Bakersfield Night Sky – September 20, 2008
By Nick Strobel
Venus, Mercury, and Mars are still close together low in the western sky just after sunset. The brightest star in the constellation Virgo, Spica, makes a line with Venus and Mercury and lies between the two planets (see chart A). Mars is due right of Spica. All four may still appear in the same field of binoculars. Venus will be pulling further away to the left of the other two planets as the weeks go by. Mercury will fade quickly after September 23rd. Also, Mars will be getting very hard to see as it gets closer to the Sun on our sky.
Jupiter continues to shine brightly in the south just above the handle of the "Teapot" part of Sagittarius about a third of the way up in the sky at around 8 PM (chart B). A waning gibbous Moon is now rising late enough at night to not wash out the early evening stars. Third quarter Moon is on September 22nd. At the end of the month, see if you can spot Saturn low in the east about a half hour before sunrise. It will below the middle part of Leo. A very thin waning crescent Moon will pass close to it on September 27th (see chart C).
September 22nd is day of the autumnal equinox that officially marks the beginning of our season of autumn or fall. The Sun crosses the "celestial equator", the projection of the Earth’s equator onto the sky, at 8:44 AM Pacific Daylight Time. The Sun will set due west that evening and then set further and further south of west as the amount of daylight decreases. It will rise further and further south of east as well. See my online astronomy book www.astronomynotes.com (in the third chapter) for diagrams of this.
Tickets are selling quickly for the Planetarium’s September show, "Dawn of the Space Age". Tickets are available only at the BC Ticket Office and will not be sold at the door. See the planetarium’s website www.bakersfieldcollege.edu/planetarium for information about the show and maps to the planetarium.
Save the night sky and save energy (and money) by keeping all the light from street and building lights shining down toward the ground where we need it. Check out www.darksky.org for what you can do to shield your lights.
Director of the William M Thomas Planetarium at Bakersfield College
Author of the award-winning website www.astronomynotes.com
last updated: September 15, 2008
Webpage contact: Nick Strobel