Saturday 10/04/08 BSC star party

Posted On September 30, 2008

Hello Fellow OCA club members!
This Saturday I plan to open the gate at 6 pm, about a half hour before the sun sets Saturday evening. Today’s weather report for this Saturday indicates it should be clear and warm. The Moon won’t set until after 8 PM but will just be a small sliver. 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 only one visible evening ISS (International Space Station) pass on Saturday. The pass (Mag  0.9) will be at 8:22 PM 10 degrees altitude NNW and will then fade out of sight very quickly (within seconds). There will be no visible evening passes of the HST (Hubble Space Telescope) or any Iridium Flares Saturday evening.  See the Heavens-above website for other areas, times and passes.



 Note: We should see the Moon and Antares close together 30 minutes after sunset Saturday evening.

~Mercury (Mag 0.7) rises at 7:57 AM and can only be seem in the morning.  It is 64 million miles from Earth.

~Venus (Mag -3.8) sets about 8 PM, just after the sun, in constellation Virgo and is bright enough to be easily seen. It is now about 130 million miles from Earth.

~Mars (Mag 1.6) is also in Constellation Virgo and now is about 230 million miles away.  Mars sets about 7:30 PM and is too low in the afterglow of sunset to be seen.

~Jupiter (Mag -2.2) sets at about ¬Ω hour after midnight as it is creeping above constellation Sagittarius, and now is about 459 million miles away. On Saturday, all 4 Galilean Moons will be clearly visible in a telescope, Ganymede (the largest moon in the entire solar system) will be just to the right of Jupiter and Callisto will be much further to the right. Little IO will be just to the left of Jupiter and then Europa will be just a bit further to the left.

 ~Saturn, (Mag 1.0) sets just at 5:48 PM and is about 988 million miles from Earth, still moving below the body of Leo the Lion. It will be passing into the morning sky where it becomes visible low in the East by month end.

~ Uranus (Mag 5.7) rises at 5:42 PM just as the sun sets, in constellation Aquarius this week 1.780 billion miles away.

~ Neptune (Mag 7.8) rises around 4:30 PM in constellation Capricornus this week and is still about 2.726 billion miles away.



There is a magnitude 7.7 Comet C/2008 A1 McNaught in constellation Libra just below the Ecliptic and about 10 degrees directly in front of the head of the Scorpion. It is 138 million miles from Earth.

There is another much dimmer magnitude 10.4 Comet C/2008 J2 Beshore in Scorpious just a few degrees above the stinger. It is about 130 million miles from Earth.


There is a magnitude 7.0 Minor Planet 4 Vesta in the middle of the box which is the tail of the Whale (Cetus). This asteroid has a period of 3.63 years and is 151 million miles away.

Just above the tail and to the left is a magnitude 9.3 magnitude Minor Planet 9 Metis. It has a period of 3.69 years and is about 121 million miles away.


Deep Sky:

There are a lot of interesting objects up in Cygnus the Swan but lets look for two open star clusters:


M39 (Mag 4.6) is about 5 degrees above star Deneb, the tail of the Swan. Aristotle may have been the first person to record this star cluster in about 325 BC, describing it as “cometary” to his unaided eye. This star cluster is a difficult naked eye target but can be easily seen through binoculars. It contains about 30 stars and is estimated to be 270 million years old.  The cluster is 800 light years away and spans 7.5 light years.


M29 (Mag 6.6) is just 2 degrees to the left of star Sadr, which is the center of the Swan’s wingspan. This star cluster is not a naked eye object but can be seen with binoculars as 6 bright stars with 4 of them forming the shape of the Great Square of Pegasus.  It contains about 50 stars under greater magnification and is estimated to be 10 million years old. This cluster is 4,000 light years away and spans 8 light years.



Don’t forget to bring your gloves, coats & sweaters because it may get cold (50 F) 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,