Saturday Jan 21 BSC star party

Posted On January 18, 2017

Black Star Canyon Star Party notice – January 21st, 2017
Hello Fellow OCA club members!
This Saturday, we plan to open the gate around 4:45 pm, which is about a half hour before the sun sets. The weather report for this Saturday night indicates that Black Star Canyon should be cold with some rain showers and humidity at about 45%. So 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.
With a Last Quarter Moon on January 19th, our star party should have a dark sky as the Moon won’t rise until after midnight when we close. 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 any front 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. Or just park along Black Star Canyon Road and walk down to the star party site.

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 this Saturday evening.
  The HST (Hubble Space Telescope) will not make any visible passes this Saturday evening.
  Iridium flares: There will be no visible Iridium Flares this Saturday evening.
Planets & Pluto:
~Mercury, (Mag 0.0) sets about 3:15 pm in constellation Sagittarius this Saturday evening so will not be seen at the BSC star party this Saturday. Mercury will be about 99 million miles from Earth and will not rise until about 5:22 am well before sunrise. It will span 6.5” and be 65% lit.
~Venus, (Mag -4.4) will set just before 9 pm in constellation Aquarius so should be seen this Saturday evening. Venus will be about 57 million miles from Earth Saturday, very bright with a 45% illuminated disk of about 28”. It will not rise until 9:15 am well after sunrise.
~Mars, (Mag 1.0) will be in Constellation Pisces along the ecliptic and just under the Circlet pentagon of stars which represents the Sea Monster’s head so should be easily seen Saturday evening as a bright reddish object to the naked eye. It will be about 166 million miles from Earth Saturday evening not setting until about 9:20 pm. Mars will have a diameter of about 5.4” so it will be hard to see any detail on the red planet visually.
~Jupiter, (Mag -1.9) might be seen Saturday evening after it rises in constellation Virgo about 11:30 pm. Jupiter can be seen near bright star Spica. At midnight, the Great Red Spot will be visible and moon Io will be just to the left (East) of the big planet while Callisto will be just under (South) of Jupiter. Europa will be about two planet widths to the right (West) with Ganymede a bit further west and under Europa. Jupiter will be about 485 million miles from Earth and will have a disk size of 37”. After Jupiter rises it can be seen all the way until sunrise as does not set until just before 11 am.
~Saturn, (Mag 1.4) will be in constellation Ophiuchus this Saturday so will not be seen at the BSC star party as it sets about 2:15 pm. It will not rise until 4:20 am and will be about 1.005 billion miles away Saturday evening.
~Uranus, (Mag 5.9) will be in constellation Pisces this Saturday evening rising about 10:45 am so should be seen at the BSC star party Saturday evening high in the sky. It shows up as a small 3.4” blue-green disc in a telescope. Uranus will be about 1.871 billion miles from Earth this Saturday and can be seen all the way until it sets at about 11:20 pm.
—The October issue of Sky & Tel Magazine page 50 shows the paths Uranus & Neptune are following up to March 1st.—-
~ Neptune, (Mag 7.9) is in constellation Aquarius, about 2.857 billion miles away this week. It is seen as a bluish gray 2.2” disc in a telescope and should be seen low in the sky at BSC this Saturday evening as it rises about 9 am and does not set until just after 8 pm.
 ~ Pluto, (Mag 14.3) will be in constellation Sagittarius so will not be seen Saturday evening as it sets at 4 pm. It is about 3.182 billion miles from Earth and is so dim, you would need a 10” or larger telescope to see it visually.
I would expect to see a few stray meteors Saturday evening as we always do at every BSC star party. But we just missed the Quadrantid Meteor Shower that was active from December 28 – January 12 with meteors radiating from a point left of Arcturus in constellation Bootes. This major shower shows up to 120 meteors/hour at it’s peak on January 3rd.

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:
The website Heavens-above shows a few comets this month starting at magnitude 6.5.

Comet 45P/Honda (Mag 6.5) might be seen at the star party even though close to the Sun. The January issue of Astronomy Magazine shows the path this comet is following through January 11th on page 42. It should be just 5 degrees above the Ecliptic over the middle of Capricornus Goat’s back Saturday. Look for this comet near Venus and just 28 million miles from Earth. But in February this comet should climb higher after sunrise and late in the month will be overhead at midnight. It was discovered December 3, 1948 by Minoru Honda and has a period of 5.26 years.

