Saturday April 18th Black Star Canyon star party

Posted On April 15, 2009


Hello Fellow OCA club members!

This Saturday I plan to open the gate at 7 pm, about a half hour before the sun sets. Today’s weather report for this Saturday indicates it will be warm, sunny and clear. We will have a 3rd Quarter Moon Friday and are heading for a New Moon April 24th so we should have a nice dark sky again for observing dim objects. 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 visible evening passes of the ISS (International Space Station), the ISS Toolbag, or the HST (Hubble Space Telescope) this Saturday evening once again. What a shame as the ISS has become bigger and very bright. But there will be one (Mag 0 to Mag 8) Iridium flare at 7:41 PM up 41 degrees NNW (346 degrees), from Iridium Satellite 4.


~Mercury (Mag -0.9) sets about 8:40 PM and is very bright so can be seen this Saturday evening. It is 105 million miles from Earth in constellation Aires.

~Venus (Mag -4.3) rises about 5 AM, in constellation Pisces and is very bright and easily seen shortly before sunrise. It is just a 15% sliver so looks like a thin crescent moon in a telescope and now is about 31 million miles from Earth. Venus will not be visible Saturday evening.

~Mars (Mag 1.2) is in Constellation Aquarius and now is about 199 million miles away. Mars sets about 5 PM so will not be seen this Saturday evening. It rises about 5 AM and will be just 6 degrees south of Venus (but about 100 times dimmer) Saturday morning.

~Jupiter (Mag -2.0) rises about 3:30 AM in constellation Capricornus and now is about 506 million miles away. It sets about 2:15 PM so we won’t see the big planet Saturday evening.

~Saturn, (Mag 0.7) rises about 4 PM so will be up when the Sun sets Saturday. It is about 800 million miles from Earth and is about 6 degrees below the hind end of Leo the Lion. The rings are tilted just 3.8 degrees but will widen slightly over the next few months and then reverse course tilting edge-on by late summer. The moons also orbit edge-on so are seen more in line now and sometimes seen in the rings. Brightest moon Titan will be far to the west of Saturn on Saturday while Rhea, Tethys and Dione will be very close to the planet. Only Enceladus will be to the east and very close to Saturn.

~ Uranus (Mag 5.9) will set by 5 PM in constellation Pices this week so cannot be seen Saturday evening. It shows up as a blue-green disc in a telescope and is about 1.949 billion miles away.

~ Neptune (Mag 7.9) will be in constellation Capricornus about 2.840 billion miles away this week. It is seen as a bluish disc in a telescope but we will not see it this Saturday as it sets about 2.40 PM.



The Lyrid meteor shower peaks April 22 so we might see a few strays Saturday evening up around Vega.

Comet C/2007 N3 Lulin (Mag 10.6) will be deep in the middle of Constellation Gemini this Saturday evening. We should find it directly below Casper between that Twin’s legs about 176 million miles from Earth. It will take at least an 8″ mirror to find this dim comet now before it wanders off never to return.

Another brighter Comet C/2008 T2 (Mag 9.0) is about in the middle of Auriga so we might be able to spot it Saturday evening even though it is 162 million miles away.

Minor Planet 1 Ceres (Mag 7.1), the very first asteroid ever discovered, is floating over Leo the Lion-ììòs back at the same height as the top of the bright Lion-ììòs neck star. This asteroid has a period of 4.6 years and is about 173 million miles away. It was discovered back in 1801 and is the largest asteroid we have found, having a diameter of 580 miles.

Deep Sky:

Chris Butler, during his “What’s Up” presentation at the OCA meeting last Friday, suggested that we look for objects along Hydra this month and I think that is a good idea.

How about Globular Cluster M68 (Mag 8.2) near the tail just under Corvus the Crow. It is 33,000 light years away and about 115 light years in diameter.

Galaxy M83 (Mag 8) can be found just under the last tail star in Hydra. It is 8.5 to 22.5 million light years away and 27,000 light years in diameter. It appears face-on to us from Earth and also has an NGC number 5236.

Don’t forget to bring your gloves, coats & sweaters because it may get fairly 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,