Saturday Sept 5th Black Star Canyon star party

Posted On September 2, 2015

Black Star Canyon Star Party notice – Saturday August 8th, 2015
Hello Fellow OCA club members!
This Saturday, we plan to open the gate around 6:45 pm, which is about a half hour before the sun sets. The weather report for this Saturday indicates that Orange County should be warm (86F), have clear skies and humidity near 40%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.
We will have a starting 3rd Quarter Moon so our star party should have a very dark night sky as the Moon will not rise until after 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 not make any visible passes Saturday evening at BSC.
  The HST (Hubble Space Telescope) will not make any visible passes Saturday evening.
  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 0.4) sets about 8 pm in constellation Virgo this Saturday evening so might be seen at the BSC star party. Mercury will be about 86 million miles from Earth and does not rise until 8:41 am so can not be seen in the morning sky. Mercury will reach greatest eastern elongation September 4th when it will be 27 degrees from the Sun.  It will have a disk that spans 7” and be about 60% lit.
~Venus, (Mag -4.3) will set at 5:15 pm in constellation Cancer so won’t be seen this Saturday evening. Venus will be about 33 million miles from Earth with a disc size of 48” and about 10% lit. Look for it just before dawn when it rises about 4:30 am out in front of Leo the Lion which will be looking down on the bright planet.
~Mars, (Mag 1.9) will be in Constellation Leo setting about 6 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 4:30 am. It will be about 232 million miles from Earth Saturday evening.
~Jupiter, (Mag -1.5) will not be seen Saturday evening as it sets at 6:50 pm in constellation Leo It will be about 595 million miles from Earth getting a little farther every day. We have enjoyed viewing Jupiter in the evening for many months but it passed on the far side of the Sun August 26th. It will be visible just before dawn when it rises about 6 am.
~Saturn, (Mag 1.2) will be in constellation Libra this Saturday so should be seen after sunset about 20 degrees high in the sky until it sets about 10:50 pm. It has a disk measuring 17” with rings spanning 38” and tilting 24 degrees. Saturn will be about 950 million miles away Saturday evening and will not rise until 30 minutes after noon. Saturn will be just in front and above of the Scorpion’s 3-star head. Look for 8th magnitude moon Titan far west of Saturn and you might also see 10th magnitude moons Tethys, Dione & Rhea grouped east of Saturn. You might even see moon Enceladus directly east of Saturn’s rings just a planet width away.
—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 8:45 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 1.785 billion miles from Earth this Saturday. It can be seen all night as does not set until  9:25 am.
~ Neptune, (Mag 7.8) is in constellation Aquarius, about 2.695 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 7 pm. It can be seen until sunrise as does not set until about 6 am.
 ~ Pluto, (Mag 14.1) will rise in constellation Sagittarius about 3:45 pm so could be seen Saturday evening. It is about 2.985 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 2 am. The New Horizons probe reached Pluto July 14th and the path Pluto & the probe are taking is shown in the July Sky & Telescope Magazine on pages 52-53.

There are no major meteor showers in September. But 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:
All the comets in the sky are very dim again this month, but the brightest one that will be visible Saturday evening is Comet Lovejoy.

Comet C/2014 Q2 Lovejoy is a magnitude 10.5 (according to the Heavens-above website) and will be 312 million miles from Earth Saturday in constellation Bootes between Bootes and the Hercules Keystone (5 degrees north).  This comet was discovered on 17 August 2014 by Terry Lovejoy using an 8” telescope and was his 5th comet discovery. It looks to have a period of 8,000 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 6.0), the 2nd most massive object in the asteroid belt is the brightest asteroid again this month. It would be found in constellation Cetus this month, just below the Ecliptic. Vesta has a diameter of about 330 miles and was discovered in 1807. It is about 137 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 8.3) 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 205 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 10.2) is the second asteroid to have been discovered (after Ceres), and one of the largest in the Solar System. It will be in constellation Hercules Saturday evening so visible all evening long. This asteroid has a diameter of about 338 miles and is about 290 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” next to the Delta star so might be seen at the BSC star party.

Deep Sky:
This month let’s consider looking at some objects in Hercules:
The most famous is M13 (NGC 6205), a magnitude 5.8 Globular cluster called the Great Hercules Cluster. It is 21,000 light years away with a diameter of 104 light years with an age estimated to be 14 billion years. M13 is estimated to have about 500,000 stars and is one of the biggest and brightest globulars in the sky. It was discovered in 1714 by Edmond Halley and recorded by Messier in 1764. M13 is found between two corner stars of the Keystone in Hercules, about 1/3 of the way down from the most northern, right sided corner star.
M92 is a magnitude 6.4 Globular cluster found above the Keystone in Hercules. It is 26,000 light years away and has a diameter of 85 light years. It is a very compact set of stars tighter than most clusters. Although this cluster usually takes a back seat to nearby M13, it is a spectacular globular cluster with a brighter core.  Messier logged this object after observing it March 18, 1781.
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,