Saturday October 1st Black Star Canyon star party

Posted On September 28, 2011

BSC Star Party Notice (Sept star party) – Saturday October 1st, 2011


Hello Fellow OCA club members!


This Saturday, I 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 Orange County will have some clouds but be very warm again, with humidity at 35%. But keep an eye on the OCA website where I will post a notice on the home page should the star party be cancelled for any reason.


There will be a 1st quarter moon that sets early so we should have fairly dark skies. First time visitors might want to get to BSC 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 Irvine Ranch Conservancy property rule)



The ISS (International Space Station) will not make any visible passes Saturday evening nor will the HST (Hubble Space Telescope). There will be one visible Iridium flare Saturday evening at 7:15 pm 53 degrees high SSE (161 degrees) going from Mag -0 to -8 from Iridium Satellite 8. Although I have never looked for the NanoSail-D, but it will make a Mag 3.9 pass starting at 8:42:44 pm 10 degrees high NNW, rising to 15 degrees at 8:43:28 NNW where it will then fade out of sight. I am sure we will also see a few dim satellites pass over as we are looking up in the sky.


~Mercury, (Mag -1.5) goes down at 6:45 pm just when the sun sets and is so low that it will not be seen this Saturday evening. It passed between the Sun and Earth August 16th (Inferior conjunction) so is lost in the Sun’s glare until the last week in October. It is about 130 million miles from Earth in constellation Virgo.

~Venus, (Mag -3.8) might be seen Saturday evening as it sets about 7:15 pm, a half hour after the Sun, in constellation Virgo. By the end of this month, Venus will set an hour after the Sun. Venus is now about 156 million miles from Earth.

¬†~Mars, (Mag 1.4) is now in Constellation Cancer setting about 4:00 pm so cannot be seen this Saturday evening. It rises about 2 am so can be seen in the morning sky. It is about 170 million miles away, just a 5″ disk so still too far away to see any detail on the planet. Saturday, Mars is within a degree of the Beehive star cluster (M44).

~Jupiter, (Mag -2.7) will rise about 8:15 pm in constellation Aries so will be seen again at the Saturday evening BSC star party. It now is about 382 million miles from Earth getting a little closer every day until its closest approach October 27th when it will be 369 million miles away. It will outshine any other object in the sky and moon Callisto will be far east of the big planet with Ganymede about half as far followed by Io. Moon Europa will be to the west.

~Saturn, (Mag 0.8) sets about 7:20 pm Saturday in constellation Virgo and will be so low in the sky near the Sun that it cannot be seen at the BSC star party.  Saturn is about 990 million miles away slowly moving further from Earth.

~ Uranus, (Mag 5.7) will rise at 6:30 pm this week in constellation Pisces so can be seen Saturday evening at BSC. It shows up as a small 3.7″ blue-green disc in a telescope. It is about 1.775 billion miles away, moving closer to Earth. Uranus is easy to find using the two stars on the eastern edge of the Great Square of Pegasus and look along that line 15 degrees south.

~ Neptune, (Mag 7.8) is in constellation Aquarius, about 2.715 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 should be able to see it at BSC this Saturday evening, as it rises about 5 pm and doesn’t set until 4 am. ¬†

~ Pluto, (Mag 14.1) rises at 1:30 pm and reached opposition and peak visibility in late June. It is 2.984 billion miles from Earth in constellation Sagittarius slowly getting farther from Earth. Since it is so dim, you will need a 10″ or larger telescope to see it visually at BSC.¬† The 2011 July issue of Sky & Telescope Magazine shows the path Pluto is following on page 64.



The October Orionids meteor shower will peak on the 21/22nd when one might see up to 20 meteors per hour under favorable conditions, but 2011 will not be optimal. The radiant will be 10 degrees above Betelgeuse from debris left by Comet 1P/Halley. We normally see a few stray meteors at every BSC star party even when no meteor shower is expected.



The brightest comets visible right now are too close to the Sun to be seen. Several are near Venus and Mercury.


But one bright magnitude 8.4 Comet C/2009 P1 Garradd is in constellation Hercules so might be viewed this Saturday evening. The comet is heading northwest and if it brightens as expected, it will become visible to the naked eye in early 2012. It is now 155 million miles from Earth and can be found west of the Summer Triangle Altair/Vega side at the point that forms a right triangle with Vega and Altair outside the triangle.


Brightest visible asteroids:

Minor Planet 4 Vesta (Mag 6.9), the 2nd most massive object in the asteroid belt, can be found at the bottom of constellation Capricornus. ¬†Vesta has a diameter of about 330 miles and was discovered in 1807. It is about 149 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 has just gone into orbit around this asteroid and will study it for a year getting as close as 110 miles from its surface.


Minor Planet 1 Ceres (Mag 7.8) is the biggest object in the asteroid belt with a diameter of about 590 miles. It is in constellation Aquarius and can be found between the Whale’s head and Aquarius. Ceres is about 187 million miles from Earth and has a period of 4.60 years. It was discovered in 1801 and for 50 years was classified as the 8th planet. It will be visible Saturday evening starting about 9 pm so might be seen at the BSC star party. This asteroid will be the next stop for the Dawn spacecraft.


Deep Sky:

This month let’s consider looking at some Open Star Clusters ¬†in the Milky Way from Cygnus to Cassiopeia:


M29 (Mag 7) is an open star cluster Messier observed in 1764. It is 4,000 light years away and the cluster spans 8 light years. To locate this object, just look within 2 degrees of the star Gamma Cygni which is the center star of the body and wings of the Swan. You should see about 50 stars, the brightest shining at magnitude 8.6. The age of this cluster is estimated to be 10 million years


M39 (Mag 4.6) is an open star cluster Messier observed in 1764 but is so bright, Aristotle recorded it in ancient times. It is 800 light years away and the cluster spans 7.5 light years. It contains about 30 stars, the brightest is a magnitude 6.8. Its age is estimated to be 270 million years. It can be found about 10 degrees above Deneb in the narrowest part of the Milky Way in that area.


M52 (Mag 6.9) is an open star cluster that Messier observed in 1774. It is 3,000 light years away and the cluster spans 11 light years. To locate this object, just look along the line from Alpha Cassiopeia to Caph at a point the same distance as those stars are apart. You should see about 100 stars, the brightest shining at magnitude 8.2. The age of this cluster is estimated to be 35 million years




Don’t forget to bring your gloves, coats & sweaters because it can get cold after the sun sets and 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. Hope to see you there.


Your OCA star party host,