Saturday October 18th Black Star canyon star party

Posted On October 15, 2014

Black Star Canyon Star Party notice - Saturday October 18th, 2014

Hello Fellow OCA club members!

This Saturday, I plan to open the gate around 5:45 pm, which is about a half hour before the sun sets. The weather report for this Saturday indicates that Orange County should start off warm with cloudy skies and humidity near 50%.  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.

We should have dark skies as there will be a third quarter Moon on the 15th so the Moon won't rise until after midnight Saturday 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 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.

WarningNo Pets allowed(This is an OC Parks and Nature Conservancy rule).


  The ISS (International Space Station) will not make any visible passes Saturday evening or anytime this week in this area.

  The X-37B (Air Force Boeing space plane) will not make any visible passes this Saturday evening. It will only make one visible pass this week on the 21st early in the morning. The secret mysterious space plane will be landing this week after 22 months of being in orbit.

  The HST (Hubble Space Telescope) will not make any visible passes Saturday evening. It will make early morning passes this week up until Saturday.

  Iridium flares: There will be on visible magnitude -1.2 Iridium Flare Saturday evening at 7:59:29 pm 31 degrees high NNE (19 degrees) from Iridium satellite 45.

I am sure we will also see a number of satellites pass over in the early evening.

Planets & Pluto:

~Mercury, (Mag 3.6) sets about 6 pm in constellation Virgo this Saturday so probably won't be seen at the BSC star party. Mercury will be just 64 million miles from Earth and does not rise until 6:45 am.

~Venus, (Mag -3.8) will probably not be seen Saturday evening as it sets about 6 pm in constellation Virgo. Venus rises just about 7 am so hides in the Sun's glare all month. Venus will be about 160 million miles from Earth, and will pass behind the Sun October 25th. It will return to view on evenings in early December.

~Mars, (Mag 1.0) will be in Constellation Leo rising about noon so can be seen at BSC this Saturday evening high in the sky. It will be about 152 million miles away with a disk size of about 6 degrees and doesn't set until about 9:20 pm. There will be a comet near Mars Saturday evening (see Comets section below).

~Jupiter, (Mag -1.8) will set about 3:10 pm Saturday in constellation Cancer so will not be seen this Saturday evening. It will be about 520 million miles from Earth getting a little closer every day with a diameter of about 32". It can be seen in the early morning sky, as it rises around 1:45 am.

~Saturn, (Mag 1.3) will be in constellation Libra this Saturday so can be seen early Saturday evening as it sets about 7:30 pm. It has a disk measuring 15" with rings spanning 35" and tilting 22 degrees. It will be about 1.007 billion miles away Saturday. Around 6:30 pm, we should be able to see some of Saturn's brightest moons starting with brightest moon Titan far west and slightly below Saturn followed by Enceladus just east of Saturn. Moons Tethys & Dione will be just below Saturn while Moon Rhea will be just above Saturn.

Note: The 2014 paths of Uranus and Neptune are shown in the September Sky & Telescope magazine on page 51.

 ~ Uranus, (Mag 5.7) will be in constellation Pisces this Saturday evening rising about 5:40 pm so we may see it at the BSC star party. It shows up as a small 3.7" blue-green disc in a telescope so look for it later in the night. Uranus will be about 1.771 billion miles from Earth this Saturday.

~ Neptune, (Mag 7.9) is in constellation Aquarius, about 2.728 billion miles away this week slowly moving farther from Earth. It is seen as a bluish gray 2.3" disc in a telescope and we might be able to see it at BSC this Saturday evening as it rises just after 4 pm and does not set until 3 am.

 ~ Pluto, (Mag 14.2) rises about 12:45 pm in constellation Sagittarius so might be seen Saturday evening as it does not set until just before 11pm. It is about 3.068 billion miles from Earth and since it is so dim, you would need a 10" or larger telescope to see it visually.


The Orionid meteor showers will be active from October 2 - November 7 peaking October 21st. You could expect to see 25 meteors per hour at its peak with a radiant 10 degrees above Betelgeuse. So we might see some of these meteors at the BSC star party late in the evening.

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:

All the comets in the sky are very dim again this month with the brightest, C/2012 K1 Panstarrs, at a 6th magnitude in Puppis according to the October Astronomy Magazine. But it would not be in the night sky during the BSC star party as could only be seen before dawn.

Comet C/2013 A1 Sliding Spring is heading towards the path Mars is taking and will be just 81,100 miles from Mars October 19th. The comet will have an 8th magnitude (according to Astronomy Magazine) and will be 150 million miles from Earth. Just find Mars in your scope and the comet will be just one degree away. The October Astronomy Magazine shows the path this comet is taking during the middle of October on page 42.

This comet was discovered on January 3rd, 2013 by Robert McNaught at Siding Spring Observatory in Australia using a 0.5 meter (20 inch) telescope. It looks to have a million year orbit and at first was thought to have a chance of colliding with Mars.

Brightest visible asteroids:

Finding an asteroid at the BSC star party is always very challenging as they are dim and are just small dots.

The brightest asteroid this month is Minor Planet 4 Vesta (Mag 7.8), the 2nd most massive object in the asteroid belt. It can be found in constellation Scorpius this month just behind the top of the Scorpion's head to Saturn. Vesta has a diameter of about 330 miles and was discovered in 1807. It is about 203 million miles from Earth at this time and has an orbit period of 3.63 years. It should be visible at the BSC star party at sunset. NASA's Dawn spacecraft was in orbit around this asteroid and sent back stunning close-up pictures.

Minor Planet 1 Ceres (Mag 9.0) is the biggest object in the asteroid belt with a diameter of about 590 miles. It is in constellation Libra and can be found just 10 degrees in front of the head of the Scorpion. It is about 333 million miles from Earth now 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 at sunset so might be seen at the BSC star party. This asteroid will be the next stop for the Dawn spacecraft in 2015.

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,