Black Star Canyon Star Party notice - Saturday May 9th, 2015
Hello Fellow OCA club members!
This Saturday, I plan to open the gate around 7:15 pm, which is about a half hour before the sun sets. The weather report for this Saturday indicates that Orange County should be mild (72F), have partly 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.
The 3rd quarter moon begins April 12th so the Moon will not be up during our star party. 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
The BSC star party site has a Latitude of 33.7520N, Longitude 117.6745W and Elevation 297'.
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.
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 visible magnitude 2.5 pass Saturday evening starting at 9:13:57 pm 10 degrees high WSW going to 19 degrees high SSW at 9:16:55 pm and then dropping out of sight at 9:17:18 pm.
Iridium flares: There will be no visible Iridium Flares this Saturday evening but I am sure we will see a number of satellites pass over in the early evening.
Planets & Pluto:
~Mercury, (Mag 0.7) sets about 9:20 pm in constellation Taurus this Saturday so can be seen at the BSC star party. Mercury will be about 73 million miles from Earth and rises about 7 am. Mercury reaches greatest elongation May 6th when it is 21 degrees east of the Sun. It will have a disk that spans 8” and be about 34% lit. Look for Mercury just 5 degrees from bright Taurus star Aldebaran.
~Venus, (Mag -4.0) can be seen over 3 hours after sunset Saturday evening as it sets about 11 pm in constellation Gemini. Venus will be about 87 million miles from Earth with a disc size of 18” and 64% lit. Look for it less than 2 degrees from the fifth magnitude M35 open star cluster.
~Mars, (Mag 1.7) will be in Constellation Taurus and on the far side of the Sun from Earth so will not be seen again until late summer. It will be about 158 million miles from Earth Saturday evening.
~Jupiter, (Mag -1.9) will rise about noon Saturday in constellation Cancer so can be seen high in the sky Saturday evening. It will be about 498 million miles from Earth getting a little farther every day with a diameter of about 36”. Look for Jupiter in front of Leo the Lion's head and it does not set until 1:30 am. At 8:45 pm we should see moon Callisto far west of Jupiter while moon Ganymede will be passing behind the big planet and just coming into view on the east side of Jupiter. Next will be moon Io and farthest to the east will be moon Europa.
~Saturn, (Mag 0.9) will be in constellation Scorpius this Saturday so should be seen Saturday evening after it rises about 8:30 pm. It has a disk measuring 18” with rings spanning 42” and tilting 24 degrees. Saturn will be about 837 million miles away Saturday evening and will not set until 7 am. Saturn looks like a 4th star on top of the Scorpion's 3-star head.
-----Both Uranus & Neptune are low in the morning sky so would be better viewed in June.-----
~ Uranus, (Mag 5.9) will be in constellation Pisces this Saturday evening setting about 7 pm so will not be seen at the BSC star party. It shows up as a small 3.4” blue-green disc in a telescope. Uranus will be about 1.940 billion miles from Earth this Saturday. It might be seen in the early morning sky when it rises at 4:30 am.
~ Neptune, (Mag 7.9) is in constellation Aquarius, about 2.818 billion miles away this week slowly moving closer to Earth. It is seen as a bluish gray 2.3” disc in a telescope but we will not see it at BSC this Saturday evening early as it set about 5 pm. It could be seen early morning as it rises about 3 am.
~ Pluto, (Mag 14.1) does not rise in constellation Sagittarius until midnight so will not be seen Saturday evening. It is about 3.004 billion miles from Earth and is so dim, you would need a 10” or larger telescope to see it visually.
The major meteor shower in May is the Eta Aquariid active from April 19 – May 28 peaking May 6th. These meteors are from dust particles left by Halley's comet. The radiant is near Eta Aquarius, the 7th brightest star in Aquarius. At the peak, one might see 55 meteors/hour but a gibbous Moon will drown out fainter meteors May 6th so you might just see 10 meteors per hour about an hour before dawn. We always see a few stray meteors during every BSC star party.
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, except for the one everybody is still talking about, Comet Lovejoy.
Comet C/2014 Q2 Lovejoy is a magnitude 7.5 (according to the Heavens-above website) and will be 200 million miles from Earth Saturday in constellation Cepheus. It can be seen about 20 degrees above the weak “W” side of constellation Cassiopeia and 10 degrees directly south of the north Star, Polaris.
This comet was discovered on August 17th, 2014 by amateur astronomer Terry Lovejoy from Brisbane, Australia, his 5th discovery. It now looks to have a period of 13,661 years.
Brightest visible asteroids:
Finding an asteroid at the BSC star party is always very challenging as they are dim and are just small dots.
Minor Planet 4 Vesta (Mag 8.0), the 2nd most massive object in the asteroid belt is the brightest asteroid again this month. It would be found in constellation Aquarius this month, just below the Ecliptic. Vesta has a diameter of about 330 miles and was discovered in 1807. It is about 243 million miles from Earth at this time and has an orbit period of 3.63 years. It will not be visible Saturday evening as is an early morning object. NASA’s Dawn spacecraft was in orbit around this asteroid and sent back stunning close-up pictures.
Minor Planet 1 Ceres (Mag 8.7) is the biggest object in the asteroid belt with a diameter of about 590 miles. It is in constellation Capricornus just 10 degrees below the Ecliptic near the bottom of the Goat. It will be about 236 million miles from Earth Saturday 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 not be visible Saturday evening as is an early morning object. The Dawn spacecraft has reached this asteroid and will be orbiting it taking pictures for at least a year.
Asteroid 532 Herculina (Mag 9.1) is one of the top 20 object, by size in the main asteroid belt with a diameter of about 135 miles. It will be in constellation Serpens about 30 degrees directly above Saturn Saturday evening. Hurculina will be about 135 million miles from Earth Saturday and has a period of 4.61 years. It was discovered on April 20, 1904, by German astronomer Max Wolf in Heidelberg. But don’t expect to see anything more than a small dot. It will be visible Saturday evening and the path it is taking is shown in the May Astronomy Magazine on page 43.
This month let’s consider looking at some open clusters in Cancer and below:
M44 is a magnitude 3.1 open star cluster, known as the “Beehive Cluster” as it looks like a swarm of bees. It is in constellation Cancer, is about 580 light years away and spans 16 light years. You can find it about half way between bright stars Regulus and Pollux. It contains about 50 stars, the brightest shining at a magnitude 6.3. Its age is estimated to be 660 million years old. Messier observed this object in 1769 and logged it on March 4th.
M67 is a magnitude 6.9 open star cluster, known as the “King Cobra” as it looks a little like a coiled cobra. It is in constellation Cancer, is about 2,700 light years away and spans 24 light years. You can find it about half way between bright stars Regulus and Procyon. It contains about 200 stars, the brightest shining at a magnitude 9.7. Its age is estimated to be 3.2 billion years old. Messier observed this object in 1780 and logged it on April 6th.
M48 is a magnitude 5.8 open star cluster in constellation Hydra, about 1,500 light years away and spans 24 light years. You can find it about half way between bright stars Procyon and Alphard of Hydra as it forms the apex of an isosceles triangle. It contains about 80 stars, the brightest shining at a magnitude 8.2. Its age is estimated to be 300 million years old. Messier observed this object in 1771 and logged it on February 19th.
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,