Bakersfield Night Sky – January 5, 2008
By Nick Strobel
(appeared January 5, 2008)
Look east at 9 PM and you'll see Mars almost at the horns of Taurus. Compare the bright orange planet to the reddish or orange stars nearby: Betelgeuse down and to the right of Mars in the upper left part of Orion about one hand width away when you extend your hand at arm's length; Aldebaran slightly up and to the right of Mars in Taurus about one hand width away; and Pollux down and to the left of Mars in the bottom-left corner of Gemini about one and a half hand widths away (see attached chart 1).
In the pre-dawn (about 6 AM) sky looking east you will see the very bright Venus near the red heart of Scorpius at the star called Antares. A very thin Waning Crescent Moon will be just beginning to rise almost directly below Venus. Higher up you will see Saturn continuing its backward (retrograde) motion below the middle of Leo. Over this month early morning risers will be able to see Jupiter begin rising shortly before sunrise (see attached chart 2). Also, Venus and Jupiter are going to get closer and closer on our sky until they almost "touch" each other at the end of the month.
Now in the midst of winter you may not have noticed that the Earth was closest to the Sun it will be all year on January 2nd (more precisely, at about 4 PM Pacific time). However, because the Sun's rays are hitting the north hemisphere at such a shallow angle and the amount of daylight is small, the temperatures during the winter months are so much cooler than during the summer. The distance between the Earth and the Sun is not the cause of the seasons!
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: January 7, 2008
Webpage contact: Nick Strobel