BSC star party Saturday Oct 10th

Posted On October 7, 2009

BSC – Saturday 10 October 2009

Hello Fellow OCA club members!

This Saturday I plan to open the gate at 6 pm, about a half hour before the sun sets. The weather report for this Saturday indicates that Black Star Canyon will have a clear night. The 3rd Quarter Moon will not rise until about midnight giving us dark skies. 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 evening ISS (International Space Station), HST (Hubble Space Telescope) or Iridium flares this Saturday. But I am sure we will see a few satellites pass over as we are looking up in the sky. However, early Thursday morning (010/09) around 4:30 am (PDT), the LCROSS probe will smack into a moon crater near the South pole in NASA’s search for water on this desolate solar body.


~Mercury (Mag -0.5) sets about 5:45 pm so will not be seen this Saturday evening. It is 92.5 million miles from Earth in constellation Virgo. Mercury rises about 5:30 am so can best be seen just before sunrise this month,

~Venus (Mag -3.8) rises about 5 am, in constellation Leo and is very bright and easily seen before sunrise. It is about 90% illuminated so looks like the moon in a telescope. Venus is getting further from Earth and will be about 140 million miles away on Saturday. Venus will not be visible Saturday evening as it sets about 5:30 pm.

~Mars (Mag 0.7) is now in Constellation Gemini traveling eastward getting closer to Earth and is now about 127 million miles away. Mars sets about 2:45 pm and doesn’t rise until around midnight so will not be seen this Saturday evening at BSC.

~Jupiter (Mag -2.5) rises about 4 pm in constellation Capricornus so the big planet will stand high in the sky as the sun sets. It now is about 410 million miles from Earth and getting further every day. Ganymede (the largest moon in the entire solar system) will be the lone moon to the west while moons Io, Europa, & Callisto will be to the east of Jupiter in that order. Io will be passing in front of Jupiter so may be hard to see.

~Saturn, (Mag 1.1) sets about 5:50 pm Saturday in constellation Virgo so will be washed out by the sun. It is about 967 million miles away getting further from Earth. It can be seen in the morning sky as it rises about 5:30 am but you might as well wait until the end of October to view this planet. Then we will see the northern side of the rings for the first time since 1996.

~ Uranus (Mag 5.7) will rise about 5:30 pm in constellation Pisces this week so can be seen Saturday evening. It shows up as a blue-green disc in a telescope and is about 1.782 billion miles away inching farther from Earth. This planet reached opposition September 17th.

~ Neptune (Mag 7.9) will be in constellation Capricornus about 2.732 billion miles away this week slowly moving farther from Earth. It is seen as a bluish disc in a telescope and we should see it this Saturday as it rises about 4 pm. It will be just a few degrees behind Jupiter along the Ecliptic.


Later this month on the 21st just before dawn you can expect to see 30 meteors an hour from the Orionid meteor shower. The radiant is just above Orion the Hunter and the meteors are from tiny dust particles from Comet Halley’s many passes through the Earth’s orbit. These small particles hit our atmosphere at 41 miles per creating pretty streaks in the sky.

Comet 22P Kopff (Mag 11.3) will be just 10 degrees east of the Ecliptic in Aquarius half way between Jupiter and Uranus. It is now about 108 million miles away slowly getting further from Earth and has a period of 6.44 years.

Comet C/2008 02 McNaught (Mag 7.9) has moved from Cassiopeia to Cepheus and is 10 degrees east of Polaris. You might want to scan that area with your scope this Saturday evening. It is about 82 million miles away from Earth getting ever closer.


Minor Planet 1 Ceres (Mag 8.8), the very first asteroid ever discovered, is now floating near Virgo. It will be impossible to see due to being about 10 degrees from the setting sun. This asteroid has a period of 4.6 years and is about 321 million miles away. It was discovered back in 1801 and is the largest asteroid we have found, having a diameter of 580 miles.

Minor Planet 3 Juno (Mag 8.0) reached opposition in September and is brighter than it has been since 2005. It is only 1/4th the diameter of Ceres yet was one of the first 4 asteroids discovered. It can be found in Aquarius this month about 3 degrees west from the Cetus Circlet asterism. It is only about 112 million miles from Earth.

Minor Planet 89 Julia (Mag 9.5) has moved up the main Andromeda strand and is just a few degrees NW of the Pegasus corner star. It has a period of 4.07 years and is now about 108 million miles from Earth getting closer.

Deep Sky:

Lets look for some objects this month in Aquarius between Jupiter and Uranus.

Globular cluster M72 (Mag 9.3) in Aquarius approximately forms a right triangle with stars Theta Capricorni and Dabib. It is thought to be 55,000 light years away and as a diameter of 96 light years. M72 is one of the faintest Messier objects so is a challenge to see. Messier observed this object in 1780.

Open cluster M75 (Mag 10.5) is an asterism of four stars that form a small equilateral triangle. It is only about a degree east of M72. Messier observed this object back in 1784.

The Saturn Nebula NGC7009 (Mag 8) is a fuzzy patch hanging in space about 4,000 light years away. It gets its name from looking like a ring with knobs on either side. This object is just a little over 1 degree to the east of M73

Globular cluster M2 (Mag 6.5) can be found fairly easy as it forms the right angle of a triangle with the two brightest stars in Aquarius, Alpha & Beta Aquarii. It is 40,000 light years away and has a diameter of 151 light years. This jewel is bright and stands out when you come across it. Messier observed this object in 1760.

Then far below alpha Aquarii is the Helix Nebula NGC7293) which is a bit hard to find even though it is the largest visible planetary in the night sky (about half the apparent diameter of the full moon) as it is very dim.

Don’t forget to bring your gloves, coats & sweaters because it will probably get cold (summer is over) 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,