Saturday August 23rd Black Star Canyon star party

Posted On August 20, 2014

Black Star Canyon Star Party notice - Saturday August 23rd, 2014

Hello Fellow OCA club members!

This Saturday, I plan to open the gate around 7:00 pm, which is about a half hour before the sun sets. The weather report for this Saturday indicates that Orange County should be partly cloudy, hot and have 35% humidity.  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 should have fairly dark skies as the 3rd quarter Moon will not rise until well after midnight. 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.

Warning:  No Pets allowed!  (This is an OC Parks and Nature Conservancy rule).


  The ISS (International Space Station) will make one visible magnitude -1.9 pass this Saturday evening starting at 9:17:05 pm 10 degrees high WNW going to 32 degrees high WSW at 9:19:54 where it will then drop out of sight.

  The X-37B (Air Force Boeing space plane) will not make any visible passes Saturday evening.

  The HST (Hubble Space Telescope) will not make any visible passes Saturday evening.

  Iridium flares: There will not be any visible Iridium Flares Saturday evening.

But I am sure we will see a number of satellites pass over in the early evening.

Planets & Pluto:

~Mercury, (Mag -0.6) sets about 8 pm in constellation Leo this Saturday but probably won't be seen at the BSC star party. Mercury will be about 123 million miles from Earth and can be seen just after sunset late in the month starting around the 27th.

~Venus, (Mag -3.7) will not be seen Saturday evening as it sets about 6:40 pm in constellation Cancer. Venus rises about 5 am so can be seen an hour before sunrise. Venus will be about 152 million miles from Earth, dropping to about a 10" in diameter but will be almost fully lit.

~Mars, (Mag 0.7) will be in Constellation Libra rising just after noon so can be seen at BSC this Saturday evening high in the sky. It is now about 125 million miles away with a disk size of about 7 degrees and doesn't set until about 10:45 pm. It will be about the same brightness as Saturn and just under that planet.

~Jupiter, (Mag -1.6) will set about 6:15 pm Saturday in constellation Cancer so will not be seen this Saturday evening. It will be about 577 million miles from Earth getting a little closer every day with a diameter of about 32". It could be seen just before sunrise, as it rises around 4:30 am.

~Saturn, (Mag 1.2) will be in constellation Libra this Saturday so can be seen Saturday evening as it rises about a half hour after noon. It has a disk measuring 17" with rings spanning 42" and tilting 21 degrees. Saturn can be seen most all evening as it does not set until 11 pm. It will be about 941 million miles away Saturday. Around 9 pm, we should be able to see some of Saturn's brightest moons starting with brightest moon Titan far east and slightly above Saturn followed by Dione, Tethys & Enceladus in a tight cluster just east of Saturn. Moon Rhea will be far west of Saturn.

 ~ Uranus, (Mag 5.8) will be in constellation Pisces this Saturday evening rising about 9:30 pm so we may see it at the BSC star party. It shows up as a small 3.6" blue-green disc in a telescope so look for it later in the night. Uranus will be about 1.795 billion miles from Earth this Saturday.

~ Neptune, (Mag 7.8) is in constellation Aquarius, about 2.695 billion miles away this week slowly moving closer to Earth. It is seen as a bluish gray 2.4" disc in a telescope and we might be able to see it at BSC this Saturday evening after it rises about 8 pm..

 ~ Pluto, (Mag 14.1) rises about 4:30 pm in constellation Sagittarius so might be seen Saturday evening as it does not set until about 2:30 am. It is about 2.950 billion miles from Earth and since it is so dim, you would need a 10" or larger telescope to see it visually. The July 2014 Astronomy Magazine shows the path Pluto was traveling in July.


The Perseid meteor shower is active from August 17 - August 24 peaking August 12/13. You can expect to see 100 meteors per hour at its peak with a radiant just below Cassiopeia.

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 with the brightest, C/2014 E2 Jacques, a magnitude 9.2 in Cassiopeia according to the website, Heavens-above.

Comet C/2014 E2 Jacques can be found just north of Cassiopeia and will be about 55 million miles from Earth. It has a dim magnitude of 9.2 and period of 20,725 years. This is the 2nd comet discovered by the SONEAR Observatory team in Brazil and this one was discovered March 13, 2014 using a .45 meter telescope.

Brightest visible asteroids:

Finding an asteroid at the BSC star party is always very challenging as they are dim and are just small dots. The August Astronomy Magazine, on page 43 shows the paths that Vesta and Ceres will be taking in August. Note that they will be less than 4 degrees apart Saturday evening in constellation Libra. Back on July 1st, these asteroids were less than ¬Ω degree apart. The circular paths are between Spica and Arcturus, and on Saturday, the asteroids will be half way between the head of the Scorpion and bright star Spica just a few degrees above Mars.

The brightest asteroid this month is Minor Planet 4 Vesta (Mag 7.6), the 2nd most massive object in the asteroid belt. It can be found in constellation Libra this month in a direct line from the Scorpion's head to Spica, just above Mars. Vesta has a diameter of about 330 miles and was discovered in 1807. It is about 211 million miles from Earth at this time and has an orbit period of 3.63 years. It should be visible at the BSC star party at sunset. NASA's Dawn spacecraft was in orbit around this asteroid and sent back stunning close-up pictures.

Minor Planet 1 Ceres (Mag 8.9) is the biggest object in the asteroid belt with a diameter of about 590 miles. It is in constellation Virgo and can be found just 4 degrees behind Vesta (west) and about 10 degrees above Mars. It is about 279 million miles from Earth now 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 at sunset so might be seen at the BSC star party. This asteroid will be the next stop for the Dawn spacecraft.

Minor Planet 2 Pallas (Mag 9.6), is the second asteroid to have been discovered (after Ceres), and one of the largest in the Solar System. It can be found in constellation Virgo this month about 10 degree from Leo's end tail star, trailing Vesta & Ceres by about 30 degrees. This asteroid has a diameter of about 338 miles and is about 305 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. 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 fluorescence 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.