Saturday July 14th Black Star Canyon star party

Posted On July 11, 2012

BSC Star Party Notice  Saturday July 14th, 2012


Hello Fellow OCA club members!


This Saturday, I 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 will be sunny, hot and very clear.  But keep an eye on the OCA website “Home” page (below the next speaker info) where I will post a notice should the star party be cancelled for any reason as that area could be closed due to high fire danger.


We should have dark skies as the last quarter Moon will not rise until after midnight Saturday. 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 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.


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.

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

  But we will get to see an Iridium flare Saturday evening at 8:31:26 pm up at 70 degrees altitude in the E (94 degrees) from Iridium satellite #18 that will be a bright -1.0 magnitude. I am sure we will also see a few dim satellites pass overhead as we are looking up in the sky.


Planets & Pluto:

~Mercury, (Mag 1.2) sets at 9:10 pm so might be seen early this Saturday evening. It is about 65 million miles from Earth in constellation Cancer with maybe a 9.5″ diameter disk. You might spot it 30 minutes after sunset just 6 degrees above the horizon about 25% lit.

~Venus, (Mag -4.4) will not be seen Saturday evening as it sets about 5 pm in constellation Taurus. Hope you did not miss the rare Venus transit that occurred June 5th. Venus is now about 40 million miles from Earth and can be seen before dawn as it rises at 3:30 am. On Saturday morning Venus should be 30% lit with a 38″ disk.

 ~Mars, (Mag  0.9) is now in Constellation Virgo, between Alpha star Spica & the Beta star, rising about noon so is visible high in the sky as the sun sets until 15 minutes before midnight. It is about 138 million miles away now with a 6″ disk so small scopes should not see any detail on the red planet but the white North polar cap might still be visible.

~Jupiter, (Mag -1.9) will set about 5 pm in constellation Taurus Saturday evening before the Sun sets, so will not be seen at our star party. It rises at 3 am so can be seen in the early morning. It now is about 532 million miles from Earth getting a little closer every day.

~Saturn, (Mag 1.0) will be in constellation Virgo this Saturday just 10 degrees from bright star Spica, and since it rises about 1:20 pm, will be visible just after sunset high in the sky.  Saturn is about 894 million miles away slowly moving farther from Earth. Saturn’s globe measures 17″ but the rings span 39″ and tilt 13 degrees to our line of sight this month. Largest moon Titan (magnitude 8), which revolves around Saturn every 16 days, will be far west of Saturn with moon Dione half way closer and more in line with the rings. Moon Enceladus will be just east of the rings of Saturn followed closely by moon Tethys with moon Rhea much farther to the east.

~ Uranus, (Mag 5.8) will be in constellation Pisces this Saturday evening and rises about 1:15 am so will not be seen at the BSC star party. It shows up as a small 3.6″ blue-green disc in a telescope if you want to catch it later on after the BSC star party closes. It is about 1.846 billion miles away from Earth.

~ Neptune, (Mag 7.8) is in constellation Aquarius, about 2.720 billion miles away this week slowly moving closer to Earth. It is seen as a bluish gray 2.3″ disc in a telescope. We might be able to see it at BSC this Saturday evening, but it does not rise until 11 pm.

 ~ Pluto, (Mag 14.0) rises about 7:15 pm so could be seen Saturday evening.  It is 2.908 billion miles from Earth in constellation Sagittarius. Since it is so dim, you will probably need a 10″ or larger telescope to see it visually.  It will be just .3″ south of the center of bright star cluster M25. The 2012 July issue of Astronomy Magazine shows the path Pluto is following this month on page 43 while the June Sky & Telescope shows Pluto’s path for all of 2012 on pages 52-53.



The Southern Delta Aquarids meteor shower peaks before dawn July 30th, when observers might see 20 meteors an hour. The radiant will be about 10 degrees above star Fomalhaut. We normally see a few sporadic meteors at every Black Star Canyon star party.


Brightest visible Comets:

This month all the comets orbiting the Sun are very dim so will be extremely difficult to find and see. 


Comet 96P Machholz will be too close to the Sun to be seen Saturday at the BSC star party but from the 21st of July to the end of the month, it is predicted to go from a magnitude 7 to 10 as it slides through Leo. It was discovered in May 1986 by Donald Machholz and has a period of 5.3 years. It approaches within 11.5 million miles of the Sun, the closest of any known periodic comet.


The magnitude 13.3 Comet C/2009 P1 Garradd is in the constellation Cancer so can be viewed this Saturday evening  until about 10 pm. The comet is now in eastern Cancer near the border of Leo. It is 359 million miles from Earth traveling back into the depths of the solar system so is getting very dim.



Brightest visible asteroids:


Asteroids Ceres and Vesta are still close to the Sun this month but might be spotted just before dawn.


Minor Planet 18 Melpomene (Mag 9.5) is in constellation Ophiuchus this month about 15 degrees northwest of the “Teapot’s” lid so could be spotted at the star party. It is about 123 million miles from Earth at this time and has an orbit period of 3.48 years. It is potato shaped about 90 X 80 miles in diameter. This asteroid was discovered in 1852 by J. R. Hind from London.



Deep Sky:

This month let’s consider looking for a dim star that has exploded nearby in our Milky Way Galaxy in the constellation Sagittarius and is now a bright magnitude 7.8 Nova. This is the 4th time this year that a dim star in Sagittarius has erupted into prominence but none of the others got brighter than magnitude 9.5. Since we only expect to see about three dozen of these exploding stars in our galaxy each year, it is very unusual to have four show up in the same constellation.


This bright object can be found between the “lid” and “spout” of the Teapot asterism about 2.25 degrees north of Delta Sagittarii (Kaus Media), the 3rd-magnitude star marking where the lid and spout connect. RA 18h 20.5m  Dec -27 degrees 44′.


Observers in Japan discovered this Nova July 7th and confirmed that images of the star in June were no brighter than magnitude 13. So now it is officially designated Nova Sagittarii 2012 No. 4.