BSC - Saturday 06 February 2010
Hello Fellow OCA club members!
This Saturday I plan to open the gate at 5 pm, about a half hour before the sun sets, if it is not raining. The Register newspaper weather report for this Saturday indicates that Orange County will be getting rain, but we are several days off and I am hoping the reports are wrong. The 3rd Quarter Moon will not rise until about 2 am giving us dark skies. First time visitors might want to get to BSC while it is still light so they can find their way down the dirt road and into the parking area. Remember that you take the 2nd farm gate on the left after turning on Black Star Canyon Road. If you come in after dark, you should drive in with your headlights off!!! The dirt road will be marked with red flashers and you can hold a flashlight out the driver’s window to light up the road directly in front of your car.
The ISS (International Space Station) will make visible morning passes this week but none in the evening at BSC. The HST (Hubble Space Telescope) will pass over at 7:03:48 pm 10 degrees high SW at a dim magnitude 3.1, rising to 24 degrees SSE at 7:07:19 and then will drop out of sight 9 seconds later. We won’t see any Iridium flares this Saturday evening but I am sure we will see a few satellites pass over as we are looking up in the sky.
~Mercury (Mag -0.1) sets about 3:30 pm and so will not be seen this Saturday evening . It is 104 million miles from Earth in constellation Sagittarius. Mercury rises about 5:30 am so can be seen just before sunrise very low in the sky.
~Venus (Mag -3.8) sets about 5:49 pm in constellation Capricornus and may be lost in the sun’s glare. It is now about 158 million miles from our planet Earth. It does rise at 7:11 am so can be easily seen in the morning but is very low on the horizon.
~Mars (Mag -1.2) is still in Constellation Cancer, in front of Leo the Lions head, and is now about 62 million miles away. Mars rises around 4:37 pm so will be visible this Saturday evening as the sun sets. Look for it’s shrinking north polar cap this month as it is tilted in Earth’s direction. You might also be able to detect the dark triangular albedo feature Syrtis Major which lies near the center of the planet. Mars reached opposition January 29th.
~Jupiter (Mag -1.9) sets about 6:55 pm in constellation Aquarius so the big planet will be seen low in the sky as the sun sets this month. It now is about 550 million miles from Earth and getting further every day. The big Red spot should be visible Saturday evening. Callisto will be the moon farthest to the west with Ganymede (the largest moon in the entire solar system) a bit closer to Jupiter. Moon Europa will be to the east of Jupiter with moon IO a bit closer.
~Saturn, (Mag 0.7) rises about 9:12 pm Saturday in constellation Virgo so will be visible at BSC Saturday evening. It is about 820 million miles away getting closer to Earth. It can be seen in the early morning sky as it does not set until 9:23 am. We will now see the northern side of the rings for the first time since 1996.
~ Uranus (Mag 5.9) will be in constellation Pisces this week so can be seen in the sky Saturday evening until it sets about 8:30 pm. It shows up as a blue-green disc in a telescope and is about 1.938 billion miles away moving farther from Earth. This planet reached opposition September 17th.
~ Neptune (Mag 8.0) will be in constellation Capricornus about 2.882 billion miles away this week slowly moving farther from Earth. It is seen as a bluish disc in a telescope but we probably will not see it this Saturday as it sets about 6:15 pm right behind the sun.
February & March are the months with the least meteor activity but we there are always some sporadic meteor flashes in the sky. You can expect to see 5 meteors an hour, at a dark sky site, from the Delta Leonid meteor shower which peaks the morning of Februaryy 24th. The radiant appears to be from the tail of Leo the Lion.
Comet 81P Wild 2 (Mag 10.0) is right in the middle of constellation Virgo so is not far from Saturn. It is about 87 million miles from Earth and has a period of 6.42 years.
Comet C/2007 Q3 (Mag 10.4) will be at the top of Bootes. It is now about 204 million miles away from Earth getting closer.
Other comets are even dimmer so would be next to impossible to find in any of our scopes.
Minor Planet 4 Vesta (Mag 6.5) is the 2nd most massive object in the asteroid belt with a diameter of just over 329 miles. It is the brightest of all the asteroids and can be found in Leo the Lion right where the lion’s heart would be. It is now about 136 million miles from Earth, getting closer & brighter and has a period of 3.63 years.
Minor Planet 3 Juno (Mag 9.5) reached opposition in September and was brighter than it had been since 2005. It is only 1/4th the diameter of Ceres yet was one of the first 4 asteroids discovered. It can be found above Cetus this month about 30 degrees from Uranus. It is about 203 million miles from Earth getting further every day and has a period of 4.36 years.
Lets look for some objects this month near Mars in constellation Cancer. In fact M44 will be only a few degrees from Mars Saturday evening and both can be seen together in binoculars.
Open Cluster M44 (Mag 3.1), known as the Beehive star cluster is found about half way along a line formed by star Pollux in Gemini and star Regulus in Leo. It is 580 light years away and spans 16 light years. This cluster contains at least 50 stars, the brightest about magnitude 6.3, that Messier observed clear back in 1769. It’s age is estimated to be 660 million years old.
Open cluster M67 (Mag 6.9), known as the King Cobra is found about 10 degrees below M44 and forms the apex of a shallow isosceles triangle between Regulus & Procyon. It is thought to be 2,700 light years away and spans 24 light years. The cluster contains about 200 stars, the brightest being magnitude 9.7 and it’s age is estimated to be 3.2 billion years old. Messier observed this object in 1780.
Don't forget to bring your gloves, coats & sweaters because it will get very cold as the sun sets and as the night approaches midnight when we close. After you set up your telescope, there are three picnic tables where you can sit and eat food you might bring, while waiting for it to get dark. Please remember to cart off all your trash as there are no garbage cans at BSC. Hope to see you there.
Your OCA star party host,