Black Star Canyon Star Party notice - Saturday October 26th, 2013
Hello Fellow OCA club members!
This Saturday, I plan to open the gate around 5:30 pm, which is about a half hour before the sun sets. The weather report for this Saturday indicates that Orange County should be sunny, hot & clear with humidity at 15%. 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 fairly dark skies as the 3rd quarter Moon will not rise until after 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 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.
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.
Warning: No Pets allowed! (This is an OC Parks and Nature Conservancy rule).
The ISS (International Space Station) will make one visible magnitude -2.2 pass this Saturday evening starting at 7:08:50pm 10 degrees high NNW rising to 27 degrees NE at 7:11:44 and then dropping to 26 degrees NE at 7:12:09 where it will slip out of sight.
The HST (Hubble Space Telescope) will also not make any visible passes Saturday evening.
Iridium flares: There will be no visible Iridium Flares this Saturday evening according to the Heavens-Above website but we always see a number of slow moving satellites cross the night sky.
Planets & Pluto:
~Mercury, (Mag 1.9) sets about 6:30 pm in constellation Libra this Saturday so will be hard to see at the BSC star party. Mercury will be about 65 million miles from Earth and very low in the horizon.
~Venus, (Mag -4.3) should be seen Saturday evening (as it is very bright) before it sets about 8:30 pm in constellation Ophiuchus. Venus will be about 66 million miles from Earth, approaching 25” in diameter and will be 50% lit.
~Mars, (Mag 1.6) is now in Constellation Leo setting about 3:30 pm, so won't be seen in the evening. Mars might be seen in the early morning sky as it rises about 2:30 am. It will be about 183 million miles away Saturday and has had an impressive comet companion all month. Comet Ison has been traveling just above Mars and on Saturday will be about 5 degrees directly ahead of the Red Planet.
~Jupiter, (Mag -2.1) will set about 11am Saturday in constellation Gemini so won't be seen early in the evening. It now is about 450 million miles from Earth getting a little further every day with a diameter of about 39”. It does rise about 11pm so might be seen an hour before the BSC star party closes. At 11:30pm, we should see moon Callisto far east of Jupiter and then Europa and Io just a planet width east while Ganymede will be far west of the giant planet.
~Saturn, (Mag 1.2) will be in constellation Libra this Saturday so can be seen Saturday evening just after sunset. This planet is about 1.009 billion miles away slowly moving farther from Earth. Saturn sets about 6:30 pm so should be viewed early. It has a disk measuring 16” and the rings are tilted 18 degrees while spanning 36”. Some of the brightest moons might also be visible at dusk starting with 8th magnitude Titan far east of Saturn. Just to the east of the rings will be Dione and Enceladus with Tethys directly below and Rhea directly above Jupiter.
-----The October ”Sky & Telescope” magazine page 50 shows the path Uranus is taking into 2014.---
~ Uranus, (Mag 5.7) will be in constellation Pisces this Saturday evening as it rises about 5 pm. It shows up as a small 3.7” blue-green disc in a telescope so look for it Saturday evening. Uranus can be seen all night long setting about 5:15 am and is about 1.780 billion miles from Earth.
-----The October ”Sky & Telescope” magazine page 50 shows the path Neptune is taking into 2014.---
~ Neptune, (Mag 7.9) is in constellation Aquarius, about 2.743 billion miles away this week slowly moving farther from Earth. It is seen as a bluish gray 2.4” disc in a telescope. We should be able to see it at BSC this Saturday evening as it does not set until 2 am.
~ Pluto, (Mag 14.1) rises at noon so could be seen Saturday evening through a very large scope until it sets about 10 pm. It is 3.063 billion miles from Earth in constellation Sagittarius. Since it is so dim, you will need a 10” or larger telescope to see it visually.
The Orionid meteor shower peaked October 21st but the gibbous moon shared the predawn sky washing out many meteors.
