Black Star Canyon Star Party notice - Saturday May 24th, 2014
Hello Fellow OCA club members!
This Saturday, I plan to open the gate around 7:30 pm, which is about a half hour before the sun sets. The weather report for this Saturday indicates that Orange County should be partly cloudy with mild temperatures. But please keep an eye on the OCA website “Home” page (below the next speaker info) where we will post a notice should the star party be canceled for any reason.
We should have fairly dark skies as the 3rd quarter Moon will not rise until well after midnight. First time visitors might want to get to the star party site 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 (the 1st farm gate is the Xmas Tree farm). If you come in after dark, you should drive in with your headlights off!!! The dirt road may 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.
Try to park two cars in each slanted slot between the rock turning circles so we can get 20 cars into that area. I will help guide the first cars into the slots and then expect that others will follow that pattern. The first car in each slot must stay back, about a foot, from the road that leads out of the parking area so cars that leave early with headlights off will not accidentally bump into parked cars.
Warning: No Pets allowed! (This is an OC Parks and Nature Conservancy rule).
The ISS (International Space Station) will not make any visible passes Saturday evening.
The X-37B (Air Force Boeing space plane) will not make any visible passes this Saturday evening.
The HST (Hubble Space Telescope) will will not make any visible passes this Saturday evening.
Iridium flares: There will be one magnitude -8.5 visible Iridium Flare this Saturday evening nearly due east (92 degrees), 65 degrees high at 8:29:49 pm from Iridium satellite 76.
I am sure we will also see a number of satellites pass over in the early evening.
Planets & Pluto:
~Mercury, (Mag 0.4) sets about 9:30 pm in constellation Taurus this Saturday so can be seen at the BSC star party. Mercury will be about 78 million miles from Earth and will be 23 degrees east of the Sun, it's maximum elongation peak during this evening appearance.
~Venus, (Mag -3.9) will not be seen Saturday evening as it sets about 4:30 pm in constellation Pisces. Venus rises about 4 am so can be seen a few hours before sunrise. Venus will be about108 million miles from Earth, dropping to about a 15” in diameter but will be 75% lit.
~Mars, (Mag -0.6) is now in Constellation Virgo rising about 3:30 pm so can be seen at BSC this Saturday evening. It is now about 67 million miles away with a disk size of about 12 degrees and doesn't set until 3 am. So we can hope to get a final glimpse of the white northern ice cap and other detail now that Mars is fairly close to Earth once again, after 2 years.
~Jupiter, (Mag -1.7) will rise about 9 am Saturday in constellation Gemini so can be seen high in the sky this Saturday evening until it sets about 11 pm. It will be about 550 million miles from Earth getting a little further every day with a diameter of about 34”. At 8:30 pm, we should see moon Ganymede far east of Jupiter and then Io just west of the big planet. Farther to the west of Jupiter we will see moon Callisto and then Europa.
~Saturn, (Mag 0.8) will be in constellation Libra this Saturday so can be seen Saturday evening as it rises about 6:30 pm. It has a disk measuring 18” with rings spanning 42” and tilting 22 degrees. Saturn can be seen most all night after it rises (as does not set until 5 am). It will be about 831 million miles away Saturday. When Saturn becomes visible around 8:30 pm, we should be able to see some of it's brightest moons starting with brightest moon Titan east and far below Jupiter. About a planet's width to the east will be moon Enceladus then Tethys and Dione. Far to the west will be moon Rhea.
~ Uranus, (Mag 5.9) will be in constellation Pisces this Saturday evening setting about 4 pm so we will not see it at the BSC star party. It shows up as a small 3.5” blue-green disc in a telescope so look for it early Saturday morning after it rises just about 3:30 am. Uranus will be about 1.925 billion miles from Earth this Saturday.
~ Neptune, (Mag 7.9) is in constellation Aquarius, about 2.795 billion miles away this week slowly moving closer to Earth. It is seen as a bluish gray 2.3” disc in a telescope but we won't be able to see it at BSC this Saturday evening as it sets just about 1 pm. It could be seen in the early morning before sunset as it rises about 1:45 am.
~ Pluto, (Mag 14.1) rises about 10:30 pm in constellation Sagittarius so might be seen Saturday evening. Since it does not set until 8:40 am, it could be seen until sunrise It is about 3 billion miles from Earth and since it is so dim, you would need a 10” or larger telescope to see it visually.
There is a new meteor shower this year predicted as Earth passes through Comet 209P/LINEAR debris field just 5 days after the comet went by. It will peak May24th with up to 100 meteors/hour. These meteors would be called Camelopardids and the radiant would be just a few degrees from Polaris. We usually see a few stray meteors during every Saturday evening BSC star party.
