Saturday January 25th Black Star Canyon star party
By: Steve & Bonnie Short
January 22, 2014 5:05AM PDT
Views: 3169


Black Star Canyon Star Party notice - Saturday January 25th, 2014


Hello Fellow OCA club members!


This Saturday, I plan to open the gate around 4:45 pm, which is about a half hour before the sun sets. The weather report for this Saturday indicates that Orange County should be warm with humidity at 35%.  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 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.


WarningNo Pets allowed(This is an OC Parks and Nature Conservancy rule).



  The ISS (International Space Station) will not make any visible passes this Saturday evening.

  The HST (Hubble Space Telescope) will not make any visible passes this Saturday evening.

 Iridium flares: There will not be any 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 -0.9) sets about 6:30 pm in constellation Capricornus this Saturday so might be seen at the BSC star party. Mercury will be about 102 million miles from Earth.

~Venus, (Mag -4.4) will not be seen Saturday evening as it sets about 3:45 pm in constellation Scutum. Venus will be about 28 million miles from Earth, approaching 50” in diameter but will be just 10% lit. Venus rises about 5:15am so can be seen early in the morning.

~Mars, (Mag 0.4) is now in Constellation Virgo rising about 11pm so might be seen in the last hour we are open at BSC this Saturday. It is now about 104 million miles away and doesn't set until 10:30am.

~Jupiter, (Mag -2.4) will rise about 3:20pm Saturday in constellation Gemini so can be seen high in the sky this Saturday evening. It will be about 400 million miles from Earth getting a little further every day with a diameter of about 47”. At 6pm, we should see moon Ganymede east of Jupiter and then Io the same distance west of the big planet. Callisto will be more than 3 times that distance west of the big planet. Europa will not be seen as it is passing behind Jupiter but by 7pm it will become visible just to the east of the big planet and by 11pm, Europa will be next to Ganymede.

~Saturn, (Mag 1.1) will be in constellation Libra this Saturday so cannot be seen Saturday evening. It has a disk measuring 16” and can be seen late night when it rises about 1:30am. It will be about 941 million miles away Saturday.

 ~ Uranus, (Mag 5.9) will be in constellation Pisces high in the sky this Saturday evening as it rises about 10am. It shows up as a small 3.5” blue-green disc in a telescope so look for it Saturday evening. Uranus can be seen until setting about 10pm and will be about 1.903 billion miles from Earth.

~ Neptune, (Mag 8.0) is in constellation Aquarius, about 2.869 billion miles away this week slowly moving farther from Earth. It is seen as a bluish gray 2.3” disc in a telescope. We should be able to see it at BSC this Saturday evening until it sets about 7:20pm.

 ~ Pluto, (Mag 14.2) sets at 3:25pm in constellation Sagittarius so can't be seen Saturday evening. Since it rises at 5:20am, it could be seen early in the morning just before sunrise It is 3.115 billion miles from Earth and since it is so dim, you would need a 10” or larger telescope to see it visually.


The Quadrantid meteor shower peaked January 3rd and with a New Moon on the 1st, it was perfect viewing conditions. This shower was first observed in 1825 from the Brussels Observatory. It is produced by particles from asteroid 2003 EH1 instead of from a comet. At its peak, you might see over 60-120 meteors an hour that seem to radiate from a point in northern Bootes.

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 for more information.

We usually see a few stray meteors during every Saturday evening BSC star party.

Brightest visible Comets:

Magnitude 6.2 Comet C/2013 R1 Lovejoy might be seen Saturday in Ophiuchus at a point that forms a right triangle with Altair and Vega. It will be about 134 million miles from Earth and has a period of 12,744 years.

Magnitude 8.9 Comet 154P Brewington might be seen Saturday in Andromeda 10 degrees to the east of the big Square It will be about 145 million miles from Earth and has a period of 10.8 years.

Comet ISON (C/2012 S1) was a big disappointment as it broke up after rounding the Sun and is no longer visible.

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 evening observing.

The brightest asteroid this month is Minor Planet 4 Vesta (Mag 7.4), the 2nd most massive object in the asteroid belt, can be found in constellation Virgo this month 10 degrees above bright star Spica. Vesta has a diameter of about 330 miles and was discovered in 1807. It is about 183 million miles from Earth at this time and has an orbit period of 3.63 years. It will be visible at the BSC star party about 11pm. NASA’s Dawn spacecraft was in orbit around this asteroid and sent back stunning close-up pictures.


Minor Planet 2 Pallas (Mag 7.5), 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 Hydra this month. This asteroid has a diameter of about 338 miles. 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 128 million miles from Earth at this time and has an orbit period of 4.62 years. It will become visible around 9pm so might be seen at the BSC star party.

Minor Planet 1 Ceres (Mag 8.4) 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 ahead of Vesta about half way from Spica to Arcturus. It is about 217 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 around 11pm so might be seen at the BSC star party. This asteroid will be the next stop for the Dawn spacecraft.


Deep Sky:

This month let’s consider looking at some neat multiple star systems:

y Andromedae is an attractive double star consisting of a bright orange star with a mag 5 blue companion. All that is needed is a 3” or larger scope to split these stars that are separated by 9.8” (seconds). The stars called Almach AB are the third star in the first Andromeda strand starting from Alpheratz. This double is 355 light years from Earth and the stars are 1,065 AU distance apart with a rotation period of 61.1 years. The secondary is itself a double, both blue in color and separated by just .4”. The stars are each 1,179, 56 & 27 times brighter than our sun.

y Arietis is a pair of magnitude 4.8 bluish-white stars that appear to form a true system separated by 7.8”, although the relative motion of the stars is very small. Very little change has been noted in the last 350 years. The stars are 36 times brighter than our sun. There is a third component of this set of stars that is not gravitationally bound to the AB components. It is much fainter at magnitude 9.6 and is separated by 221”. This star system is found just a few degrees west of Aries Beta star.

n Cassiopeiae is a gorgeous double star consisting of contrasting colors. The colors are most often seen as gold and purple or yellow and red. The primary star is magnitude 3.4 while the secondary is a magnitude 7.5 M class dwarf. The two stars orbit each other every 480 years. The stars are just 19 light years from Earth and are 76 AU distance apart. This double star is found about half way between alpha star Shedir and the Gamma star.

I have given you the double star separations in arc seconds (“) but you can use an astrometric eyepiece to check the separation distance yourself. These eyepieces have a laser etched reticle with a ruler graduated at 100 micron intervals that can be used to measure distance. They have a battery powered variable illuminated system so the ruler scale can be easily seen.

Before an accurate measurement can be made, you must calibrate the linear scale to determine the number of arc seconds per division. This is done by using a stop watch to time how long it takes for a star to pass from one end of the scale to the other. To convert to arcseconds, multiply the time by 15.0411 Cos Y, where Y = the star's declination. Then divide by the number of divisions in the scale.


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,


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