Bakersfield Night Sky – February 16, 2008
By Nick Strobel
(appeared February 16, 2008)
Mars still shines brightly near the horns of Taurus above the head of Orion in the South. The waxing gibbous Moon will wash out many of the stars nearby but you will still be able to easily see Sirius to lower left of Orion. Sirius is at the nose of Canis Major. In the east, you'll see Saturn rising up just below Leo. In the northeast, the Big Dipper part of Ursa Major will be standing straight up.
In the early morning about an hour and half to two hours before sunrise look for Jupiter above the handle of the "Teapot" part of Sagittarius in the east. Venus has now pulled well away from Jupiter and is visible just about an hour before sunrise.
A special treat just for us (well, okay, the rest of the United States too) comes on the evening of February 20th: a total lunar eclipse. As the full Moon is rising on Wednesday evening you'll a notch taken out of it as it begins entering the darkest part of the Earth's shadow, the "umbra". It will continue sliding into the umbra and be totally engulfed by 7:01 PM. It will glow with an eery copper red or dark red color that comes from sunlight bending through the Earth's air. The brightness of the Moon's color will depend on the global air quality of the Earth. The total eclipse ends at 7:51 PM when the Moon begins to leave the Earth's umbra. The last part of the Moon slips out of the umbra by 9:09 PM. The attached chart shows where to look and the different stages of the eclipse. Throughout the eclipse you'll see the Moon slide closer to Saturn.
The local astronomy club, Kern Astronomical Society, will have their telescopes out for the general public during the lunar eclipse: at Russo's at the Market Place and at Panorama Bluffs Park near where Linden meets Panorama. Saturn will be near the eclipsed Moon so be sure to get a look while the Moon is still dark.
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 10, 2008
Webpage contact: Nick Strobel