Saturday Aug 8th Black Star Canyon star party

Posted On August 5, 2015

Black Star Canyon Star Party notice – Saturday August 8th, 2015
Hello Fellow OCA club members!
This Saturday, we plan to open the gate around 7:30 pm, which is about a half hour before the sun sets. The weather report for this Saturday indicates that Orange County should be warm (86F), have clear skies and humidity near 40%inland.  But please keep an eye on the OCA website “Home” page (below the next speaker info) where we will post a notice should the star party be canceled for any reason.
We will have a 3rd Quarter so our star party should have a very dark night sky. 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 may 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.

Try to park two cars in each slanted slot between the rock turning circles so we can get 20 cars into that area. I will help guide the first cars into the slots and then expect that others will follow that pattern. The first car in each slot must stay back, about a foot, from the road that leads out of the parking area so cars that leave early with headlights off will not accidentally bump into parked cars

The BSC star party site has a Latitude of 33.7520N, Longitude 117.6745W and Elevation 297′.
Warning:  No Pets allowed!  (This is an OC Parks and Nature Conservancy rule).
  The ISS (International Space Station) will not make any visible passes Saturday evening at BSC.
  The HST (Hubble Space Telescope) will make two visible passes Saturday evening. The first will be a magnitude 1.5 pass at 8:12:49 pm 10 degrees high WSW going to 39 degrees high S at 8:16:42 and then dropping back to 10 degrees high ESE at 8:20:35. The second pass will be a magnitude 2.5 at 9:53:58 10 degrees high WSW going to 24 degrees high SW at 9:56:05 where it will drop out of sight.
  Iridium flares: There will be no visible Iridium Flares this Saturday evening. But I am sure we will also see a number of satellites pass over in the early evening.
Planets & Pluto:
~Mercury, (Mag -0.5) sets about 8:30 pm in constellation Leo this Saturday evening so might be seen at the BSC star party. Mercury will be about 120 million miles from Earth and rises about 7:30 am so can not be seen early in the morning. Mercury reached greatest elongation June 26th when it was 22 degrees west of the Sun.  It will have a disk that spans 7” and be about 60% lit. Mercury passed behind the Sun from our view July 23 rd
—Mercury & Jupiter will be very close Saturday evening.—
~Venus, (Mag -3.9) might be seen 30 minutes before sunset Saturday evening before it sets at 7:45 pm in constellation Sextans. Venus will be about 28 million miles from Earth with a disc size of 53” and less than 7% lit. Look for it in front and just below Leo the Lion.
~Mars, (Mag 1.9) will be in Constellation Cancer and on the far side of the Sun from Earth so will not be seen again until late August at dawn. It will be about 240 million miles from Earth Saturday evening.
~Jupiter, (Mag -1.6) will probably not be seen Saturday evening as it sets at 8:20 pm in constellation Leo It will be about 592 million miles from Earth getting a little farther every day with a diameter of about 30”. We have enjoyed viewing Jupiter for many months but it passes on the far side of the Sun August 26th.
~Saturn, (Mag 1.1) will be in constellation Libra this Saturday so should be seen after sunset high in the sky as it rose about 2:15 pm. It has a disk measuring 17” with rings spanning 38” and tilting 24 degrees. Saturn will be about 905 million miles away Saturday evening and will not set until 40 minutes after midnight. Saturn will be just in front and above of the Scorpion’s 3-star head. Look for 8th magnitude moon Titan north of Saturn and you might also see 10th magnitude moons Tethys, Diaone & Rhea near Saturn inside Titan’s orbit. You might even see 10th magnitude moon Iapetus far from Saturn.
 ~ Uranus, (Mag 5.8) will be in constellation Pisces this Saturday evening rising about 10:35 pm so might be seen at the BSC star party. It shows up as a small 3.6” blue-green disc in a telescope. Uranus will be about 1.816 billion miles from Earth this Saturday. It can be seen all night as does not set until 11:15 am.
~ Neptune, (Mag 7.8) is in constellation Aquarius, about 2.700 billion miles away this week slowly moving closer to Earth. It is seen as a bluish gray 2.4” disc in a telescope and might be seen at BSC this Saturday evening after it rises at 8:45 pm. It can be seen until sunrise as does not set until about 8 am.
 ~ Pluto, (Mag 14.1) will rise in constellation Sagittarius about 5:30 pm so could be seen Saturday evening. It is about 2.985 billion miles from Earth and is so dim, you would need a 12” or larger telescope to see it visually. Pluto does not set until 3:45 am. The New Horizons probe reached Pluto July 14th and the path Pluto & the probe are taking is shown in the July Sky & Telescope Magazine on pages 52-53.

