Saturday 06/05/2010 Black Star Canyon star party

Posted On June 2, 2010

BSC - Saturday 05 June 2010
Hello Fellow OCA club members!

This Saturday I plan to open the gate about 7:30 pm, nearly a half hour before the sun sets. The weather report for this Saturday indicates that Orange County will be sunny, warm and clear.  The 3rd Quarter Moon will not rise until well after 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.


The ISS (International Space Station) will not make any visible evening passes this Saturday nor will the HST (Hubble Space Telescope).  There will also not be any visible Iridium flares this Saturday at BSC but I am sure we will  see a few dim satellites pass over as we are looking up in the sky. One of those dim objects  will be the new USAF secret Space Plane X-37B (Mag 3.2) at 9:21:19 pm 10 degrees high WNW rising to 51 degrees high at 9:23:36 NNE and then dropping to 25 degrees high 9:25:16 in the East.


~Mercury, (Mag 0.2) sets about 6 pm so will not be seen this Saturday evening. It is about 88 million miles from Earth in constellation Aries. Mercury can be seen  about 5 degrees above the horizon 30 minutes before sunrise early this month.
~Venus, (Mag -3.9) will be the brightest object in the sky after the sun sets and can be spotted  high in the West in constellation Gemini. It will not set until about 10:30 pm and is now about 119 million miles from our planet. The Venus phase will be about 80% lit diminishing to 71% by month end and will have a 13" diameter disk. On June 11th, Venus will line up with Pollux & Castor creating Gemini Triplets.
~Mars, (Mag 1.1) is now in Constellation Leo so will be seen high in the sky this Saturday evening at BSC.  It is about 146 million miles away and will be about 2 degrees from 1st magnitude star Regulus. Mars sets about 12:45 am so will be visible all evening at BSC but is too far to see any detail on the planet.

~Jupiter, (Mag -2.1) rises about 2 am in constellation Pisces so the big planet will not be seen this month from BSC. It now is about 483 million miles from Earth and getting a little closer every day.

~Saturn, (Mag 1.0) does not set until about 2:15 am Saturday in constellation Virgo so will  be visible all evening at BSC. Saturn is about 855 million miles away slowly moving further from Earth. The rings tilt less than  2 degrees to our line of sight but they will open again this summer and tilt 10% by year end. Saturday evening all moons will be to the west of Saturn with moons Tethys, Enceladus, and Rhea very near the planet, Dione out a bit further and then giant moon Titan very far away.

~ Uranus, (Mag 5.9) will rise about 2 am in constellation Pisces this week and be just 2 degrees from Jupiter so both planets can be seen in the same binocular view. But we will not see this planet at BSC Saturday as we close at midnight. When we can see this planet, it shows up as a blue-green disc in a telescope. It is about 1.897 billion miles away moving closer to Earth.

~ Neptune, (Mag 7.9) is in constellation Aquarius, about 2.769 billion miles away this week slowly moving closer to Earth  It is seen as a bluish disc in a telescope but we will not see it this Saturday evening  as it rises 45 minutes after midnight.


The Bootid meteor shower might put on a good show June 23rd  between 10pm - 2 am. The  radiant is in Bootes near bright star Arcturus and the meteors comes from particles left by comet 7P/Pons-Winnecke every 6 years. This shower will be particles from a 19th century pass but a bright gibbous moon may interfere.

Comet C/2009 K5 McNaught (Mag 10.6) is now in constellation Camelopardalis and is about 170 million miles from Earth. It can be found high in the sky about 15 degrees from Polaris along the arc of the Little Dipper handle. It was discovered by Rob McNaught May 27th, 2009 in Australia.

Comet 81P Wild 2 (Mag 11.0) is in constellation Virgo about 25 degrees below Arcturus and about 7 degrees above the Ecliptic. It's orbit lies close to the plane of our solar system so we see this comet edge-on. That causes us to see the dust tail as a sharp streak rather than the typical fan tail. This comet is now about 88 million miles from earth and has a period of 6.42 years. Samples of this comet were returned to earth and contained an amino acid, one of life's fundamental building blocks.

 Minor Planet 1 Ceres (Mag 7.5) can be found in constellation Sagittarius above the "Teapot" lid and 5 degrees to the west.  It is about 172 million miles from Earth and has a period of 4.60 years.

Minor Planet 4 Vesta (Mag 7.7) is the 2nd most massive object in the asteroid belt with a diameter of just over 329 miles. It is the brightest of all the asteroids and can be found inside the Lion's body,  just below the neck. It is now is about 207 million miles from Earth and has a period of 3.63 years.

Minor Planet 2 Pallas (Mag 8.8) can be found in constellation Bootes half way between that constellation and  the Corona Borealis. It is about 199 million miles from Earth and has a period of 4.62 years.

 Deep Sky:

This month, lets go galaxy hunting again (the topic at the April 5th Go-To SIG meeting) around Canes Venatici (between the Big Dipper and Arcturus):

M63 (Mag 8.6) is a spiral galaxy about 30 million light years away with a diameter of 163,000 light years which we see angled towards Earth. It is found along a straight line from end Big Dipper star Alkaid and Alpha Canum Venaticorum and has a bright star from our galaxy sitting on it's right edge.  Messier observed this object in 1779 but had no idea what it was.

M94  (Mag 8.1) is a spiral galaxy about 28 million light years away with a diameter of  90,000 light years which we see face-on. It forms the apex of a shallow isosceles triangle with dim stars Alha & Beta Canum Venaticorum.  Messier  observed this object in 1781.
M106 (Mag 8.3) is another spiral galaxy about 26 million light years away with a diamater of 136,000 light years which we see somewhat edge on and sideways. It is found halfway between Big Dipper star Phad and Alpha Canum Venaticorum. Messier found this object in mid 1781.

Don't forget to bring your gloves, coats & sweaters because it may get very cold as the sun sets and 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,