If you ever wanted to do some real scientific meteor counting, the International Meteor Organization (IMO) always needs more observers. You will need to follow the IMO's standards so your counts will be meaningful. See www.imo.net/visual for more information.
Brightest visible Comets:
All the comets in the sky are very dim this month with the brightest, C/2014 E2 Jacques, a magnitude 12.5 in Aquarius according to the website, Heavens-above.
Page 50 of the May Sky & Telescope Magazine shows the path comet Panstarrs C/2012 K1 is following this month and predicts that it will be a 7th or 8th magnitude object south of the Big Dipper “Bowl”. But Heavens-above shows this comet with a magnitude 13.9 so doubt that we can see this object at the star party. It will be about 2 bowl depths under the Big Dipper Saturday evening and about 150 million miles from Earth.
Brightest visible asteroids:
Finding an asteroid at the BSC star party this month will be very challenging as they are dim and not well positioned for early evening observing. The February Sky & Telescope Magazine, on pages 50-51 shows the circular paths that Vesta and Ceres will be taking in 2014 through July 2nd. Note that they will be only about 2 1/2 degrees apart Saturday evening in constellation Virgo. But on July 1st, these asteroids will be less than ½ degree apart. The circular paths are between Spica and Arcturus, closer to Spica than Arcturus.
The brightest asteroid this month is Minor Planet 4 Vesta (Mag 6.4), the 2nd most massive object in the asteroid belt. It can be found in constellation Virgo this month 10 degrees above and 3 degrees to the right of bright star Spica. Vesta has a diameter of about 330 miles and was discovered in 1807. It is about 130 million miles from Earth at this time and has an orbit period of 3.63 years. It should be visible at the BSC star party at sunset. NASA’s Dawn spacecraft was in orbit around this asteroid and sent back stunning close-up pictures.
Minor Planet 1 Ceres (Mag 7.7) is the biggest object in the asteroid belt with a diameter of about 590 miles. It is in constellation Virgo and can be found just 3 degrees ahead of Vesta and 10 degrees directly above Spica. It is about 172 million miles from Earth now and has a period of 4.61 years. It was discovered in 1801 and for 50 years was classified as the 8th planet. But don’t expect to see anything more than a small dot. It will be visible Saturday evening at sunset so might be seen at the BSC star party. This asteroid will be the next stop for the Dawn spacecraft.
Minor Planet 2 Pallas (Mag 8.8), is the second asteroid to have been discovered (after Ceres), and one of the largest in the Solar System. It can be found in constellation Leo this month about 5 degrees east from Leo's brightest star Regulus. This asteroid has a diameter of about 338 miles and is about 192 million miles from Earth.. When Pallas was discovered by astronomer Heinrich Wilhelm Matthaus Olbers on March 28, 1802, it was counted as a planet, as were other asteroids in the early 19th century. The discovery of many more asteroids after 1845 eventually led to their re-classification. It is about 130 million miles from Earth at this time and has an orbit period of 4.62 years. It will become visible at sunset so might be seen at the BSC star party.
This month let’s consider looking at some open clusters in Cancer and below:
M44 is a magnitude 3.1 open star cluster, known as the “Beehive Cluster” as it looks like a swarm of bees. It is in constellation Cancer, is about 580 light years away and spans 16 light years. You can find it about half way between bright stars Regulus and Pollux. It contains about 50 stars, the brightest shining at a magnitude 6.3. Its age is estimated to be 660 million years old. Messier observed this object in 1769 and logged it on March 4th.
M67 is a magnitude 6.9 open star cluster, known as the “King Cobra” as it looks a little like a coiled cobra. It is in constellation Cancer, is about 2,700 light years away and spans 24 light years. You can find it about half way between bright stars Regulus and Procyon. It contains about 200 stars, the brightest shining at a magnitude 9.7. Its age is estimated to be 3.2 billion years old. Messier observed this object in 1780 and logged it on April 6th.
M48 is a magnitude 5.8 open star cluster in constellation Hydra, about 1,500 light years away and spans 24 light years. You can find it about half way between bright stars Procyon and Alphard of Hydra as it forms the apex of an isosceles triangle. It contains about 80 stars, the brightest shining at a magnitude 8.2. Its age is estimated to be 300 million years old. Messier observed this object in 1771 and logged it on February 19th.
Don't forget to bring your gloves, coats & sweaters as it can get cold after the sun sets and even colder 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 the sky to get dark. Please remember to cart off all your trash as there are no garbage cans at BSC. There is also one portable restroom on site should nature call.
Hope to see you there.
Your OCA star party host,