Bakersfield Night Sky – October 3, 2009
By Nick Strobel
Super-bright Jupiter is slowing down its westward drift among the stars of Capricornus in the south in the evening. Jupiter will stop its retrograde motion (westward drift) on October 12th. East of Jupiter is the Full Moon washing out all of the faint stars in Pisces. Above Pisces you may still be able to see the 4 brightest stars of Pegasus making a large square on the sky (see chart B). On October 9th, the Moon will be in a waning gibbous phase. At about 4:30 AM on that date, the LCROSS spacecraft and its Centaur upper-stage rocket will crash into the Moon near its south pole to send up large plumes of material that can be examined to see if any water ice is in any of the craters that are permanently in shadow. Crater Cabeus A has been chosen to be the impact site. The Centaur upper-stage will crash first. The LCROSS spacecraft will examine the ejected material before it crashes into the Moon 4 minutes later sending up its own plume of material. Both plumes will be examined by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) that was launched as the same time as LCROSS. LRO will remain in lunar orbit for at least one year to create the highest resolution mineralogical and topographical map of the Moon ever to identify possible landing sites for manned missions to the Moon.
While not as spectacular as an impact on the Moon, the early morning sky will be a prettier sight in October as Saturn climbs higher in the pre-dawn sky---see chart A. Saturn will first pass Mercury on October 8th---a nice telescope pairing---and then pass by Venus (in Leo) on October 13th---another nice telescope pairing (see chart C). A waning crescent Moon will join them two days later and pass to the right of Venus on October 16th. Up higher in the pre-dawn sky to the left of Gemini is Mars.The October and November shows at the Planetarium have sold out but there are still some tickets left (at the time this was written) for the two December shows, "Season of Light".
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: October 4, 2009
Webpage contact: Nick Strobel