Bakersfield Night Sky – June 20, 2009
By Nick Strobel
Saturn is getting low in the southwest after sunset (below Leo) as our home planet Earth moves away from it in our faster, smaller orbit. Saturn is setting earlier every night so be sure to check it out in one of the Kern Astronomical Society's telescopes at Barnes and Noble on June 27th before it gets too low for a good view through the western haze later in the summer.
In the pre-dawn sky Venus and Mars are closest together above the head of Cetus (see attached chart). After tomorrow morning, they will drift apart with Mars moving to the upper right of Venus. Bright Jupiter is inching eastward but is still next to Capricornus. A very thin Waning Crescent Moon may be barely visible very low in the east-northeast in pre-dawn twilight. To the Moon's lower right, see if you can spot the faint Mercury next to the nose of Taurus.
This evening at 10:46 PM marks the farthest north position of the Sun this year, the June solstice. All during winter and spring, the Sun has been moving slowly northward in our sky with respect to the stars. On the solstice it will be still (solstice = "Sun still") and then start moving southward through summer and fall to the December solstice. As it gets higher in our sky, the sunlight will hit our part of the Earth more directly (closest to perpendicular on the June solstice) so its energy will be more concentrated. Also, the Sun will be above our horizon for a longer time. Greater cooking power + greater cooking time means warmer temperatures. But just like cooking food, it takes a while to warm things up, so our hottest days are usually in July and August. One final note: the Earth (even our part of the Earth) will be farthest from the Sun in July => our distance from the Sun is not the cause of the seasons! See www.astronomynotes.com for more about the true cause of the seasons.
Public star party at Barnes & Noble on Saturday, June 27th from sunset to about 10 PM. See www.kernastro.org for details.
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