Saturday September 27th Black Star Canyon star party

Posted On September 24, 2014

Black Star Canyon Star Party notice - Saturday September 27th, 2014

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 should start off cloudy, warm and have 40% humidity inland but the sky is supposed to clear up by evening.  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 should have dark skies as there will be a New Moon on the 23rd. 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 although will make one magnitude -0.5 pass in the early morning at 5:45 am.

  The X-37B (Air Force Boeing space plane) will make one visible magnitude 4.8 pass Saturday evening starting at 8:27:32 pm 10 degrees high NW going to 13 degrees high NNW at 8:28:27 when it will fade from view.

  The HST (Hubble Space Telescope) will not make any visible passes Saturday evening.

  Iridium flares: There will not be any visible Iridium Flares 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 7:30 pm in constellation Virgo this Saturday but probably won't be seen at the BSC star party as it will be just 3 degrees above the horizon. Mercury will be just 82 million miles from Earth and does not rise until 8:50 am.

~Venus, (Mag -3.8) will not be seen Saturday evening as it sets about 6:20 pm in constellation Virgo. Venus rises just after 6 am so can be seen a half hour before sunrise. Venus will be about 160 million miles from Earth, and will reach superior conjunction with the Sun September 25th.

~Mars, (Mag 0.9) will be in Constellation Ophiuchus rising just at noon so can be seen at BSC this Saturday evening high in the sky. It will be about 142 million miles away with a disk size of about 6 degrees and doesn't set until about 9:45 pm. It will be above bright red star Antares Saturday evening.

~Jupiter, (Mag -1.7) will set about 4:20 pm Saturday in constellation Cancer so will not be seen this Saturday evening. It will be about 550 million miles from Earth getting a little closer every day with a diameter of about 32". It can be seen a few hours before sunrise, as it rises around 3 am.

~Saturn, (Mag 1.3) will be in constellation Libra this Saturday so can be seen Saturday evening as it does not set until almost 9pm. It has a disk measuring 17" with rings spanning 42" and tilting 23 degrees. Saturn can be seen most all evening as it does not set until almost 11 pm. It will be about 990 million miles away Saturday. Around 8 pm, we should be able to see some of Saturn's brightest moons starting with brightest moon Titan far east and slightly below Saturn followed by Dione & Enceladus just east of Saturn. Moon Tethys will be just above Saturn while Moon Rhea will be west of Saturn and below.

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 7 pm so we may see it at the BSC star party. It shows up as a small 3.6" blue-green disc in a telescope so look for it later in the night. Uranus will be about 1.770 billion miles from Earth this Saturday.

~ Neptune, (Mag 7.8) is in constellation Aquarius, about 2.710 billion miles away this week slowly moving closer to Earth. It is seen as a bluish gray 2.4" disc in a telescope and we might be able to see it at BSC this Saturday evening as it rises just after 5 pm and does not set until 4:30 am.

 ~ Pluto, (Mag 14.1) rises about 4:30 pm in constellation Sagittarius so might be seen Saturday evening as it does not set until just after midnight. It is about 3.035 billion miles from Earth and since it is so dim, you would need a 10" or larger telescope to see it visually. The July 2014 Astronomy Magazine shows the path Pluto was traveling in July.


The Aurigid meteor shower was active from August 28 - September 5 peaking September 1. You could expect to see 6 meteors per hour at its peak with a radiant between Capella and the Gemini Twins. The next big meteor shower will be the October Orionids.

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, a magnitude 10.3 in Hydra according to the website, Heavens-above. But it would not be in the night sky during the BSC star party.

Comet C/2014 E2 Jacques has followed the body of the Swan all the way into Aquila and will be about 113 million miles from Earth Saturday evening. It has a dim magnitude of 13.3 and period of 21,341 years. This is the 2nd comet discovered by the SONEAR Observatory team in Brazil and this one was discovered March 13, 2014 using a .45 meter telescope.

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 August Astronomy Magazine, on page 43 shows the paths that Vesta and Ceres will be taking in August. Note that they will be less than 4 degrees apart Saturday evening in constellation Libra. Back on July 1st, these asteroids were less than ¬Ω degree apart. The circular paths are between Spica and Arcturus, and on Saturday, the asteroids will be half way between the head of the Scorpion and bright star Spica just a few degrees above Mars.

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 Libra this month in a direct line from the top of the Scorpion's head to Saturn and the Moon. Vesta has a diameter of about 330 miles and was discovered in 1807. It is about 250 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 above the Moon and behind Saturn. It is about 316 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 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,