The major meteor shower in August is the famous Perseids meteor shower, active from August 17 –  24 peaking on August 12/13th.  This shower typically produces 100 meteors per hour at its peak. The radiant is about 15 degrees north of bright star Capella in the Perseus constellation. We always see a few stray meteors during every BSC star party.

If you ever wanted to do some real scientific meteor counting, the International Meteor Organization (IMO) always needs more observers. You will need to follow the IMO’s standards so your counts will be meaningful. See for more information.

Brightest visible Comets:
All the comets in the sky are very dim again this month, but the brightest one that will be visible Saturday evening is Comet Panstarrs.

Comet C/2014 Q1 Panstarrs is a magnitude 6.0 (according to the Heavens-above website) and will be 126 million miles from Earth Saturday in constellation Crater which is about 20 degrees to the right of Corvus the Crow.  This comet was discovered on August 2014 by the Panoramic Survey Telescope & Rapid Response System atop Haleakala on Maui. It looks to have a period of 33,450 years.

Brightest visible asteroids:
Finding an asteroid is always very challenging as they are dim and are just small dots.

Minor Planet 4 Vesta (Mag 7.0), the 2nd most massive object in the asteroid belt is the brightest asteroid again this month. It would be found in constellation Cetus this month, just below the Ecliptic. Vesta has a diameter of about 330 miles and was discovered in 1807. It is about 155 million miles from Earth at this time and has an orbit period of 3.63 years. It might be seen Saturday evening as would be visible just after 9 pm. NASA’s Dawn spacecraft was in orbit around this asteroid and sent back stunning close-up pictures.
Minor Planet 1 Ceres (Mag 7.7) is the biggest object in the asteroid belt with a diameter of about 590 miles. It is in constellation Sagittarius just 10 degrees below the Ecliptic between the bottom of the Goat and Sagittarius. Ceres will be about 185 million miles from Earth Saturday and has a period of 4.61 years. It was discovered in 1801 and for 50 years was classified as the 8th planet. But don’t expect to see anything more than a small dot. It will be visible Saturday evening starting after sunset. The Dawn spacecraft has reached this asteroid and will be orbiting it taking pictures for at least a year. The path Ceres is taking this month can be seen on page 43 of the August Astronomy Magazine. A better picture of the orbit Ceres is taking up to November is shown on page 50 of the July Sky & Telescope Magazine.

Asteroid 2 Pallas (Mag 9.9) is the second asteroid to have been discovered (after Ceres), and one of the largest in the Solar System. It will be in constellation Hercules Saturday evening so visible all evening long. This asteroid has a diameter of about 338 miles and is about 260 million miles from Earth. When Pallas was discovered by astronomer Heinrich Wilhelm Matthaus Olbers on March 28, 1802, it was counted as a planet, as were other asteroids in the early 19th century. The discovery of many more asteroids after 1845 eventually led to their re-classification. It has an orbit period of 4.62 years and it will become visible at sunset so might be seen at the BSC star party.

Deep Sky:
This month let’s consider looking at some objects in Sagittarius just above the “Teapot” lid:
M22 (NGC 6656) magnitude 5.1 Globular cluster called the Sagittarius Cluster. It is 10,000 light years away with a diameter of 70 light years. M22 is estimated to have about 70,000 stars and is the 4th largest Globular in the sky, much bigger than M13. It was discovered in 1665 by German Abraham Ihle. It is found just a few degrees east of the top of the “Teapot” lid.
M28 (NGC 6626) is magnitude 6.8 Globular cluster just a degree above the center of the “Teapot” lid. It is 19,000 light years away and has a diameter of 62 light years. It is a very compact set of stars tighter than most clusters. Messier logged this object after observing it July 29, 1764.

M8 (NGC 6523) is a magnitude 6 Emission nebula called the Lagoon Nebula. It is 4,800 light years away and has a physical size of 126 X 56 light years. It is fluorescent due to a 6th magnitude star that stimulates atoms producing light like a neon sign. It is found west from the top of the “Teapot” lid. Messier logged this object after observing it May 23, 1764.
Don’t forget to bring your gloves, coats & sweaters as it can get cold after the sun sets and even colder 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 the sky to get dark. Please remember to cart off all your trash as there are no garbage cans at BSC. There is also one portable restroom on site should nature call.
Hope to see you there.
Your OCA star party host,