Black Star Canyon star party Saturday 02/28/09

Posted On February 25, 2009

Hello Fellow OCA club members!
This Saturday I plan to open the gate at 5:15 pm, about a half hour before the sun sets. Today’s weather report for this Saturday indicates it will be cloudy, but they said tonight would be cloudy also, and it is clear with no clouds. We had a New Moon tonight so there will just be a sliver of  the Moon Saturday night giving us a nice dark sky for observing dim objects.  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. 


There will be no visible evening passes of the ISS (International Space Station), the HST (Hubble Space Telescope) or any Iridium flares this Saturday. Did you hear about Iridium Satellite 33 crashing into Russion satellite Kosmos 2251 at over 26,000 MPH February 10th over Siberia. This happened about 600 miles up so the debris does not create an immediate danger for the ISS.


~Mercury (Mag -0.0) sets about 3:50 PM so will not be seen this Saturday evening. It is 106 million miles from Earth in constellation Capricornus.It can be seen in the early morning as it rises about 5:20 AM.

 ~Venus (Mag -4.5) sets about 8:40 PM, in constellation Pisces and is very bright and easily seen shortly before sunset. It is about 25% lit so looks like a cresent moon in a telescope and now is about 37 million miles from Earth.

~Mars (Mag 1.2) is in Constellation Capricornus and now is about 213 million miles away.  Mars sets about 4 PM so will not be seen this Saturday evening. It rises at 5:30 AM so can be seen low on the horizon 30 minutes before sunrise.

~Jupiter (Mag -1.8) sets about 3:45 PM in constellation Capricornus and now is about 556 million miles away. It rises about 5:15 AM so can be seen just before dawn but we won’t see the big planet Saturday evening.

 ~Saturn, (Mag 0.6) rises at 6:30 PM so is up early in the evening sky this month. It is about 783 million miles from Earth and is about 6 degrees below the hind end of Leo the Lion. The rings will widen slightly the next few months and then reverse course tilting edge-on by late summer. The moons also orbit edge-on so are seen more in line now and Titan should be far from Saturn on Saturday.

~ Uranus (Mag 5.9) will set quickly by 7 PM in constellation Aquarius this week. It shows up as a blue-green disc in a telescope.A noteworthy event happens this Friday when the planet reaches aphelion (the farthest from the sun, about 1.868 billion miles) for the 1st time in 84 years.

~ Neptune (Mag 8.0) will be up in constellation Capricornus about 2.883 billion miles away this week. It is seen as a bluish disc in a telescope but we will not see it this Saturday as it sets about 4:45 PM.




Comet C/2007 N3 Lulin (Mag 6.1) passed near Saturn tonight and should be close to brightest Leo star Regulus Saturday evening.This will be our only chance to see this comet as it will not pass this way again.

Another dimmer Comet 85P/Boethin (Mag 10) passed through M45 (The Pleiades) tonight heading high above Orion the Hunter’s head so we should be able to spot it Saturday evening.

Minor Planet 1 Ceres (Mag 6.9) is floating just above the rear back of Leo the Lion. This asteroid has a period of 4.6 years and is about 147 million miles away. 


Deep Sky:

Maybe you might want to find some double stars on Orion’s belt Saturday evening. The three blue-white bright (Mag 2) belt stars, from left to right are Alnitak, Alnilam & Mantika.


Look at 2.4 magnitude Delta star Mantika and it has a 6.8 magnitude companion about 53 arcseconds to the north. A small 4″ scope at 30X power should split this double.  


Now look at 1.9 magnitude Zeta star Alnitak which has an 8.5 magnitude companion about 1 arcminute to the north. You will probably need an eyepiece with 50X power to split this double. Using 200X you might be able to see the 3.7 magnitude orange-yellow companion that is just 2.6 arcseconds to the SSE.


Don’t forget to bring your gloves, coats & sweaters because it may get very cold 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,