Black Star Canyon Star Party notice - Saturday November 22nd, 2014
Hello Fellow OCA club members!
This Saturday, I plan to open the gate around 4:15 pm, which is about a half hour before the sun sets. The weather report for this Saturday indicates that Orange County may have cloudy skies and humidity near 50%. So 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 Saturday happens to be the New Moon for November. 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.
Warning: No Pets allowed! (This is an OC Parks and Nature Conservancy rule).
The ISS (International Space Station) will not make any visible passes Saturday evening or anytime this week in this area.
The X-37B (Air Force Boeing space plane) will not make any visible passes as it has landed.
The HST (Hubble Space Telescope) will make one magnitude 2.5 visible pass Saturday evening starting at 4:48:43 pm 19 degrees high SSW going up to 26 degrees SSE at 4:50:34 pm and then dropping to 10 degrees ESE at 4:54:04 pm.
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 -0.6) sets about 4 pm in constellation Libra this Saturday so won't be seen at the BSC star party. Mercury will be about 130 million miles from Earth and does not rise until 5:45 am.
~Venus, (Mag -3.7) will not be seen Saturday evening as it sets about 5 pm in constellation Ophiuchus. Venus rises just about 7 am so hides in the Sun's glare all month. Venus will be about 160 million miles from Earth, and passed behind the Sun October 25th. It will return to view on evenings in early December.
~Mars, (Mag 1.0) will be in Constellation Sagittarius rising just after 10 am so can be seen at BSC this Saturday evening in the southwestern sky. It will be about 167 million miles away with a disk size of about 5” (but don't expect to see any detail) and doesn't set until about 8 pm.
~Jupiter, (Mag -2.0) will not rise until 10:40 pm Saturday in constellation Leo so will not be seen until late Saturday evening. It will be about 472 million miles from Earth getting a little closer every day with a diameter of about 39”. It can be seen all night as does not set until noon..
~Saturn, (Mag 1.3) will be in constellation Libra this Saturday so will not be seen Saturday evening as it sets about 4:30 pm. It has a disk measuring 15” with rings spanning 35” and tilting 22 degrees. It will be about 1.007 billion miles away Saturday.
Note: The 2014 paths of Uranus and Neptune are shown in the September Sky & Telescope magazine on page 51.
~ Uranus, (Mag 5.8) will be in constellation Pisces this Saturday evening rising about 2 pm so we should see it at the BSC star party. It shows up as a small 3.7” blue-green disc in a telescope so look for it when it gets dark. Uranus will be about 1.8 billion miles from Earth this Saturday and will not set until 2:45 am.
~ Neptune, (Mag 7.9) is in constellation Aquarius, about 2.780 billion miles away this week slowly moving farther from Earth. It is seen as a bluish gray 2.3” disc in a telescope and we might be able to see it at BSC this Saturday evening as it rises just after noon and does not set until 11:40 pm.
~ Pluto, (Mag 14.2) rises about 9:30 am in constellation Sagittarius so might be seen Saturday evening as it does not set until about 7:30 pm. It is about 3.016 billion miles from Earth and since it is so dim, you would need a 10” or larger telescope to see it visually. The path Pluto is following in November can be seen in the November Astronomy magazine on page 36.
The Leonid meteor showers will be active from November 6-30 peaking on the 17th. You could expect to see up to 15 meteors per hour at its peak. So we might see some of these meteors at the BSC star party late in the evening looking towards the radiant which is 10 degrees above and to the left of Leo's bright star Regulus.
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 www.imo.net/visual for more information.
Brightest visible Comets:
All the comets in the sky are very dim again this month with the brightest, C/2013 A1 Sliding Spring which came within 81,000 miles from Mars October 19th.
Comet C/2013 A1 Sliding Spring is an 9th magnitude (according to Heavens Above is 8.8) and will be 210 million miles from Earth Saturday in constellation Ophiuchus. It can be seen about 10 degrees above the Ecliptic between Mars & Venus (or the Moon) so is above Sagittarius & Scorpius. The path it is taking is shown on page 42 of the November Astronomy Magazine.
This comet was discovered on January 3rd, 2013 by Robert McNaught at Siding Spring Observatory in Australia using a 0.5 meter (20 inch) telescope. It looks to have a million year orbit and at first was thought to have a chance of colliding with Mars.
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 brightest asteroid this month again is Minor Planet 4 Vesta (Mag 7.8), the 2nd most massive object in the asteroid belt. It can be found in constellation Ophiuchus this month along the Ecliptic half way between Mars and Venus. Vesta has a diameter of about 330 miles and was discovered in 1807. It is about 282 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 Ophiuchus and can be found just a few degrees in front of Venus on the Ecliptic. It is about 350 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.
This month let’s consider looking at some Messier Open Star Clusters near Cassiopeia:
M103 is a magnitude 7.4 open star cluster about 8,500 light years away that spans 15 light years. You can find it in constellation Cassiopeia just 1 degree from Delta Cassiopeiae. It is shaped like an arrow in a very thick area of the Milky Way and contains about 25 stars. Its age is estimated to be 22 million years. Messier’s friend Mechain discovered this object and Messier didn’t have time to observe it himself before adding it to his 1781 catalog.
M52 is a magnitude 6.9 open star cluster about 3,000 light years away that spans 11 light years. You can find it in constellation Cassiopeia along a line from Caph and Alpha Cassiopeiae, about the same distance from Caph as Caph is from Alpha Cassiopeiae. It is shaped like a triangle in a sparse area of the Milky Way and contains at least 100 stars. Its age is estimated to be 35 million years. Messier discovered this object in 1774 while observing a comet he discovered that year
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,