Bakersfield Night Sky - November 21, 2021

Bakersfield Night Sky — November 21, 2021
By Nick Strobel

Tickets are now on sale for the traditional holiday show at the William M Thomas Planetarium, “Season of Light” that will play December 2 and 9. Everyone will need to be masked and vaccinated for the indoor show. 

Now two days past the nearly total lunar eclipse, the moon is a waning gibbous rising in the east at about 7 PM The moon is at the bottom of Gemini (next to the feet of the twin Castor on the right side of Gemini to be more precise). The moon will be a smaller waning gibbous next to the head of Leo on Thanksgiving evening. On Thanksgiving the moon will become visible by about 10:30 to 10:45 PM, depending on how close you are to the mountains.

Orion becomes visible in the east at about 8 PM and it'll be highest in the sky due south at about 1:30 AM The two brightest stars in the dog constellations, Canis Major and Canis Minor, are Sirius and Procyon, respectively. Those stars are first visible at about 9:45 PM (see the star chart below).

Leading the pack of the Orion-set of constellations across the sky is Taurus with the Pleiades star cluster at its shoulder. The Pleiades are already above the horizon at sunset but you'll need to wait until about 5:30 PM for the sky to be dark enough to pick them out easily. The Pleiades  are up highest on the meridian due south at around 11:40 PM tonight.  

The first star like object you'll see after sunset is the “evening star”, the planet Venus in the southwest among the stars of Sagittarius but Sagittarius won't be visible in the twilight until they're about to set. Jupiter and Saturn will be high in the south on either side of Capricornus at sunset—Jupiter, the bright one on the left side of Capricornus and dimmer Saturn on the right side. 

Up higher in the evening sky will be the stars making up the Great Square of Pegasus with the stars of Andromeda strung out in two strands to the left of Pegasus. Andromeda's mother, Cassiopeia makes up the W-shape of stars high in the north-northeast. Lower down, sort of midway between Cassiopeia and Andromeda is Andromeda's husband, the hero Perseus.

A recent science news story about the DAMA dark matter experiment at Gran Sasso National Laboratory in Italy provides a nice illustration of the peer review process in science. The DAMA experiment has been working since 1995 to detect dark matter in the form of particles called weakly interacting massive particles (WIMPs). The DAMA team has presented results in peer-reviewed journals claiming dark matter detections. 

The peer review process continues after a journal article is published. Just because a claim appears in a peer-reviewed journal doesn't mean it is correct. The part of the peer review process that occurs before a paper is published involves a check on the logic of the analysis of the data collected—given the data in the paper, are the conclusions logically sound and are there other possible conclusions? The next part of peer review is seeing if the data are reproducible. A significant discovery such as that claimed by the DAMA team needs to be verified by other experiments and independent analysis. However, other dark matter detectors have come up empty. 

Those other dark matter detectors used other methods and experiment setups to look for dark matter, so the DAMA team has been able to claim that those other experiments are not sensitive enough to detect the dark matter that DAMA sees. More recent dark matter experiments called COSINE (in South Korea) and ANAIS-112 (in Spain) use the same material as DAMA and haven't found the dark matter signal. Furthermore, a different Italian team has found a possible flaw in how the DAMA team analyzed its data that could inadvertently create a false signal. The DAMA team head has angrily rejected the COSINE and ANAIS-112 and the other Italian team conclusions but science doesn't work that way. The scientific method is a powerful error-correction process that takes into account the fallibility of human observation and biases. Eventually reality kicks back. We have to give up a hypothesis if it can't be proven. The process can take many years with bruised egos along the way and claim/counter-claims in journals but it does eventually get to a truer understanding of what's going on.

If you're vaccinated, you have a MUCH smaller chance of getting so sick that you need to be hospitalized in Kern's over-crowded hospitals or of getting the long-haul COVID. Hospitals filled with COVID patients can't take in heart attack, stroke, or accident victims. Check out My Turn vaccination information page for the clinic closest to you and please continue wearing a mask when with large groups in enclosed spaces!

Nick Strobel
Director of the William M Thomas Planetarium at Bakersfield College
Author of the award-winning website

Late November at 9:45 PM looking east