BSC star party Saturday May 31st 2008

Posted On May 27, 2008

Hello Fellow OCA club members!
This Saturday I plan to open the gate at 7:30 pm, about a half hour before the sun sets at around 8 PM. Today’s weather report looks like this Saturday will be warm & clear and the 3rd quarter moon will not rise before midnight. 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. 
No visible ISS (International Space Station) passes will take place this Saturday evening but the 3.8 magnitude HST (Hubble Space Telescope) will fly over at
9:50:43 PM starting at 10 degrees SW rising to 14 degrees SSW at 09:52:33 PM where it will slip out of sight. We will also get to see a very bright Iridium flare at 10:38:18 PM WSW (255 degrees) at 12 degrees altitude starting off at a Mag -1 and flaring to -6 from satellite Iridium 25.

Reddish Mars (Mag 1.4) continues to dim as it now is over 172 million miles away in constellation Cancer.  It is best seen early in the evening before it falls into the city light sky glow and sets just after midnight. Saturn (Mag 0.7) is about 865 million miles from Earth and still moving along the body of Leo the Lion, getting farther from bright star Regulus (Mag 1.35). The rings are magnificent and this Saturday brightest moon Titan (Mag 8.3) will be far off to the west of Saturn while the other four biggest moons, Rhea (Mag 9.6), Dione (Mag 10.3), Tethys (Mag 10.2) and Enceladus (Mag 11.7) will all be just to the east of Saturn. Mercury has faded so much that it is too dim to be seen in the last week of May. Jupiter (Mag -2.4) rises about 11 PM in constellation Sagittarius getting closer to Earth and now about 413 million miles away. If we can spot Jupitor before midnight, we should see moons Ganymede & Europa to the East of Jupitor and to the west will be moons IO and farthest away wll be Calisto. Venus (Mag -3.8), Uranus (Mag 5.9) and Neptune (Mag 7.9) can only be seen in the morning sky right now.

This month, if you have a 10′ scope, you might want to try and locate Comet C/2006 Q1 McNaught gliding through Hydra more than 200 million miles from Earth. It is a dim 11th magnitude fuzzball which passed near NGC3091 May 16th and will be about 5 degrees north of NGC3242 Saturday evening. Another challenge would be locating Asteroid Iris (Mag 10) which passed by M104 (The Sombrero Galaxy) May 6th and will be about 3 degrees northwest of M104 this Saturday very near bluish-white star Spica.


For deep sky objects, lets consider finding some globular clusters while the moon isn’t up. M3 (Mag 6.2) is one of the brightest and biggest globular in the sky containing about 50,000 stars spread over a 165 light year diameter. It is 35,000 light years away and is estimated to be 6.5 billion years old. You will find it half way between bright star Arcturus and bright “corner” star Canes Venatici.


Near M3 is globular cluster M53 (Mag 7.6) in the Coma Berenices constellation which is 220 light years in diameter. It is 60,000 light years away and was observed by Charles Messier back in 1779. M53 is slightly smaller and fainter than M3, otherwise they are very similar in appearance. If you can find M3, then M53 will make an equilateral triangle with star Arcturus. M53 is along a straight line between Arcturus and Leo the Lion’s tail star Denebola. 


Don’t forget to bring your gloves, coats & sweaters because it will get cold as the night gets later.   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,