Saturday Nov 7th Black Star Canyon star pary

Posted On November 3, 2015

Black Star Canyon Star Party notice - Saturday November 7th, 2015

Hello Fellow OCA club members!

This Saturday, we plan to open the gate around 4:30 pm, which is about a half hour before the sun sets. The weather report for this Saturday indicates that black Star Canyon should be warm (77F), have clear skies and humidity near 20%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.

With a new Moon just 4 days away, our star party should have a 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 not make any visible passes Saturday evening .
Iridium flares: There will be one magnitude -0.1 visible Iridium Flare this Saturday evening at 5:57 pm 38 degrees high in the South (172 degrees) from Iridium satellite 46. I am sure we will also see a number of satellites pass over in the early evening.

Planets & Pluto:
~Mercury, (Mag -0.8) sets about 4:30 pm in constellation Libra this Saturday evening so will not be seen at the BSC star party. Mercury will be about 130 million miles from Earth and does not rise until 5:48 am so might be seen in the morning sky. Mercury reaches superior conjunction with the Sun November 17th. It may be visible through binoculars about 20 minutes before sunrise for the first few days in November.
~Venus, (Mag -4.2) will set at 2:45 pm in constellation Virgo so won't be seen this Saturday evening. Venus will be about 74 million miles from Earth with a disc size of 22" and about 55% lit. Look for it just before dawn when it rises about 2:30 am 10 degrees below Leo the Lion. An hour before sunrise, Venus will be next to the crescent Moon just below Mars and well below Jupiter.
~Mars, (Mag 1.7) will be in Constellation Virgo setting about 2:40 pm so will not be seen Saturday evening. It might be seen just above bright Venus and the crescent Moon near dawn as it rises about 2:30 am. It will be about 200 million miles from Earth Saturday evening.
~Jupiter, (Mag -1.7) will not be seen Saturday evening as it sets at 2:15 pm in constellation Leo It will be about 546 million miles from Earth getting a little closer every day. Jupiter will have a disk size of 34". It will be visible after midnight when it rises about 1:45 am.
~Saturn, (Mag 1.4) will be in constellation Scorpius this Saturday so should be seen 45 minutes after sunset about 10 degrees high in the sky until it sets about 6 pm. It has a disk measuring 16" with rings spanning 36" and tilting 25 degrees. Saturn will be about 1.017 billion miles away Saturday evening . Saturn will be out in front of the Scorpion's 3-star head. Look for 8th magnitude moon Titan far west of Saturn around 6 pm and you might also see 10th magnitude moon Tethys just above the planet. Moon Enceladus will be just below Saturn with moon Dione just a bit more below the big planet. Moon Rhea will also be below Saturn and further east.
---The 2015 September Sky & Tel magazine shows the paths Uranus & Neptune are taking on pg 49.--
~ Uranus, (Mag 5.7) will be in constellation Pisces this Saturday evening rising about 3:30 pm so should 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 1.777 billion miles from Earth this Saturday. It can be seen most all night as does not set until 4 am.
~ Neptune, (Mag 7.9) is in constellation Aquarius, about 2.751 billion miles away this week. It is seen as a bluish gray 2.4" disc in a telescope and might be seen at BSC this Saturday evening as it rises at 1:45 pm. It can be seen past midnight as does not set until about 1 am.
~ Pluto, (Mag 14.2) will rise in constellation Sagittarius about 10:40 am so could be seen Saturday evening low in the sky after sunset It is about 3.115 billion miles from Earth and is so dim, you would need a 12" or larger telescope to see it visually. Pluto sets early at 8:40 pm. The New Horizons probe reached Pluto July 14th and the path Pluto & the probe are taking through December is shown in the July Sky & Telescope Magazine on pages 52-53.

The Leonid meteor shower is active between November 6 - November 30 peaking November 17/18. This year we can only expect to see 15 meteors/hour at peak. The radiant for this shower is from the Sickle asterism in Leo the Lion. This meteor shower is created by debris from the Tempel-Tuttle Comet striking the atmosphere at 44 miles/second, the fastest of any meteors. The high speeds means we get to see more bright fireballs than most showers. I am sure we will also see a few stray meteors Saturday evening as we always do at 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:
There are several maginitude 10-11 comets in the sky this month, but the best one that will be visible Saturday evening might be Comet Panstarrs or Comet Lovejoy. Later in November, we might want to look for magnitude 7.0 Comet Catalina that will fly through the Virgo constellation. See page 42 of the November Astronomy magazine for the path this comet is following.

Comet C/2014 S2 Pannstarrs is shining at a magnitude 10 (according to the Heavens-above website) and will be 175 million miles from Earth Saturday in constellation Ursa Minor just below the Little Dipper's bucket. This comet was discovered on 22 September 2014 by the Pan-Starrs 1 telescope (Haleakala). The latest calculations show a period of 2,280 years.

Comet C/2014 Q2 Lovejoy is shining at a magnitude 11 (according to the Heavens-above website) and will be 408 million miles from Earth Saturday in constellation Hercules between Corona Borealis and Vega just 5 degrees below the shortest side of the Hercules Keystone. This comet was discovered on 17 August 2014 by Terry Lovejoy using an 8" telescope and was his 5th comet discovery. The latest calculations show a period of 13,307 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 is still found in constellation Cetus this month, just below the Ecliptic on the Whale's nose. Vesta has a diameter of about 330 miles and was discovered in 1807. It is about 156 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 sunset. NASA's Dawn spacecraft was in orbit around this asteroid and sent back stunning close-up pictures.

Minor Planet 1 Ceres (Mag 9.1) is the biggest object in the asteroid belt with a diameter of about 590 miles. It is in constellation Microscopium just 10 degrees below the Ecliptic between the bottom of the Goat and Sagittarius, much closer to the Goat. Ceres will be about 282 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 through November is shown on page 50 of the July Sky & Telescope Magazine.

Asteroid 2 Pallas (Mag 10.5) is the second asteroid to have been discovered (after Ceres), and one of the largest in the Solar System. It will be in constellation Ophiuchus Saturday evening so visible all evening long. This asteroid has a diameter of about 338 miles and is about 359 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 is far south of the Hercule's "Keystone" 5 degrees below and to the left of the Delta star so might be seen at the BSC star party.

Deep Sky:
This month let's consider looking at some Messier Open Star Clusters near Cassiopeia:

M103 is a magnitude 7.4 open star cluster about 8,500 light years away that spans 15 light years. You can find it in constellation Cassiopeia just 1 degree from Delta Cassiopeiae. It is shaped like an arrow in a very thick area of the Milky Way and contains about 25 stars. Its age is estimated to be 22 million years. Messier's friend Mechain discovered this object and Messier didn't have time to observe it himself before adding it to his 1781 catalog.

M52 is a magnitude 6.9 open star cluster about 3,000 light years away that spans 11 light years. You can find it in constellation Cassiopeia along a line from Caph and Alpha Cassiopeiae, about the same distance from Caph as Caph is from Alpha Cassiopeiae. It is shaped like a triangle in a sparse area of the Milky Way and contains at least 100 stars. Its age is estimated to be 35 million years. Messier discovered this object in 1774 while observing a comet he discovered that year

M111 -112 (Honorary Entry) are the famous western (NGC869) & eastern (NGC884) open Double Clusters that are 7,500 light years away and each span over 60 light years. The western cluster contains about 200 stars and the eastern cluster contains about 115 stars. The clusters have a magnitude of about 4.0 and together, both span about 1 full degree. Easy to find halfway on a line between Gamma Persei and Delta Cassiopeiae. Evidence shows that Messier knew about these clusters clear back in 1772.

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,