The Southern Taurid meteor shower peaked October 10th when one might see 5 meteors per hour coming from Taurus with the radiant 20 degrees in front of Aldebaran. This shower is active from September 10th through November 20th.
We usually see a few stray meteors during every Saturday evening BSC star party.
Brightest visible Comets:
This month there are probably no comets bright enough to be seen at the Black Star Canyon star party.
Magnitude 12.9 Comet C/2013 R1 Lovejoy might be seen late Saturday around 11pm in Canis Minor. It will be about 69 million miles from Earth and has a period of 10,262 years.
Magnitude 13.5 Comet ISON (C/2012 S1) cannot be seen Saturday evening as will be just a few degrees in front of Mars under the front legs of Leo the Lion. It will be shining at a dim magnitude 13.5 not showing up until about 2am just a few degrees below M95/96. It will be about 130 million miles from Earth. It is predicted to be the comet of the century as is expected to become very bright in November and December. The October “Astronomy” magazine page 51 shows the path Comet ISON and Mars is following during October.
Brightest visible asteroids:
The brightest asteroid this month is Minor Planet 4 Vesta (Mag 8.2), the 2nd most massive object in the asteroid belt, can be found in constellation Leo this month., about 10 degrees under the Lions rear end. Vesta has a diameter of about 330 miles and was discovered in 1807. It is about 285 million miles from Earth at this time and has an orbit period of 3.63 years. It will not be visible at the BSC star party. NASA’s Dawn spacecraft was in orbit around this asteroid and sent back stunning close-up pictures.
Minor Planet 324 Bamberga (Mag 9.1), is bigger than half the first 10 asteroids discovered and can be found in constellation Pegasus this month. The October “Astronomy” magazine shows the path this asteroid is following this month on page 43. This asteroid has a diameter of about 140 miles but was not discovered until 1892 by Austrian astronomer Johann Palisa because it has such a dark surface. This asteroid has a very high orbital eccentricity (0.34) so every 22 years comes closer to Earth than any other asteroid this big. It is about 86 million miles from Earth at this time and has an orbit period of 4.40 years. Better try and view it now as it won't be this close again until 2035. It will become visible shortly after sunset so might be seen at the BSC star party.
Minor Planet 7 Iris (Mag 9.1) in Aquarius, the 4th brightest object in the asteroid belt. Iris has a diameter of about 125 miles and was discovered on August 13, 1847, by J. R. Hind from London. It was Hind's first asteroid discovery and the seventh asteroid to be discovered overall. It is about 136 million miles from Earth at this time and has an orbit period of 3.69 years. It will become visible shortly after sunset so might be seen at the BSC star party.
This month let’s consider looking at some objects in Auriga:
(Note that these objects can also be seen with binoculars.)
M38 is a magnitude 6.4 Open Cluster found between stars Capella and Alnath in the middle of Auriga. It is 3,700 light years away, give or take 1,000 light years and spans 17 - 28 light years. Contains about 100 stars with the brightest shining at a magnitude 9.5. Some see the stars forming the letter “A”. Its age is estimated to be 220 million years. Messier logged this object after observing it September 25th, 1764. (Also fainter star cluster NGC 1907 can be seen just a ˝ degree away.).
M36 is a magnitude 6.0 Open Cluster found just below M38 inside Auriga's pentagon. It is 3,700 light years away and spans 13 light years. Contains about 60 stars with the brightest shining at a magnitude 8.9. Some see the stars forming the shape of a starfish. Its age is estimated to be 25 million years. Messier logged this object after observing it September 2nd, 1764.
M37 is a magnitude 5.6 Open Cluster found outside of Auriga's pentagon to the east of M36. It is 4,200 light years away and spans 29 light years. Contains about 150 stars with the brightest shining at a magnitude 9.2. There is a bright red star near the center of M37. Its age is estimated to be 300 million years. Messier logged this object after observing it September 2nd, 1764.
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,