Saturday September 24th BSC star party

Posted On September 21, 2016

Black Star Canyon Star Party notice – Saturday September 24th, 2016
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 night indicates that Black Star Canyon should be warm with clear skies and humidity about 35%. 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 well 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 .
  Iridium flares: There will not be any 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 6 pm in constellation Virgo this Saturday evening so won’t be seen at the BSC star party. Mercury will be about 80 million miles from Earth and will not rise until about 5:30 am so could be seen in the early morning sky.
~Venus, (Mag -3.8) will set at 8 pm in constellation Virgo so might be seen this Saturday evening. Venus will be about 131 million miles from Earth Saturday, very bright with an almost fully illuminated disk of 12”.
~Mars, (Mag 0.1) will be in Constellation Sagittarius between the √¢‚Ǩ≈ìTeapot√¢‚Ǩ¬ù lid and the Scorpion’s 3-star head so should be easily seen Saturday evening. It will be about 97 million miles from Earth Saturday evening not setting until just after 11 pm. Mars will have a diameter of 9√¢‚Ǩ¬ù which is still big enough to see some detail on the red planet. It will be easy to see Saturday as a bright reddish object to the naked eye 20 degrees behind the Scorpion’s 3 star head. A big telescope might show some surface details including the shrinking white North Pole ice cap (as it is summer time on Mars) which will be tilted 15 degrees towards Earth. The Sun will only illuminate 85% of the red planet.
~Jupiter, (Mag -1.5) might be seen Saturday evening just before sunset in constellation Virgo. Jupiter can be seen about 20 degrees below the rear end of the sleeping Lion. It will be about 600 million miles from Earth getting a little farther every day. Jupiter will have a disk size of 31”. It must be viewed early as will set about 6:45 pm. At that time, moon Callisto will be far west of Jupiter while moon Io will be just east of the big planet and Europa will be 1 planet width to the east . Moon Ganymede will be far east of Jupiter.
————-Saturn will still look good this month—————–
~Saturn, (Mag 1.3) will be in constellation Ophiuchus this Saturday rising about noon so should be seen this Saturday evening high in the sky as the Sun goes down. It sets just after 10 pm and will be about 954 million miles away Saturday evening. Look for Saturn 10 degrees behind the top star of the head of the Scorpion just above Mars. It will have a diameter of 16√¢‚Ǩ¬ù while the rings span 37√¢‚Ǩ¬ù 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 north of Saturn as it circles the big planet every 16 days. You might also spot 4 of Saturn’s other moons, starting with Iapetus north of Saturn and then 10th magnitude moons Tethys, Dione & Rhea all within 1 degree of Saturn’s rings outer edge.
~Uranus, (Mag 5.7) will be in constellation Pisces this Saturday evening rising just after 7:30 pm so might be seen at the BSC star party late in the evening. It shows up as a small 3.4” blue-green disc in a telescope. Uranus will be about 1.768 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 8 am.
~ Neptune, (Mag 7.8) is in constellation Aquarius, about 2.700 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 5:45 pm. Neptune can be seen in the morning sky in the Southeast all the way until almost sunrise as does not set until 5 am.
 ~ Pluto, (Mag 14.2) will rise in constellation Sagittarius about 2:30 pm so could be seen Saturday evening high in the sky after sunset It is about 3.031 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 2:30 am. You may use the Pluto finder chart on page 48 of the July Sky & Tel Magazine to help find this dim magnitude 14 object through November.

I would expect to see a few stray meteors Saturday evening as we always do at every BSC star party. But we just missed the Epsilon Perseid Meteor Shower which was active from September 5 √¢‚Ǩ” 21 with meteors radiating from a point near Algol. This is usually just a minor shower showing up to 5 meteors/hour at it’s peak on September 8/9.

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√Ǭ†√Ǭ†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 September Astronomy Magazine shows the path dim 12 magnitude Comet 43P/Wolf Harrington was following earlier this month.

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

Minor Planet 1 Ceres (Mag 7.9) 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 with the “V” in Pisces almost pointing right at the asteroid. Ceres will be about 186 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 starting at 8 pm. The Dawn spacecraft has reached this asteroid and will be orbiting it taking pictures for at least a year.

Minor Planet 4 Vesta (Mag 8.3 ), the 2nd most massive object in the asteroid belt is the brightest asteroid again this month. It is found in constellation Gemini 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 11 pm. Vesta has a diameter of about 330 miles and was discovered in 1807. It is about 255 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 Equuleus Saturday evening just ten degrees right and below bright star Enif (the nose of the Winged Horse), so might be seen at the BSC star party. This asteroid has a mean diameter of about 318 miles and is about 236 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 is following during the month of September.

Asteroid 101955 Bennu (Absolute magnitude 20.9) was discovered by the LINEAR Project September 11, 1999. It is the target of a September NASA mission to send a probe and bring back scoops of the comet material in 2023. This asteroid has a mean diameter of 1600 feet (bigger than the Empire State Building) and might impact the Earth late in the 2100’s. It has an orbit that brings it close to Earth every 6 years when it is just .002 AU distance and that is one reason NASA selected this asteroid traveling at 63,000 MPH for the OSIRIS-REx mission. But we will not be able to spot this asteroid at Saturday’s BSC star party as it currently is behind the Sun.

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√Ǭ†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