Saturday 11/22/08 Black Star Canyon star party
By: Steve Short
November 18, 2008 11:06PM PDT
Views: 4735

Hello Fellow OCA club members!
This Saturday I plan to open the gate at 4:15 pm, about a half hour before the sun sets Saturday evening. Today's weather report for this Saturday indicates it may be a little cloudy and cooler. The Moon won't rise until after midnight so we should have a nice dark evening. 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. 


There will be a visible evening ISS (International Space Station) pass on Saturday. The pass (Mag  0.0) will be at 5:33 PM 10 degrees altitude W and will rise to 19 degrees NW by 5:35 and then drop back down to 10 degrees NNE at 5:37. There will be no visible evening passes of the HST (Hubble Space Telescope) but there will be two Iridium Flares Saturday evening.  The 1st Iridiun Flare from satellite #47 will be at 5:08 PM 12 degrees high W (270 degrees) where it will go from a magnitude -2 to -5. The second Iridium Flare from satellite #55 will be at 5:51 PM 33 degrees high S (178 degrees) where it will go from a -0 to -7. See the Heavens-above website for other areas, times and passes.



~Mercury (Mag -1.0) rises about 6 AM but will be lost in the solar glare this week. It passes behind the Sun later this month and will return to the evening sky in December. It is 132 million miles from Earth in constellation Libra.

 ~Venus (Mag -4.0) sets just after 7 PM, in constellation Sagittarius and is very bright and easily seen shortly after sunset. It is traveling just above the “Teapot” lid heading towards Jupiter. By month end, the planets will be just 2 degrees apart, with Venus brighter and just below Jupiter. It is now about 103 million miles from Earth.

~Mars (Mag 1.4) is in Constellation Scorpius and now is about 232 million miles away.  Mars sets about 5:05 PM and is low and impossible to see in the glare of sunset on its way to conjunction with the Sun on December 4th.

~Jupiter (Mag -1.9) sets about 8:30 PM as it continues to creep above constellation Sagittarius, high above the “Teapot’s” handle. It now is about 525 million miles away and on Saturday all 4 Galilean Moons will be clearly visible in a telescope. Callisto will be far to the right of Jupiter in my scope while little moon IO will be to the right very near the big planet. Ganymede (the largest moon in the entire solar system) will be far to the left of Jupiter and then Europa on the left will be very close to Jupiter.

 ~Saturn, (Mag 1.1) rises just after 1 AM so is only seen in the morning sky this month. It is about 905 million miles from Earth, still moving slowly below the body of Leo the Lion. Despite pulling closer to Earth during November, it will fade slightly because the angle of the rings to our line of sight is decreasing. Next year the rings will be seen (or not) edge on.

~ Uranus (Mag 5.8) will be up when the sun sets, in constellation Aquarius this week, 1.831 billion miles away and won’t set until just after 1 AM. It shows up as a blue-green disc in a telescope.

~ Neptune (Mag 7.9) will also be up when the sun sets this week in constellation Capricornus. It is about 2.787 billion miles away and won’t set until about 11 PM. It is seen as a bluish disc in a telescope.




There is a magnitude 9.4 Comet C/2008 A1 McNaught in constellation Ophiuchushas, which has moved from directly in front of the head of the Scorpion to the head of the Serpent Holder. It is 190 million miles from Earth.

There is another much dimmer magnitude 10.2 Comet C/2008 J2 Beshore that has moved from the Scorpion's stinger to about 10 degrees below Capricornus in constellation Microscorpium. It is about 133 million miles from Earth.


The magnitude 7.0 Minor Planet 4 Vesta has moved out of the middle of the box in the tail of the Whale (Cetus) and is headed towards the knot of Pisces the Fishes. This asteroid has a period of 3.63 years and is 150 million miles away.

Just above the tail and to the right is a magnitude 8.8 magnitude Minor Planet 9 Metis. It has a period of 3.69 years and is about 108 million miles away.


Deep Sky:


This week let’s look at some planetary nebulas which got that name because many resemble the blue-greenish disks of the planets Uranus and Neptune. A planetary nebula is an aging star that has exhausted it nuclear fuel and shed its outer layer into space. The star will then evolve into a hot white dwarf and slowly cool over billions of years.


NGC 7293 (Mag 7.3), is called the Helix Nebula because it has a red double ring appearance in photographs and seems like you are looking down on two coils of a spring. The central star has a magnitude of 13.5 and this object is 300 light years away. Finding NGC 7293 can be challenging but is between bright star Fomalhaut and Deneb Algedi which is the end star of Capricornus. It is mid way between two 10th magnitude stars and best seen with low power.


NGC 7662 (Mag 8.3) is called the Blue Snowball because most people see it as a bluish-turquoise oval ring with an elusive center star in a telescope at 150X power. The central star has a magnitude between 12-16 and it is 3,900 light years away. This nebula has a diameter of 20,000 AU’s which is 20,000 X 93 million miles. It can be found about 15 degrees above the Alpha & Beta side of the Great Square of Pegasus. Look for a curve of three 4th magnitude stars belonging to the Andromeda constellation and move 2 degrees west from the southernmost star where you will see 6th magnitude 13 Andromedea and NGC 7662 is just below that star.


Don't forget to bring your gloves, coats & sweaters because it may get cold (50 F) 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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