Saturday Oct 3rd Black Star Canyon star party

Posted On September 30, 2015

Black Star Canyon Star Party notice - Saturday, October 3rd, 2015

Hello Fellow OCA club members!

This Saturday, we plan to open the gate around 6:15 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 (80F), 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.

A 3rd Quarter Moon starts October 4th so our star party should have a fairly dark night sky as the Moon will not rise until just before we close at midnight. 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 make one magnitude -1.2 visible pass Saturday evening at BSC starting at 8:20:37 pm 10 degrees high in the West going to 23 degrees high NW at 8:23:19 pm where it will move NNW and fade out of sight at 8:23:43 pm.
The HST (Hubble Space Telescope) will make one magnitude 2.9 visible pass Saturday evening starting at 6:51:08 pm 10 degrees high WSW going to 20 degrees high SSW at 6:54:16 pm and then dropping back to 10 degrees high SSE at 6:57:22 pm.
Iridium flares: There will be no visible Iridium Flares this Saturday evening. But I am sure we will see a number of satellites pass over in the early evening.

Planets & Pluto:
~Mercury, (Mag 3.3) sets about 6 pm in constellation Virgo this Saturday evening so will not be seen at the BSC star party. Mercury will be about 64 million miles from Earth and does not rise until 6:20 am so might be seen in the morning sky. Mercury reaches greatest western elongation October 15th when it stands 18 degrees from the Sun. It will have a disk that spans 8" and be about 33% lit.
~Venus, (Mag -4.4) will set at 4:20 pm in constellation Leo so won't be seen this Saturday evening. Venus will be about 49 million miles from Earth with a disc size of 30" and about 34% lit. Look for it just before dawn when it rises about 3:20 am out in front of Leo the Lion which will be looking down on the bright planet. An hour before sunrise, Regulus will be below Venus followed by Mars and then Jupiter, all within 15 degrees.
~Mars, (Mag 1.8) will be in Constellation Leo setting about 5 pm so will not be seen Saturday evening. It might be seen just in front of Leo the Lion near dawn as it rises about 4 am. It will be about 221 million miles from Earth Saturday evening.
~Jupiter, (Mag -1.6) will not be seen Saturday evening as it sets at 5:15 pm in constellation Leo It will be about 582 million miles from Earth getting a little closer every day. Jupiter will have a disk size of 31". It will be visible just before dawn when it rises about 4:30 am.
~Saturn, (Mag 1.3) will be in constellation Libra this Saturday so should be seen 45 minutes after sunset about 10 degrees high in the sky until it sets about 9 pm. It has a disk measuring 16" with rings spanning 36" and tilting 25 degrees. Saturn will be about 986 million miles away Saturday evening . Saturn will be just in front and above of the Scorpion's 3-star head. Look for 8th magnitude moon Titan west and far south of Saturn around 8 pm and you might also see 10th magnitude moon Tethys just above the rings and west of the planet. Moon Enceladus will be just to the east of Saturn with moon Dione & Rhea below Enceladus.
---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 7 pm so might 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 1.767 billion miles from Earth this Saturday. It can be seen all night as does not set until 7:30 am.
~ Neptune, (Mag 7.8) is in constellation Aquarius, about 2.708 billion miles away this week slowly moving closer to Earth. It is seen as a bluish gray 2.4" disc in a telescope and might be seen at BSC this Saturday evening after it rises at 5 pm. It can be seen until 2 hours before sunrise as does not set until about 4:15 am.
~ Pluto, (Mag 14.1) will rise in constellation Sagittarius about 2 pm so could be seen Saturday evening high in the sky after sunset It is about 3.060 billion miles from Earth and is so dim, you would need a 12" or larger telescope to see it visually. Pluto does not set until almost midnight. 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 Orionid meteor shower is active between October 2 - November 7 peaking October 21/22. This year we can only expect to see 15 meteors/hour at peak. The radiant for this shower is 10 degrees above Betelguese. This meteor shower is created by debris from Halley's Comet. I am sure we will 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 a lot of maginitude 11 comets in the sky this month, but the best one that will be visible Saturday evening is Comet Lovejoy.

Comet C/2014 Q2 Lovejoy is a magnitude 11 (according to the Heavens-above website) and will be 355 million miles from Earth Saturday in constellation Corona Borealis just 5 degrees to the right 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 13,290 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 6.2), 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 134 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 8 pm. NASA's Dawn spacecraft was in orbit around this asteroid and sent back stunning close-up pictures.

Minor Planet 1 Ceres (Mag 8.7) is the biggest object in the asteroid belt with a diameter of about 590 miles. It is in constellation Sagittarius just 10 degrees below the Ecliptic between the bottom of the Goat and Sagittarius. Ceres will be about 237 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 10.4) 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 20 Saturday evening so visible all evening long. This asteroid has a diameter of about 338 miles and is about 322 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 objects in Auriga:
(Note that these objects can also be seen with binoculars.)

M38 is a magnitude 6.4 Open Cluster found between stars Capella and Alnath in the middle of Auriga. It is 3,700 light years away, give or take 1,000 light years and spans 17 - 28 light years. Contains about 100 stars with the brightest shining at a magnitude 9.5. Some see the stars forming the letter "A". Its age is estimated to be 220 million years. Messier logged this object after observing it September 25th, 1764. (Also fainter star cluster NGC 1907 can be seen just a ¬Ω degree away.).

M36 is a magnitude 6.0 Open Cluster found just below M38 inside Auriga's pentagon. It is 3,700 light years away and spans 13 light years. Contains about 60 stars with the brightest shining at a magnitude 8.9. Some see the stars forming the shape of a starfish. Its age is estimated to be 25 million years. Messier logged this object after observing it September 2nd, 1764.

M37 is a magnitude 5.6 Open Cluster found outside of Auriga's pentagon to the east of M36. It is 4,200 light years away and spans 29 light years. Contains about 150 stars with the brightest shining at a magnitude 9.2. There is a bright red star near the center of M37. Its age is estimated to be 300 million years. Messier logged this object after observing it September 2nd, 1764.

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,