Saturday November 17th Black Star Canyon star party

Posted On November 14, 2012

BSC Star Party Notice  Saturday November 17th, 2012


Hello Fellow OCA club members!


This Saturday, I plan to open the gate around 4:15 pm, which is about a half hour before the sun sets now that daylight savings time is over. The weather report for this Saturday indicates that Orange County will be cloudy with humidity at 55%.  With rain predicted on Friday and again on Monday you might want to 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.


We should have fairly dark skies as the first quarter thin crescent Moon will set early 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  make one visible magnitude 2.4 pass Saturday evening starting at 6:06:56 pm 10 degrees high WSW going to 29 degrees high at 6:10:37 pm SSW and then dropping to 16 degrees at 6:13:16  SE.

  We might even get to see a magnitude -8 Iridium flares Saturday evening at BSC from Iridium Satellite 84 at 54 degrees high NE (36 degrees) at 5:54:53 pm. 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 3.7) sets at 4:41 pm in constellation Libra so would not be seen at BSC.  It will rise at 6:30 am so would be hard to spot in the morning until later in the month. Mercury will be about 63 million miles from Earth Saturday.

~Venus, (Mag -3.9) will not be seen Saturday evening as it sets about 3:15 pm in constellation Virgo. Venus is now about 126 million miles from Earth and can be seen early morning as it rises about 4 am.

~Mars, (Mag 1.4) is now in Constellation Sagittarius, so is visible at sunset until setting at 6:52 pm. The red planet will be just to the right of the “Teapot” all month long. Mars is about 196 million miles away now with a 4″ disk so none of our scopes should be able to see any detail on the red planet until it is closer.

~Jupiter, (Mag -2.6) will rise about 5:45 pm in constellation Taurus Saturday evening a few degrees northeast of the V-shaped Hyades star cluster. It now is about 381 million miles from Earth getting a little closer every day with a diameter of about 48″.  At 6 pm Saturday, Moon Callisto will be far west of Jupiter with largest moon Ganymede much closer and Europa even closer. Nearest moon Io will have been passing in front of Jupiter heading west and just starting to clear the planet.  

~Saturn, (Mag 1.1) will be in constellation Virgo this Saturday but cannot be seen as it sets at about 3:45 pm. This planet is about 995 million miles away slowly moving closer to Earth. Saturn rises about 4:45 am so can be seen an hour before dawn.

~ Uranus, (Mag 5.8) will be in constellation Pisces this Saturday evening rising at 2:15 pm so will be up high at sunset. It shows up as a small 3.6″ blue-green disc in a telescope. This planet reached opposition on September 29th, when it was opposite the Sun in our sky. It will remain visible from sunset to 2:25 am and glows bigger and brighter than at any other time of the year. It is about 1.807 billion miles away from Earth.


     Note: The September Sky & Telescope magazine shows the 2012 paths of Uranus and Neptune on page 50.


~ Neptune, (Mag 7.9) is in constellation Aquarius, about 2.781 billion miles away this week slowly moving farther from Earth. It is seen as a bluish gray 2.3″ disc in a telescope. We should be able to see it at BSC this Saturday evening (it is bright enough to even be seen through binoculars), as it does not set until 11:38 pm.

 ~ Pluto, (Mag 14.1) rises about 9:30 pm so could be seen Saturday evening up to about 7:30 pm when it sets.  It is 3.075 billion miles from Earth in constellation Sagittarius. Since it is so dim, you will need a 10″ or larger telescope to see it visually. The June 2012 Sky & Telescope magazine shows Pluto’s path for all of 2012 on pages 52-53.  


The Leonids Meteor Shower peaks on November 17th. The radiant is near the head of “Leo the Lion” and this Saturday we might see about 10 meteors per hour after 10:30 pm.


Brightest visible Comets:

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


The magnitude 13.3 Comet C/2010 S1 Linear might be seen Saturday at the BSC star party in constellation Cygnus using a 10″ or bigger telescope.  Look for it just 4 degrees southwest of center Cygnus star Sadr. It is about 550 million miles from Earth at this time.



Brightest visible asteroids:


Bright asteroids Ceres and Vesta are still close to Jupiter this month so can be seen Saturday evening after 10 pm.


Minor Planet 1 Ceres (Mag 7.7) is the biggest object in the asteroid belt with a diameter of about 590 miles. It is in constellation Gemini and can be found about 14 degrees east of Jupiter. It is about 174 million miles from Earth and has a period of 4.61 years. It was discovered in 1801 and for 50 years was classified as the 8th planet. It will be visible Saturday evening shortly after sunset so might be seen at the BSC star party. This asteroid will be the next stop for the Dawn spacecraft.



Minor Planet 4 Vesta (Mag 6.9), the 2nd most massive object in the asteroid belt, can be found in constellation Taurus, about 9 degrees east of Jupiter just 2 degrees below the Ecliptic. It is 8 degrees directly north of Bellatrix, 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 will become visible shortly after sunset so might be seen at the BSC star party. NASA’s Dawn spacecraft was in orbit around this asteroid and sent back stunning close-up pictures.



Deep Sky:

This month let’s consider looking at some Messier Globular Star Clusters near Pegasus:


M15 is a magnitude 6.2 globular star cluster about 3,400 light years away that has a diameter of 122 light years. You can find it in constellation Pegasus by following a line from Theta Pegasi to Enif about that same distance to M15. It was first observed by Messier in 1764.


M2 is a magnitude 6.5 globular star cluster in Aqurius about 40,000 light years away that has a diameter of 151 light years.  You can find it about 13 degrees south of M15. It was first observed by Messier in 1760