Saturday 05/04/2013 Black Star Canyon star party

Posted On May 1, 2013

BSC Star Party notice - Saturday May 4th, 2013


Hello Fellow OCA club members!


This Saturday, I plan to open the gate around 7 pm, which is about a half hour before the sun sets. The weather report for this Saturday indicates that Orange County will be sunny with humidity at 25%.  But please 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. With all the heat, there is concern about fire danger.


We should have fairly dark skies as the 3rd quarter Moon doesn't rise until late (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 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 passes this Saturday evening.

   But the N. Korean satellite will make two visible passes this Saturday evening. The first pass will be a magnitude ?? starting at 8:46:47 pm 24 degrees high ESE rising to 32 degrees ENE at 8:48:06 and then dropping to 10 degrees N at 8:51:22. The second pass will be a magnitude ?? starting at 10:22:13 pm 11 degrees high W staying at 11 degrees W at 10:22:40 and then dropping to 10 degrees high WNW at 10:23:49 pm where it will fade out of sight.


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


Planets & Pluto:

~Mercury, (Mag -0.8) sets about 6:30 pm in constellation Pisces so will not be seen at the BSC star party. Mercury will be about 120 million miles from Earth Saturday and could be seen early mornings after it rises about 5:30 am.

~Venus, (Mag -3.7) might be seen Saturday evening just before it sets about 8:10 pm in constellation Aries. Venus is now about 160 million miles from Earth, is approaching 10" in diameter and is near fully lit.

~Mars, (Mag 1.4) is now in Constellation Aries, so is too close to the Suns glare to be seen this month. It rises at 6 am, sets at 7:15 pm and is about 228 million miles away right now.

~Jupiter, (Mag -1.9) will rise about 8:15 am Saturday in constellation Taurus and will not set until 10:20 pm. Jupiter lies smack inside the Taurus Bull "V" and is the brightest object in the sky. It now is about 546 million miles from Earth getting a little further every day with a diameter of about 32". When it gets dark Saturday evening, moon Callisto will be west of Jupiter while Europa and Ganymede will be east of the big planet. Moon Io will be transiting in front Jupiter but after about 3 hours, will pop out to the west of the planet.

~Saturn, (Mag 0.7) will be in constellation Libra this Saturday so can be seen   Saturday evening after it rises about 7:10pm. This planet is about 820 million miles away slowly moving closer to Earth. Saturn doesn't set until 6:10 am. The 5 major moons should be visible starting off with Titan, far east of the planet followed by Rhea half way closer and then Dione. Enceladus will be just west and under the rings while Teyhys will be directly west. After a few hours, Enceladus will move west directly under Tethys.

 ~ Uranus, (Mag 5.9) will be in constellation Pisces this Saturday evening setting about 5 pm. It shows up as a small 3.6" blue-green disc in a telescope but we won't be able to see it Saturday evening. Uranus is now a morning object rising at 4:45 am. It is about 1.946 billion miles from Earth.

~ Neptune, (Mag 7.9) is in constellation Aquarius, about 2.827 billion miles away this week slowly moving closer to 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 2:15 pm. It rises just after 3:15 am so can be seen in the early morning sky.

 ~ Pluto, (Mag 14.1) does not rise until midnight so can not be seen Saturday evening.  It is 2.970 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.

   A special May planet trio will occur May 24th - 29th when Mercury, Venus and Jupiter are within a circle 5 degrees or less.



The Eta Aquarid meteor shower is active April 19 - May 28th but peaks May 5/6. This meteor shower is from the debris left over by comet Halley. In dark skies, one could expect to see 60 meteors an hour. We usually see a few stray meteors during every Saturday evening BSC star party.

Brightest visible Comets:

This month Comet C/2011 L4 (PANSTARRS) is a dim magnitude 7.5 as it passes through constellation Cepheus. The path it is following is shown in the 2013 May "Astronomy" magazine on page 42. This comet can be seen with binoculars as it moves from the direction of the eastern most "W" star of Cassiopeia towards the North Star Polaris. It will be 145 million miles from Earth Saturday evening.

Brightest visible asteroids:


Bright asteroids Ceres and Vesta have wandered through Taurus the Bull and are now in Gemini this month so can be seen Saturday evening.


Minor Planet 4 Vesta (Mag 8.4), the 2nd most massive object in the asteroid belt, can be found in constellation Gemini, next to the left foot of the Castor twin.  Vesta has a diameter of about 330 miles and was discovered in 1807. It is about 286 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 8.8) is the biggest object in the asteroid belt with a diameter of about 590 miles. It is in constellation Gemini and can be found 5 degrees north of the Castor twin's waist. It looks like it was shot out of the Taurus "V" towards Pollux. The May 2013 "Astronomy" magazine shows the path Ceres is following the month of May. It is about 277 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. 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 let's consider looking at some open clusters in Cancer and below:


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,  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.


M67 is a magnitude 6.9 open star cluster, known as the "King Cobra" as it looks a little like a coiled cobra. It is in constellation Cancer, is about 2,700 light years away and spans 24 light years. You can find it about half way between bright stars Regulus and Procyon. It contains about 200