Black Star Canyon Star Party notice - Saturday February 14th, 2015
Hello Fellow OCA club members!
This Saturday, I plan to open the gate around 5 pm, which is about a half hour before the sun sets. The weather report for this Saturday indicates that Orange County should be warm, have partly cloudy skies and humidity near 25%. 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 3rd quarter moon dark skies as the New Moon occurs February18th. 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 as it has landed.
The HST (Hubble Space Telescope) will not make any visible passes Saturday evening.
Iridium flares: There will be no visible Iridium Flares this Saturday evening but I am sure we will see a number of satellites pass over in the early evening.
Planets & Pluto:
~Mercury, (Mag 0.6) sets about 3:30 pm in constellation Capricornus this Saturday so will not be seen at the BSC star party. Mercury will be about 75 million miles from Earth and rises about 5:15 am so might be seen a few hours before sunrise, but very low in the horizon.
~Venus, (Mag -3.9) must be seen early Saturday evening as it sets about 7:30 pm in constellation Aquarius. Venus will be about 135 million miles from Earth with a disc size of 11.8” and 88% lit.
~Mars, (Mag 1.2) will be in Constellation Pisces about 20 degrees high an hour after sunset so might be seen at BSC this Saturday evening in the southwestern sky. It will be about 200 million miles away with a disk size of about 4.2” (but don't expect to see any detail). Mars sets just before 8 pm so better view it early.
~Jupiter, (Mag -2.3) will rise before 5 pm Saturday in constellation Cancer so can be seen Saturday evening. It will be about 406 million miles from Earth getting a little closer every day with a diameter of about 45”. It can be seen all night as does not set until 6:15 am. At 6:30 pm we should see moon Ganymede far to the East of Jupiter while moons Europa & Io will be grouped together about a planet width to the West. Moon Callisto will be far west of Jupiter.
~Saturn, (Mag 1.2) will be in constellation Scorpius this Saturday so will not be seen Saturday evening as it does not rise until after 1 am. It has a disk measuring 16” with rings spanning 36” and tilting 25 degrees. Saturn will be about 935 million miles away Saturday.
~ Uranus, (Mag 5.9) will be in constellation Pisces this Saturday evening setting about 9:15 pm so we should see it at the BSC star party when it gets dark. It shows up as a small 3.4” blue-green disc in a telescope. Uranus will be about 1.921 billion miles from Earth this Saturday.
~ Neptune, (Mag 8.0) is in constellation Aquarius, about 2.878 billion miles away this week slowly moving farther from Earth. It is seen as a bluish gray 2.3” disc in a telescope and we might be able to see it at BSC this Saturday evening early as it set about 6:20 pm.
~ Pluto, (Mag 14.2) sets about 2:15 pm in constellation Sagittarius so will not be seen Saturday evening. It is about 3.120 billion miles from Earth, rises about 4:15 am and is so dim, you would need a 10” or larger telescope to see it visually.
There are no major meteor showers in February. But we always see a few stray meteors during every 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 again this month except for the one everybody is still talking about, Comet Lovejoy.
Comet C/2014 Q2 Lovejoy is a magnitude 5.0 (according to the Heavens-Above website) and will be 98 million miles from Earth Saturday in constellation Andromeda. It can be seen about 2 degrees South of M76. The path it is taking in February is shown on page 42 of the February Astronomy Magazine.
This comet was discovered on August 17th, 2014 by amateur astronomer Terry Lovejoy from Brisbane, Australia, his 5th discovery. It looks to have a period of 14,234 years.
Brightest visible asteroids:
Finding an asteroid at the BSC star party is always very challenging as they are dim and are just small dots.
The brightest asteroid this month again is Minor Planet 4 Vesta (Mag 7.9), the 2nd most massive object in the asteroid belt. It would be found in constellation Capricornus this month along the Ecliptic between the Sun & Mercury. Vesta has a diameter of about 330 miles and was discovered in 1807. It is about 292 million miles from Earth at this time and has an orbit period of 3.63 years. It will not be visible Saturday evening as is too close to the Sun. NASA’s Dawn spacecraft was in orbit around this asteroid and sent back stunning close-up pictures.
Minor Planet 3 Juno (Mag 8.4) is another big object in the asteroid belt with a diameter of about 170 miles. It will be in constellation Hydra below the Ecliptic about 20 degrees east of Procyon. Juno will be about 98 million miles from Earth Saturday and has a period of 4.36 years. It was discovered September 1, 1804 by German astronomer Karl Harding. But don’t expect to see anything more than a small dot. It will be visible Saturday evening and the path it is taking is shown in the February18th Astronomy Magazine on page 43.
Minor Planet 1 Ceres (Mag 9.2) is the biggest object in the asteroid belt with a diameter of about 590 miles. It is in constellation Sagittarius just below the Ecliptic and just above the Teapot “handle”. It will be about 328 million miles from Earth Saturday 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 not be visible Saturday evening as is too close to the Sun. This asteroid will be the next stop for the Dawn spacecraft in 2015.
This month let’s consider looking at some Messier Open Star Clusters near brightest star Sirius:
M41, the Little Beehive, is a magnitude 4.5 open star cluster about 2,300 light years away that spans 20 light years. You can find it just a few degrees below (south) of Sirius. It contains about 100 stars, the brightest shining at a magnitude 6.9, is orange in color and located at the center. Its age is estimated to be 190 million years old. Messier observed this object in 1765 and logged it on January 16. But Aristotle recorded his naked eye observation of this object as a “cloudy spot” back in 325 BC.
M46 is a magnitude 6.1 open star cluster about 5,400 light years away that spans 42 light years. You can find it in constellation Puppis about 10 degrees due east of Sirius. It contains about 100 stars, the brightest shining at a magnitude 8.7. Its age is estimated to be 300 million years old. Messier observed this object in 1771 and logged it February 19th.
M47 is a magnitude 4.4 open star cluster about 1,800 light years away that spans 16 light years. You can find it in constellation Puppis just 9 degree east of brightest star Sirius. It contains about 30 stars with the brightest shining at magnitude 5.7. Its age is estimated to be 78 million years. Messier observed this object in 1771 and logged it 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,