Saturday 03/02/2013 Black Star Canyon star party

Posted On February 27, 2013

BSC Star Party notice – Saturday March 2nd, 2013


Hello Fellow OCA club members!


This Saturday, I plan to open the gate around 5:15 pm, which is about a half hour before the sun sets. The weather report for this Saturday indicates that Orange County will be partly cloudy with humidity at 15%.  So with all the bad weather we have had lately, you might want to keep an eye on the OCA website “Home” page (below the next speaker info) where I will post a notice should the star party be cancelled for any reason.


We should have fairly dark skies as it is just 2 days before the 3rd quarter Moon which doesn’t rise until late. 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 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.


Warning:  No 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 also not make any visible evening passes.

  We won’t get to see any Iridium flares Saturday evening at BSC but I am sure we will see a few dim satellites pass overhead as we are looking up in the sky.


Planets & Pluto:

~Mercury, (Mag 2.3) sets at about 6:30 pm in constellation Pisces so might be seen briefly at BSC. Mercury will be about 66 million miles from Earth Saturday and on March 4th, goes through inferior conjunction with the sun.

~Venus, (Mag -3.8) will not be seen Saturday evening as it sets about 5 pm in constellation Aquarius. Venus is now about 158 million miles from Earth and is too close to the Sun to be seen in March.

~Mars, (Mag 1.2) is now in Constellation Aquarius, so is too close to the Suns glare to be seen this month. It rises at 7 am and sets at 6:30 pm and is about 218 million miles away right now.

~Jupiter, (Mag -21) will rise at 10:50 am Saturday in constellation Taurus and will not set until almost 1 am. Jupiter can be seen Saturday evening midway between 1st magnitude star Aldebaran and the Pleiades star cluster (M45). It now is about 465 million miles from Earth getting a little further every day with a diameter of about 39″.  All the Galilean moons will start off close to Jupiter except Callisto which will be far to the east. Just east of Jupiter will be moon Europa and then largest moon Ganymede will be just west of Jupiter followed by moon Io just a planet width’s west.

 ~Saturn, (Mag 0.9) will be in constellation Libra this Saturday and might be seen briefly Saturday evening as it doesn’t rise until 10:45pm. This planet is about 868 million miles away slowly moving closer to Earth. Saturn doesn’t set until 9:30 am.

~ Uranus, (Mag 5.9) will be in constellation Pisces this Saturday evening setting about 8 pm. It shows up as a small 3.6″ blue-green disc in a telescope. This planet reached opposition last year on September 29th, when it was opposite the Sun in our sky. It is about 1.945 billion miles away from Earth.

~ Neptune, (Mag 8.0) is in constellation Aquarius, about 2.881 billion miles away this week slowly moving farther from Earth. It is seen as a bluish gray 2.3″ disc in a telescope. We will not be able to see it at BSC this Saturday evening as it sets about 5:15 pm.

 ~ Pluto, (Mag 14.1) does not rise until just after 3 am so can not be seen Saturday evening.  It is 3.062 billion miles from Earth in constellation Sagittarius. Since it is so dim, you will need a 10″ or larger telescope to see it visually when it does rise.



There are no major meteor showers in March but we usually see a few stray meteors during a Saturday evening BSC star party.

Brightest visible Comets:

This month all the hype is about Comet C/2011 L4 (PANSTARRS) which reaches perihelion (its closest point to the Sun) March 9th when it is just 28 million miles from the Sun. It would shine brightest then with predictions of magnitude 0 or -1. It likely won’t be easy to spot until a few days later a half hour after sunset due west. The March 2013 Astronomy magazine shows this comet’s path on page 62.


The magnitude 13.9 Comet C/2010 S1 Linear might be seen after sunset Saturday in constellation Cygnus using a 10″ or bigger telescope.  Look for it near the tip of the Swan’s right wing. It is about 614 million miles from Earth at this time.



Brightest visible asteroids:


Bright asteroids Ceres and Vesta are in Taurus the Bull this month so can be seen Saturday evening.


Minor Planet 4 Vesta (Mag 7.9), the 2nd most massive object in the asteroid belt, can be found in constellation Taurus, about 6 degrees northeast of bright star Aldebaran.  Vesta has a diameter of about 330 miles and was discovered in 1807. It is about 212 million miles from Earth at this time and has an orbit period of 3.63 years. It will become visible shortly after sunset so might be seen at the BSC star party. NASA’s Dawn spacecraft was in orbit around this asteroid and sent back stunning close-up pictures.


Minor Planet 1 Ceres (Mag 8.3) is the biggest object in the asteroid belt with a diameter of about 590 miles. It is in constellation Taurus and can be found about 1 degree southwest of the 2nd magnitude beta Tauri star that marks the Bull’s northern horn. It is about 207 million miles from Earth and has a period of 4.61 years. It was discovered in 1801 and for 50 years was classified as the 8th planet. It will be visible Saturday evening shortly after sunset so might be seen at the BSC star party. But don’t expect to see anything more than a small dot. This asteroid will be the next stop for the Dawn spacecraft.




Deep Sky:

This month is Messier Marathon season, so let’s consider looking at some of the springs best Messier objects for small scopes:


M44 is a magnitude 3.1 open star cluster, known as the “Beehive Cluster” as it looks like a swarm of bees. It is in constellation Cancer and is about 580 light years away and spans 16 light years. You can find it about half way between bright stars Regulus and Pollux. It contains about 50 stars, the brightest shining at a magnitude 6.3. Its age is estimated to be 660 million years old. Messier observed this object in 1769 and logged it on March 4th.


M40 is a magnitudes 9.6 & 10.1 double stars, distance unknown that are widely separated by almost 1 degree (52″). You can find it in constellation Ursa Major about 1.4 degrees northeast of magnitude 3.3 dipper star Megrez. The primary star appears light yellow while the secondary star is bright yellow, almost pale orange. Messier observed this object in 1764 and logged it October 24th.


M3 is a magnitude 6.2 globular star cluster about 35,000 light years away that is 165 light years in diameter. You can find it in constellation Canes Venatici half way between Arcturus and bright “corner” star alpha Canes Venataci. It contains about 50,000 stars and its age is estimated to be 6.5 billion years. Messier observed this object in 1764 and logged it May 3rd.