Hello Fellow OCA club members!
The last BSC star party in 2007 is scheduled for this Saturday...so come on out and have some fun. We are planning on having a number of guests that signed up through our host, the Irvine Land Conservancy. I plan to give an astronomy presentation and night sky tour, then show them a few objects in my telescope. I hope those OCA members that show up will also enjoy showing the guests something interesting in their scopes.
Sunset is about 4:45 pm so I plan to open the gate about 4:15 pm. Lets hope the weather is clear as the reports today don't look good. But this is Southern California...and the weather reports are often wrong.
Comet 17P Holmes (Mag 3.3) grows dimmer and is now hard to see in binoculars. It has moved 155 million miles away up in Perseus near bright star Mirfak. Another comet 8P/Tuttle (Mag 9) will be up near the north star Polaris heading towards Cassiopeia. We should see the bright (ISS) International Space Station (Mag -1.1) pass over starting at 5:49 pm directly south at 10 degrees. It will head SE rising to 26 degrees at 5:52 pm and then slowly glide ESE down to 25 degrees 18 seconds later where it will fall into earth's shadow and fade out of view.
We should be able to spot Jupiter (Mag -1.8) in Ophiuchus as the sun sets, but it won't be visible long, as it sets by 6 pm. We should see moons Callisto and Io to the left of Jupiter and close on the right will be Europa but moon Ganymede will probably be hidden behind the planet. The bright red planet Mars (Mag -1.5) in Gemini rises about 7 pm Saturday and should look spectacular. It will reach opposition December 24th and be just 54.8 million miles away, appearing larger than it will for the next 9 years. Another treat this month in Gemini near Mars, between Dec 7-17, will be the Geminid meteor showers.
Uranus (Mag 5.8) will be in Aquarius and sets about midnight. Neptune (Mag 7.9) is still drifting along slowly in Capricornus setting just after 10 pm. Dwarf planet Pluto (Mag 14.0) in Sagittarius will be very hard to spot and it sets around 6:30 pm. Another dwarf planet Ceres (Mag 8.0) can be found between Mars & Jupiter in Cetus below the ecliptic. Saturn (Mag 0.8) in Leo won't rise until about midnight when we have to close and go home. The 3rd QTR moon will be just 2 degrees south of Saturn Saturday evening...quite a sight to see! Venus (Mag -4.1) & Mercury (Mag -0.7) can only be seen around dawn.
For deep sky objects, maybe we should look for M33 (Mag 5.7), also called the Pinwheel Galaxy, between the tip of the Triangulum and the head of Pisces. It can even be seen in binoculars if the sky is dark...and we have a new moon night this Saturday. Spiral Galaxy M33 is 3 million light years away and has a diameter of just 40,000 light years. While we are in the area, lets swing NW through Andromeda stars Mu & Beta to spot M31 (Mag 3.5), also called the Andromeda Galaxy. This spiral galaxy is 2.4 million light years away and has a diameter of 120,000 light years.
It should be pretty cold this Saturday evening so wear warm clothes and bring your gloves, coats & sweaters. After you set up your telescope, there are three picnic tables where you can sit and eat food you might bring, while waiting for it to get dark. Hope to see you there.
Your OCA star party host,