Bakersfield Night Sky – September 5, 2009
By Nick Strobel
Jupiter blazes as the super-bright "star" in the evening (around 9 to 11 PM) in the southeast next to Capricornus. Jupiter is still creeping backward (westward) with respect to the stars of Capricornus and will do so until mid-October. If you have been keeping track of Jupiter over the past few months, you will see that the backward "retrograde" loop of Jupiter is about the size of your fist at arm's length. Capricornus is made of fairly dim stars so you'll need to get out of the city to see its stars. Although it is supposed to a goat with a fish tail, I tell planetarium audiences to look for something that looks like a sailboat (see the charts on the Planetarium's archive of the night sky column).
Up higher you will see some brighter constellations as shown in chart A. The chart shows what you see if you face south then look high overhead. The point directly over your head is the "zenith". Just left of zenith is Cygnus, the swan, with bright Deneb at its tail and Albireo at its beak. Cygnus is flying down the length of the Milky Way (again, get out of the city to see the Milky Way). To the right of Cygnus is Lyra (the little harp) with bright Vega at its base. Below Cygnus' Albireo is the bright star Altair of the eagle, Aquila. Deneb, Vega, and Altair make the "Summer Triangle". To the right of Lyra is Hercules. He is actually "upside-down" on the sky---the keystone part of him is actually his waist and knees. To the right of Aquila in the southeast is the "Great Square" of Pegasus, the flying horse. Below Pegasus is the bright gibbous Moon (one day past full phase) in the dim constellation, Pisces. (Do realize that all of these constellations were outlined and named before the city lights drowned out our city skies!) If you go below Jupiter near the horizon and to the left you may be able to see the bright star called Fomalhaut (as bright as Deneb). It has a large planet orbiting it and it is the first planet that we have imaged in ordinary visible light.
Want a more immersive tour of the night sky? Come to the planetarium's September show on Friday evening, September 18. "Two Small Pieces of Glass" will be shown after the evening sky tour. Get tickets ahead of time at the BC Ticket Office. Tickets go quickly and the ticket office closes at noon on Fridays so get them as soon as you can. Tickets are also on sale for the Planetarium's entire fall season.
Early risers will be able to see super-bright Venus low in the east before sunrise (see chart B). The brightest star in the sky, Sirius in Canis Major, pales in comparison to Venus. Sirius is at about the same height as Venus but in the southeast. Above it you will find Orion, the constellation that graces our winter evening skies. The dimmer planet Mars is at the feet of Gemini. The waning crescent Moon will pass by Mars on September 13th and Venus three mornings later (a nice view in your binoculars!) New Moon is on September 18th.
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: August 30, 2009
Webpage contact: Nick Strobel