Saturday October 22nd BSC star party

Posted On October 19, 2016

Black Star Canyon Star Party notice – Saturday October 22nd, 2016
Hello Fellow OCA club members!
This Saturday, we 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 night indicates that Black Star Canyon should be warm with clear skies and humidity at about 10%. 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 3rd quarter Moon Saturday, the Moon will not rise until after midnight, so 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 any front 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. Or just park along Black Star Canyon Road and walk down to the star party site.

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 this Saturday evening.
  The HST (Hubble Space Telescope) will not make any visible passes this Saturday evening.s
  Iridium flares: There will not be any visible Iridium Flares this Saturday evening. But I am sure we will also see a number of other satellites pass over in the early evening.
Planets & Pluto:
~Mercury, (Mag -1.0) sets about 6 pm in constellation Virgo this Saturday evening so won’t be seen at the BSC star party. Mercury will be about 131 million miles from Earth and will not rise until about 6:45 am so might be seen in the early morning sky just before sunrise.
~Venus, (Mag -3.8) will set about 8 pm in constellation Scorpius so should be seen this Saturday evening. Venus will be about 116 million miles from Earth Saturday, very bright with an almost fully (80%) illuminated disk of about 14”.
~Mars, (Mag 0.3) will be in Constellation Sagittarius just on top of the “Teapot handle” so should be easily seen Saturday evening as a bright reddish object to the naked eye. It will be about 112 million miles from Earth Saturday evening not setting until just after 10:45 pm. Mars will have a diameter of about 8” which is still big enough to see some detail on the red planet in very dark skies.
~Jupiter, (Mag -1.5) will not be seen Saturday evening as sets about 5:15 pm in constellation Virgo. Jupiter could be seen about 20 degrees below the rear end of the sleeping Lion. It will be about 593 million miles from Earth and will have a disk size of 31”. Jupiter rises about 5:30 am so can be seen low on the horizon before sunrise.
~Saturn, (Mag 1.4) will be in constellation Ophiuchus this Saturday so should be seen this Saturday evening low in the SW sky as the Sun goes down. It sets just after 8:30 pm and will be about 999 million miles away Saturday evening. Look for Saturn 10 degrees behind the top star of the head of the Scorpion. It will have a diameter of 16” while the rings span 36” and tilt 26 degrees, just 1 degree less than the maximum they will achieve next year. Look for the dark Cassini Division that separates the outer A ring from the brighter B ring. You should be able to spot brightest magnitude 8 moon Titan far west of Saturn as it circles the big planet every 16 days. You might also spot 4 of Saturn’s other moons, starting with Iapetus just west of Saturn and then 10th magnitude moons Tethys, Dione & Rhea all within a few degrees of Saturn’s rings outer edge.
~Uranus, (Mag 5.7) will be in constellation Pisces this Saturday evening rising just after 5:45 pm so should be seen at the BSC star party Saturday evening. It shows up as a small 3.4” blue-green disc in a telescope. Uranus will be about 1.764 billion miles from Earth this Saturday. It can be seen early morning in the East all the way until sunrise as does not set until just after 6:30 am.
—The October issue of Sky & Tel Magazine page 50 shows the paths Uranus & Neptune are following.
~ Neptune, (Mag 7.8) is in constellation Aquarius, about 2.727 billion miles away this week. It is seen as a bluish gray 2.2” disc in a telescope and should be seen at BSC this Saturday evening as it rises about 4 pm and does not set until 5 am.
 ~ Pluto, (Mag 14.2) will rise in constellation Sagittarius about 12:45 pm so could be seen Saturday evening high in the sky after sunset It is about 3.111 billion miles from Earth and is so dim, you would need a 10” or larger telescope to see it visually. Pluto will not set until about 10:45 pm. You may use the Pluto finder chart on page 43 of the October Astronomy Magazine to help find this dim magnitude 14 object through this month.

I would expect to see a few stray meteors Saturday evening as we always do at every BSC star party. But the Orionid Meteor Shower will be active from October 2 – November 7 with meteors radiating from a point above Orion. This is usually just a minor shower showing up to 15 meteors/hour at it’s peak on October 21.

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:
The website Heavens-above does not show any visible comets that could be seen at the BSC star party.
However, the current drought of visible comets through small telescopes should end in a few months starting in December.

Brightest visible asteroids:
Finding an asteroid is always very challenging as they are dim and are just small dots.

Minor Planet 1 Ceres (Mag 7.4) is the biggest object in the asteroid belt with a diameter of about 590 miles. It is in constellation Cetus just 10 degrees below the Ecliptic and under the “V” in Pisces. Ceres will be about 177 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 should be visible Saturday all star party long. The Dawn spacecraft has reached this asteroid and will be orbiting it taking pictures for at least a year.

Minor Planet 4 Vesta (Mag 8.0 ), the 2nd most massive object in the asteroid belt is the brightest asteroid again this month. It is found in constellation Cancer this month, just a few degrees above and to the right of the Moon and left of the Gemini Twins. It might be seen Saturday evening after 10 pm. Vesta has a diameter of about 330 miles and was discovered in 1807. It is about 220 million miles from Earth at this time and has an orbit period of 3.63 years.  NASA’s Dawn spacecraft was in orbit around this asteroid and sent back stunning close-up pictures.

Asteroid 2 Pallas (Mag 9.5) is the third largest asteroids in the Solar System estimated to have 7% of the mass of the entire asteroid belt. It will be in constellation Aquarius Saturday evening about 20 degrees above the middle of Capricornus, so might be seen at the BSC star party. This asteroid has a mean diameter of about 318 miles and is about 265 million miles from Earth. Pallas was discovered on March 28, 1802 by German astronomer Heinrich Wilhelm Olbers. It was thought to be a planet at that time but became the 2nd asteroid discovered. It has an orbit period of 4.61 years.

The September Astronomy Magazine has a finder chart on page 43 showing the path Pallas was following during the month of September.

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 ½ 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 hosts, Steve & Bonnie