Bakersfield Night Sky – March 15, 2008
By Nick Strobel
Orange-red Mars is now at the outer boundary Gemini and moving quickly toward the east among the stars. Look for it in the evening high in the southwest. By the end of the first week in April it will be in the middle between the two brothers, Castor and Pollux, that make up Gemini. A bright waxing gibbous Moon is right between the two brothers tonight having passed by Mars yesterday evening. The next couple of nights it will pass through Cancer on its way to Leo. The bright moonlight will wash out the dim stars of Cancer---it is already almost impossible to see Cancer in the city because of the city lights. Saturn is already up at sunset and stays up almost all night, not setting until about 6:20 AM. In the late evening look for it high up in the southeast just to the left of the brightest star in Leo, Regulus.
At about 4:20 AM early Sunday morning Jupiter will be high enough to be visible above the mountains in the southeastern sky on the left side of Sagittarius. By a few minutes after 5 AM, it will be the same height above the southeastern horizon as Saturn is above the western horizon. The attached chart shows this view of the two largest planets in our solar system. Mercury and Venus both rise just 45 minutes before sunrise on Sunday morning. (see the chart below).
Spring officially starts on the evening of March 19th at 10:48 PM at the vernal ("spring") equinox. This is when the Sun crosses the projections of the Earth's equator on the sky, the "celestial equator" at it travels northward among the stars. This is shown in the second attached chart. For the next couple of days the Sun will be rising due east, moving northward until the summer solstice on June 20th. Full Moon occurs on Friday, March 21st which is why Easter is so early this year! Easter falls on the Sunday following the first full Moon after the March equinox (the "Paschal Full Moon"). This will be the earliest Easter until the year 2160 when it falls again on March 23rd. The absolute earliest Easter is March 22nd and that won't happen until the year 2285.
Astronomy Day, a free event especially for children and youth is coming on April 12th at Foothill High School. 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: April 4, 2008
Webpage contact: Nick Strobel