Bakersfield Night Sky
By Nick Strobel
(appeared December 1, 2007)
Look east at 9 PM and you'll see Mars shining brightly at the feet of Gemini. Mars continues to drift westward ("retrograde"). The attached picture shows tonight's position of Mars and its position on December 13th, which is a good night to look for the Geminid meteor shower.
Almost all meteor showers result from the Earth running into tiny bits of comet debris. As comets swing around the Sun, they leave bits of themselves (dust particles) along their orbit from all of the eruptions that happen when the Sun warms the comet. If the Earth's orbit intercepts the comet orbit, we get a meteor shower and the shower will occur at the same date every year. The Geminid meteor shower comes from an asteroid called Phaethon that may actually be a burned-out comet—one that has had all of its store of volatile material depleted from repeated passages around the Sun. The meteor shower will appear to stream from a particular spot in the sky called the "radiant". The radiant for the Geminid meteor shower is near the star Castor, one of the twin stars in Gemini. The radiant is also shown in the attached picture. The Geminids will begin at about 10 PM on December 13th and increase in number/hour throughout the night until dawn.
In the pre-dawn (about 4:30 AM) sky looking east you will see the very bright Venus to the east of (to left of) the bright star Spica in Virgo. Nearby you'll see a thin sliver of the waning crescent Moon. Higher up you will see Saturn below the middle of Leo. They are shown in the second attached picture.
This weekend is the first of three weekends the Christmas show at the William M Thomas Planetarium, "Season of Light". Get tickets from the BC Ticket Office before they are gone! See www.bakersfieldcollege.edu/planetarium/seasonlight for more information.
Want to see more of the stars at night and save energy?
Shield your lights so that the light only goes down toward the light.
See www.darksky.org for
Director of the William M Thomas Planetarium at Bakersfield College
Author of the award-winning website www.astronomynotes.com
last updated: January 7, 2008
Webpage contact: Nick Strobel