BSC - Saturday 09 January 2010
Hello Fellow OCA club members!
This Saturday I plan to open the gate at 4:30 pm, about a half hour before the sun sets. The weather report for this Saturday indicates that Orange County will be partially sunny that day with high humidity and some clouds. The 3rd Quarter Moon will not rise until about 2 am giving us dark skies. First time visitors might want to get to BSC 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. If you come in after dark, you should drive in with your headlights off!!! The dirt road will 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.
The ISS (International Space Station) will make a few visible evening passes this Saturday starting at 4:31 pm (when I open the gate) 10 degrees high WSW going to 46 degrees at 4:34 pm and dropping back to 10 degrees high NE at 4:36:50 pm. The second ISS pass will be at 10:56:37 pm 10 degrees high in the NNW sky going to 20 degrees high NE at 10:58:48 pm and then dropping to 10 degrees high ine the East at 11:00:58 pm. The HST (Hubble Space Telescope) will only make morning passes this Saturday & Sunday so won’t be seen Saturday evening. We should see a bright (Mag -2) Iridium flare this Saturday at 5:29:19 pm 70 degrees high at 47 degrees NE going to magnitude -9 from satellite Iridium 8. I am sure we will also see a few other dim satellites pass over as we are looking up in the sky.
~Mercury (Mag 0.9) sets about 4:45 pm so cannot be seen this Saturday evening. It is abut 63 million miles from Earth in constellation Sagittarius. Mercury rises about 6:30 am so can be seen just before sunrise around 7 am. It will be 7 degrees high January 13th a half hour before sunrise.
~Venus (Mag -3.8) reaches superior conjunction January 11th, when it lies on the far side of the Sun from Earth. It remains lost in the sun’s glare all month as it sets about 4:50 pm and rises about 7 am, in constellation Sagittarius. It is now about 159 million miles from our planet.
~Mars (Mag -0.9) is now in Constellation Leo traveling eastward getting closer to Earth and is now about 66 million miles away. Mars sets about 9:15 am but rises around 7:15 pm so will be seen early this Saturday evening at BSC. Look for the big white north polar cap this month as it is tilted in Earth’s direction. You might also be able to detect the dark triangular albedo feature Syrtis Major which lies near the center of the planet.
~Jupiter (Mag -1.9) rises about 9:15 am in constellation Aquarius so the big planet will be seen even lower in the sky this month setting about 8:15 pm. It now is about 530 million miles from Earth and getting further every day. Ganymede (the largest moon in the entire solar system) will be the passing in front of Jupiter. Moon Callisto will be far to the east of Jupiter while moon Europa will look much closer to the big planet and moon IO will be closing in on Jupiter.
~Saturn, (Mag 0.9) sets about 11:15 am Saturday in constellation Virgo so will not be visible at BSC Saturday evening until after 11 pm when it rises in the East. It is about 859 million miles away getting closer to Earth. The rings tilt 5 degrees to our line of sight, the widest since 2008.
~ Uranus (Mag 5.9) will rise about 10:30 am in constellation Aquarius this week so can be seen in the sky Saturday evening until it sets about 10:15 pm. It shows up as a blue-green disc in a telescope and is about 1.902 billion miles away moving farther from Earth. This planet reached opposition September 17th.
~ Neptune (Mag 8.0) will be in constellation Capricornus about 2.863 billion miles away this week slowly moving farther from Earth. It is seen as a bluish disc in a telescope and we should see it this Saturday as it rises about 9:15 am and sets about 8 pm. It will be just a few degrees behind Jupiter along the Ecliptic.
The Quadrantid meteor shower peaked the morning of January 3rd when a nearly full moon was out. The radiant lies in Northern Bootes and should have shown dozens of meteors per hour. The meteors are from tiny particles probably from the comet C/1490 YI first observed 500 years ago which passed through the Earth’s orbit.
Comet C/2007 Q3 Siding Spring (Mag 10.2) is about 10 degrees from Arcturus towards the Big Dipper. It has gotten closer this month and is now about 211 million miles away from Earth in constellation Canes Venatici. This comet was discovered August 25th, 2007 (thus the designation C/2007) by D. M. Burton from the Siding Spring Survey.
Comet 81P Wild 2 (Mag 10.7) is in constellation Virgo just 1 degree south of Saturn. It’s orbit lies close to the plane of our solar system so we see this comet edge-on. That causes us to see the dust tail as a sharp streak rather than the typical fan tail. This comet is about 110 million miles from earth and has a period of 6.42 years. Samples of this comet were returned to earth and contained an amino acid, one of life’s fundamental building blocks.
Other comets are even dimmer so would be next to impossible to find in any of our scopes.
Minor Planet 4 Vesta (Mag 7.1) is the 2nd most massive object in the asteroid belt with a diameter of just over 329 miles. It is the brightest of all the asteroids and can be found along the bottom of Leo the Lion about 10 degrees from Regulus. It is getting closer and now is about 158 million miles from Earth and has a period of 3.63 years.
Minor Planet 3 Juno (Mag 9.3) reached opposition in September and is brighter than it has been since 2005. It is only 1/4th the diameter of Ceres yet was one of the first 4 asteroids discovered. It can be found above Cetus this month about 20 degrees from Uranus. It is only about 178 million miles from Earth getting further every day and has a period of 4.36 years.
Minor planet 532 Herculina (Mag 9.9) is in constellation Coma Berenices just 5 degrees directly behind Leo the Lioins tail. It is about 169 million miles away with a period of 4.61 years. It was discovered in 1904 by Max Wolf and is about 222 km in diameter. This was the first asteroid to have a confirmed asteroid moon about 45 km orbiting at a distance of about 1,000 km.
This month, lets point a scope at some objects in and around Auriga, the Charioteer constellation which are great binocular objects too.
Open Cluster M36 (Mag 6.0) is found along a shallow isosceles triangle (inside the pentagon) on the opposite side of the pentagon from bright star Capella. It is 3,700 light years away and spans 13 light years. This cluster contains about 60 stars, the brightest about magnitude 8.9, that Messier observed clear back in 1764. It’s age is estimated to be 25 million years old.
Open Cluster M37 (Mag 5.6) is found on the opposite side of the pentagon line from M36 outside the pentagon. It is thought to be 4,200 light years away and spans 29 light years. The cluster contains about 150 stars, the brightest being magnitude 9.2 and it’s age is estimated to be 300 million years old. Messier observed this object in 1764.
Open Cluster M38 (Mag 6.4) is found near M36 but further inside the pentagon. It may be 4,600 light years away and spans 28 light years. This cluster contains about 100 stars with the brightest being magnitude 9.5 and it’s age is about 220 million years old. Messier observed this object back in 1764 and thought it looked square shaped..
Don't forget to bring your gloves, coats & sweaters because it will get very cold as the sun sets and 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 it to get dark. Please remember to cart off all your trash as there are no garbage cans at BSC. Hope to see you there.
Your OCA star party host,