Comet C/2016 U1 Neowise (Mag 7.5) might be seen at the star party but sets early. It should be just 10 degrees below the Ecliptic between Sagittarius & Capricornus this Saturday. Look for this comet near Venus and just 122 million miles from Earth. It was discovered October 21, 2016 by the NEOWISE project from the WISE mission and is thought to be about a half mile across.

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

Minor Planet 4 Vesta (Mag 6.3 ), the 2nd most massive object in the asteroid belt is the brightest asteroid again this month. It is found in constellation Gemini just a few degrees above the Ecliptic and in a direct line from the heads of Castor & Pollux. Vesta could be the 3rd head. It could be seen Saturday evening after sunset all the way until sunrise. Vesta has a diameter of about 330 miles and was discovered in 1807. It is about 142 million miles from Earth at this time and has an orbit period of 3.63 years.  NASA’s Dawn spacecraft was in orbit around this asteroid and sent back stunning close-up pictures. You can see the path Ceres is taking in the January Astronomy Magazine on page 43.

Minor Planet 1 Ceres (Mag 8.8) is the biggest object in the asteroid belt with a diameter of about 590 miles. It is in constellation Pisces just 10 degrees below the Ecliptic and under the “V” in Pisces. Ceres will be about 255 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 should be visible Saturday all star party long. The Dawn spacecraft has reached this asteroid and will be orbiting it taking pictures for at least a year. You can see the path Ceres was on through December in the December 2016 Astronomy magazine on page 43.

Asteroid 18 Melpomene (Mag 10.0) is a large, bright main-belt asteroid. It will be in constellation Cetus Saturday evening about 20 degrees below the Ecliptic and at the bottom of the “Whale’s tail” and to the left of Ceres, so might be seen at the BSC star party. This asteroid is slightly elongated with a mean diameter of about 100 miles and is about 144 million miles from Earth. Melpomene was discovered on June 24th, 1852 by astronomer John Russell Hind. It may have a satellite of about 22 miles in diameter and has an orbit period of 3.48 years.

Deep Sky:
This month let’s consider looking at some neat multiple star systems:

y Andromedae is an attractive double star consisting of a bright orange star with a mag 5 blue companion. All that is needed is a 3” or larger scope to split these stars that are separated by 9.8” (arc-seconds). The stars called Almach AB are the third star in the first Andromeda strand starting from Alpheratz. This double is 355 light years from Earth and the stars are 1,065 AU distance apart with a rotation period of 61.1 years. The secondary is itself a double, both blue in color and separated by just .4”. The stars are each 1,179, 56 & 27 times brighter than our sun.

y Arietis is a pair of magnitude 4.8 bluish-white stars that appear to form a true system separated by 7.8”, although the relative motion of the stars is very small. Very little change has been noted in the last 350 years. The stars are 36 times brighter than our sun and are 164 light years away. This star system is found just a few degrees west of Aries Beta star.

n Cassiopeiae is a gorgeous double star consisting of contrasting colors. The colors are most often seen as gold and purple or yellow and red. The primary star is magnitude 3.4 while the secondary is a magnitude 7.5 M class dwarf. The two stars orbit each other every 480 years. The stars are just 19 light years from Earth and are 76 AU distance apart. This double star is found about half way between alpha star Shedir and the Gamma star in Cassiopeia. These stars form the inside of the big “V”.

I have given you the double star separations in arc seconds (“) but you can use an astrometric eyepiece to check the separation distance yourself. These eyepieces have a laser etched reticle with a ruler graduated at 100 micron intervals that can be used to measure distance. They have a battery powered variable illuminated system so the ruler scale can be easily seen.

Before an accurate measurement can be made, you must calibrate the linear scale to determine the number of arc seconds per division. This is done by using a stop watch to time how long it takes for a star to pass from one end of the scale to the other. To convert to arc-seconds, multiply the time by 15.0411 Cos Y, where Y = the star’s declination. Then divide by the number of divisions in the scale.

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 hosts, Steve & Bonnie