Bakersfield Night Sky - February 19, 2011

Bakersfield Night Sky - February 19, 2011
By Nick Strobel

In my column two weeks ago, I noted that bright Jupiter was almost lined up with the left side of Great Square of Pegasus. Jupiter is now definitely east (left) of the Great Square of Pegasus. Although Jupiter is actually within the constellation of Pisces, you may have an easier time locating with respect to the stars of Andromeda now since Pisces is so dim---see the second star chart below. Andromeda looks like two antennae sticking out of the upper left of the Great Square of Pegasus. Jupiter will be the brightest star-like object you'll see in the western sky---if you can see just one star in the west after sunset, it's Jupiter. Jupiter will set at around 8:15 PM.

By the time the Waning Gibbous Moon rises in the east (around 8:15 PM), the famous winter constellation Orion will be due South with his three belt stars lined up in a row about half-way up in the sky. To Orion's left will be his trusty hunting dog, Canis Major with the brightest star in the night sky, Sirius, at his nose (or neck depending on how you connect the starry dots)---see the third star chart below. By the end of the month, the Moon will be a nice crescent in the pre-dawn sky next to Venus. Above the Moon in tonight's sky is Leo with the Sickle on the right side looking like a backward question-mark.

By 10 PM, Saturn is easily visible in the east above the bright star Spica of Virgo. The Waning Gibbous Moon will pass below Saturn tomorrow (Feb 20th) but Saturn should be bright enough to see even with the glare of the Moon. Ultra-bright Venus is visible in the southeast at about 5 AM among the stars of Sagittarius. By that time Saturn, Spica and the rest of Virgo will be in the southwestern sky. On February 24 the Third Quarter Moon will be to the right of the red heart of Scorpius, the star Antares (see the first star chart below). On February 28, a thin Waning Crescent Moon may barely fit within the same field of view of your binoculars as Venus. The thin crescent Moon will be to the right of Venus---a beautiful photo opportunity. If you miss that morning, the following pre-dawn morning will offer another chance at a great photo with an even thinner crescent Moon to the left of Venus.

My column two weeks ago gave an overview of the Spring shows happening at the Planetarium. If you missed that column, you can always find the schedule and detailed information about each of the shows on the Planetarium's website. Tickets for all of the shows must be purchased ahead of time from the BC Ticket Office. Tickets are $6.50/adults and $4.50/seniors and children 5-12 years old. Doors open at 7 PM and are locked at the start of the shows at 7:30 PM. Another thing to calendar in is the free Astronomy Day put on by the Kern Astronomical Society on Saturday, April 9th at Foothill High School. See the KAS website for more 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. Visit the Dark Sky International website for more info.
Nick Strobel
Director of the William M Thomas Planetarium at Bakersfield College
Author of the award-winning website