to the 20th.
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: May 13, 2009
Webpage contact: Nick Strobel