Saturday evening June 28th Black Star Canyon star party

Posted On June 25, 2008

Hello Fellow OCA club members!

 This Saturday I plan to open the gate at 7:30 pm, about a half hour before the sun sets at around 8 PM. Today's weather report looks like this Saturday will be warm & clear and the 3rd quarter moon will not rise before midnight. 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.


No visible ISS (International Space Station) or HST (Hubble Space Telescope) passes will take place this Saturday evening but we should see two Iridium Flares. The first one will be a bright (Mag -6) that will become visible 10:03 PM at 13 degrees altitude, W (266 degrees) and the second (Mag -2) will be visible 10:40 PM at 10 degrees altitude W (268 degrees).  The Earth is grazing Comet 7P/Pans-Winnecke's debris trail so we may see some meteors from the Bootid Meteor showers. The radiant - the point from which the meteors seem to start from - will be in the northern part of constellation Bootes. Arcturus is the brightest star in Bootes so that constellation is easy to find as we arc along the handle of the Big Dipper.


~Mars (Mag 1.6) continues to slowly dim as it now is over 191 million miles away in constellation Leo.  It can be seen just in front of  Leo the Lion.

~Saturn, (Mag 0.8) sets about 11:40 PM and is about 907 million miles from Earth and still moving below the body of Leo the Lion, inching ever farther from bright star Regulus (Mag 1.35). The rings still look magnificent and brightest moon Titan (Mag 8.3) is now moving east from the planet and will pass in front of Saturn Sunday June 29th.

~Jupiter (Mag -2.5) rises about 09:09 PM in constellation Sagittarius creeping closer to Earth and now is about 391 million miles away. All four Galilean moons will be to the east of Jupiter in perfect distance order, Calisto, Ganymede, Europa & Io.

~Venus (Mag -3.8) sets at 8:25 PM in constellation Gemini and is bright enough to be spotted in the evening sky as the sun sets. Mercury sets now in the evening at 6:20 AM but is too dim to see until the end of this month. Uranus (Mag 5.8) doesn't rise until 12:24 AM in constellation Aquarius this week and Neptune (Mag 7.9) rises at 11:30 PM in constellation Capricornus.


If you have a 10' scope, you might want to try and locate Comet C/2006 Q1 McNaught gliding above Hydra more than 266 million miles from Earth. It is a dim 11th magnitude fuzzball which is 23 degrees directly below Leo the Lion. Another challenge would be locating Asteroid C/2007 G1 Linear (Mag 11.9) just to the left of Antares, the red eye of the Scorpion. This object is just 820' in diameter and  is about 193 million miles from Earth right now. But on January 29th, 2008, it passed by Earth just 344,370 miles away which is the closest pass by a potentially hazardous asteroid of this size until 2027. It has an orbit period of 2.9 years and its trajectory is now well known and is not considered a danger to Earth.

Deep Sky:

For deep sky objects, lets consider looking in the constellation Coma Bernices:

Bright globular star cluster M53 (Mag 7.6) is 60,000 light years away with a diameter of 220 light years in constellation Coma Bernices. Only M75 & M54 are more distant than M53. If you can find the alpha (brightest) star in Coma Bernices, then M53 is only a telescope eyepiece field of view (1 degree) away. Directly north is a ragged chain of half a dozen 6th magnitude stars. This star cluster was observed by Messier back in 1777. In dark skies you can see this object in 10X power binoculars as a round obvious nonstellar object.

About a 5 degree binocular view away, more in the center of  Coma Bernices is the Black-Eye Galaxy M64. Since this is a very sparse region of the sky, the dim Mag 8.5 galaxy pops up and stands out well, even in binoculars under dark skies. Its name is due to a dust lane that gives the illusion of a black eye but that can only be seen in a large 8" or bigger telescope. French astronomer Messier reported its position back in 1779 but had no idea it was a whole spiral galaxy of stars at least 31,000 light years in diameter. It is estimated to be over 12 million light years from Earth.

Just a 5 degree binocular view away from M64, near the Gamma star of Coma Bernices is an open star cluster called Melotte 111. This cluster is only 300 light years away and will fill a binocular field of view. Within this field of view there is a double star called 17 Comae Bernices which can be easily split into its 5.3 and 6.6 magnitude components with 10X binoculars.

Don't forget to bring your gloves, coats & sweaters because it may get cold as the night gets later.   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, Steve