Bakersfield Night Sky – January 16, 2010
By Nick Strobel
Jupiter sets at about 7:45 PM in mid-January and at about 7 PM at the end of the month, leaving Mars to struts its stuff alone in our night sky. Mars will be the bright orange star-like object shining low in the east at around 7:30 PM and getting up highest in the south at around 1:20 AM. The first star chart below shows its position at 10 PM in mid-January and at the end of the month. Mars is currently moving backward ("retrograde"), toward the west with respect to the stars. Only the star, Sirius in Canis Major will shine brighter in our late evening sky (until the Moon reappears near the end of the month). Sirius will be about a third of the way up in the southern sky at 10 PM. Higher in the south will be the well-known winter constellation, Orion. Overhead is the charging bull, Taurus (one of his horns is visible at the top edge of the star chart as well as his orange-red eye, Aldebaran). To the left of Orion are the twins, Castor and Pollux of Gemini. The Full Moon will pass below Mars on January 29th.
At around 12:30 AM you will be able to see Saturn low in the east in Virgo. Saturn is bright star on the right side of Virgo and the star Spica is on the left side of Virgo. By 5 AM, Saturn and Spica will be high in the southeast. A chart for that time is available below. A bit further to the left of Virgo is the bright star, Arcturus in the constellation Bootes, the shepherd. You can find Arcturus also by extending the curve of the Big Dipper's handle (the tail of the bear Ursa Major) that will be visible almost directly overhead by that time. Remember "arc to Arcturus". I also have a chart for the southeastern sky at 30 minutes before sunrise because Mercury is now visible for the next couple of weeks or so as the bright "morning star" low in the southeast.
The spring schedule for the Planetarium is now posted on the Planetarium's website. Shows will be on the third Thursday of February, March and April and the first Thursday of May. Two new shows will be included this spring "Ice Worlds" and "IBEX", along with the ever-popular "Black Holes" show. "Ice Worlds" explores the Earth's polar ice caps and other icy places in our solar system. The IBEX show is about the NASA mission to explore the boundary of the solar system, at the edge of the bubble formed by the charged particles flowing outward from the Sun at a million miles per hour. A lot more information about each show is available on the Planetarium's website (you knew I was going to say that!).
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