Black Star Canyon star party Saturday August 30th
By: Steve Short
August 26, 2008 10:01PM PDT
Views: 4956

Hello Fellow OCA club members!
This Saturday I plan to open the gate at 7:00 pm, about a half hour before the sun sets around 7:30 PM. Today's weather report looks like this Saturday evening will be warm (humid) once again and the New Moon will keep the night sky dark. 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. 


No visible ISS (International Space Station) passes or Iridium Flares will take place this Saturday evening. But there will be several visible passes of the HST (Hubble Space Telescope). The first will be a (Mag 2.5) that will become visible 7:55 PM WSW at 10 degrees altitude rising to 34 degrees at about 7:59 due South and then dropping  to 13 degrees ESE about 8:02. The second will be a dimmer (Mag 3.6) starting at 9:36 WSW at 10 degrees rising to 22 degrees by 9:38 WSW where it will drift out of sight.


Note: Mercury, Venus & Saturn have been visible very low in the West shortly after sunset.

~Mercury (Mag -0.1) sets at 8:27 PM with the sun in constellation Virgo and will be hard to spot because we do not have a clear, flat horizon view at BSC. It is 110 million miles from Earth.

~Venus (Mag -3.8) sets at 8:29 PM, just after the sun, in constellation Leo and is now 146 million miles from Earth.

~Mars (Mag 1.7) has moved into Constellation Virgo and now is over 222 million miles away.  Mars sets about 8:47 PM so must be found early to be seen.

~Jupiter (Mag -2.4) sets at about 2:27 AM and is creeping towards and above constellation Sagittarius, now is about 413 million miles away. On Saturday, only 2 Galilean Moons will be clearly visible with Europa nearest the planet and Ganymede and Callisto on the other side so close that they may look like one moon. Moon Io will be hidden as it passes behind Jupiter.

~Saturn, (Mag 0.8) sets about 7:54 PM and is about 960 million miles from Earth, still moving below the body of Leo the Lion and will be hiding in the solar glare for about 2 months.

~ Uranus (Mag 5.7) rises around 8 PM in constellation Aquarius this week 1.780 billion miles away.

~ Neptune (Mag 7.8) rises around 6:30 PM in constellation Capricornus this week about 2.7 billion miles away.


Comet C/2007 N3 Lulin (Mag 11.4) will be just above the ecliptic about 20 degrees above the Scopion's stinger about 164 million miles from Earth.  Comet C/2008 J2 Beshore (Mag 11.1) will be just a few degrees to the right of Antares about 127 million miles away. All these comets are very dim and will require an 8" or bigger scope to see. There will also be Minor Planet 11 Parthenope (Mag 9.4) just below the top of Capricornus and 116 million miles from Earth. This 95 mile wide rock was spotted clear back in 1850 and has an orbit period of 3.84 years. You might be able to spot another dim (Mag 9.9) asteroid 43 Ariadne that is just 5 degrees above planet Uranus. It is about 91.5 million miles away and has an orbit period of 3.27 years.

Deep Sky:

Let’s look for a few more objects near constellation Sagittarius where Jupiter is hanging out, like M8 & M23 which are both above the spout of the “Teapot”. These objects were observed clear back in 1764 by Charles Messier.


The Lagoon Nebula, M8 (Mag 6) is about 5 degrees above the “teapot” spout.  This dust cloud nebula is 4,800 light years away and is 126 X 56 light years in size. There is a star cluster embedded in the nebula and this nebula is of the kind that is creating new stars.


Then there is open star cluster M23 (Mag 5.5) that is another 5 degrees above M8. It contains about 150 stars with the brightest being a Magnitude 9.1. This star cluster is 1,400 light years away and spans 11 light years. Its age is estimated to be 220 million years old.



Don't forget to bring your gloves, coats & sweaters because it may get cold 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 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,


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