Saturday 08/15/09 Black Star Canyon star party

Posted On August 11, 2009

Hello Fellow OCA club members!

  This Saturday I plan to open the gate at 7:15 pm, about a half hour before the sun sets. The weather report for this Saturday indicates that Black Star Canyon will be clear and warm. The 3rd Quarter Moon will not rise until well after Midnight when we have to close the gate. 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. Even the ISS Toolbag will not pass over as it burned up early this month.

~Mercury (Mag .1) sets about 8:45 pm so might be seen this Saturday evening low in the West. It is 102 million miles from Earth in constellation Leo. Mercury can best be seen just before sunset this month and will be just 3 or 4 degrees below Saturn Saturday evening, but a full magnitude brighter than the ringed planet.
~Venus (Mag -3.9) rises about 3:20 am, in constellation Gemini and is very bright and easily seen shortly before sunrise. It is  78% illuminated so looks like a 3/4 moon in a telescope. Venus is getting further from Earth and will be about 112 million miles from Earth. Venus will not be visible Saturday evening as it sets about 5:30 pm.
~Mars (Mag 1.0) is now in Constellation Taurus traveling eastward through the bull about 159 million miles away. Mars sets about 4 pm so will not be seen this Saturday evening. It rises about 1:40 am so can only be seen in the early morning sky. 
~Jupiter (Mag -2.7) rises about 7:45 pm in constellation Capricornus so the big planet will be visible right away as the sun sets. It now is about 375 million miles away. Europa will be the lone moon to the east while moons Ganymede, Io & Callisto will be to the west of Jupiter in that order.
~Saturn (Mag 1.1) sets about 9:10 pm  Saturday just when it is getting dark. It is about 957 million miles away getting further from Earth. It will be found below the hind end of Leo the Lion somewhat washed out in the glow of the sunset and just a few degrees above brighter Mercury. The rings will be tilted  edge on so will be not be seen for awhile as they are very thin (maybe only 30 feet wide. I doubt if we will be able to see any of the moons, except maybe Titan, due to the glow of sunset.
~Uranus (Mag 5.8) will rise about 9:15 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 1.793 billion miles away inching closer to Earth.
~Neptune (Mag 7.8) will be in constellation Capricornus about 2.708 billion miles away this week. It is seen as a bluish disc in a telescope and we should see it this Saturday as it rises about 7:50 pm. It will be just 3 1/2 degrees behind Jupiter along the Ecliptic. 

The Perseid meteor shower peaks August 12/13 but we might see some activity Saturday evening up around the Perseus radiant. This meteor shower is attributed to the debris from comet Swift-Tuttle and has been observed for 2,000 years.

Comet 22P Kopff (Mag 8.8) will be just a few degrees from the Ecliptic in Aquarius half way between Jupiter and Uranus. It is about 73 million miles away and has a period of 6.44 years.
Comet C/2008 02 McNaught (Mag 10.3) is in Andromeda very near the Andromeda Galaxy. You might want to scan that area with your scope this Saturday evening. It is about 138 million miles away from Earth.
Comet C/2006 W3 Christensen (Mag 11.8) is just to the east of the Summer Triangle about midway between a line between Altair & Deneb. It is about 215 million miles from Earth.

Minor Planet 1 Ceres (Mag 8.7), the very first asteroid ever discovered, is floating below the hind end of Leo the Lion half way to Virgo. It will be hard to see due to being in the west as the sun sets. This asteroid has a period of 4.6 years and is about 281 million miles away. It was discovered back in 1801 and is the largest asteroid we have found, having a diameter of 580 miles. 
Another Minor Planet 16 Psyche (Mag 9.6) is along the Ecliptic just above Capricornus 10 degrees west of Jupiter this Saturday evening. This asteroid has a period of 4.99 years and is about 157 million miles away. It was discovered back in 1852 in Naples by  Annibale de Gasparis and is 120 miles wide.
Minor Planet 89 Julia (Mag 10.0) will be about 15 degrees from the Andromeda Galaxy towards the Ecliptic. It has a period of 4.07 years and is about 133 million miles from Earth.

Deep Sky:
Lets look for some Open Cluster this month near the Scorpion-ììòs stinger. M7 & M6 are fun to find in binoculars and can both be seen in a 5 degree field of view. But using a telescope will bring out far more detail.

Open cluster M7 (Mag 3.3) is just 5 degree east of  bright stinger star Shaula in constellation Scorpius. It is thought to be just 8,000 light years away and spans 20 light years. M7 has an estimated age of 220 million years and contains about 80 stars, brightest being magnitude 5.6. Messier observed this object in 1764.

Open cluster M6 (Mag 4.2) is about 4.5 degrees above (north) of M7. It is estimated to be 1,500 light years away and spans 6.6 light years across. M6 is about 51 million years old and contains about 330 stars, brightest being magnitude 6.2.  Messier observed this object back in 1764.

Don’t forget to bring your gloves, coats & sweaters because you never know if it will get cold 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,