Black Star Canyon star party Saturday 06/13/09
By: Steve Short
June 10, 2009 1:16AM PDT
Views: 4362

Saturday 13 June 2009

Hello Fellow OCA club members!

This Saturday I plan to open the gate at 7:30 pm, about a half hour before the sun sets. Today's weather report for this Saturday indicates it will be warm but overcast (let‘s hope not as tonight is clear). We will have a 3rd Quarter Moon Monday so it won’t rise Saturday until after we close at Midnight. 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 no visible evening passes of the ISS (International Space Station) or the ISS Toolbag this Saturday evening. What a shame as the ISS has become bigger and very bright. We should be able to see the HST (Hubble Space Telescope) Saturday (Mag 2.2) when it rises at 9:50:47 PM 10 degrees high in the WSW, rising to 40 degrees high at 9:54::49 in the South where it will fade from view.

If clear, we will see 3 Iriduim flares Saturday evening with the 1st at 9:20:44 at 53 degrees high ENE (77 degrees) from Iridium satellite 23 (Mag -6) flaring out to Mag -8. The 2nd will be at 10:45:55 at 18 degrees high NE (52 degrees) from Iridium satellite 55 (Mag -6) flaring to Mag -7. The 3rd will follow closely at 10:48:24 also at 18 degrees high NE (52 degrees) from Iridium satellite 28 (Mag -3) flaring to Mag -7.


~Mercury (Mag +.4) sets about 6 PM so cannot be seen this Saturday evening. It is 70 million miles from Earth in constellation Taurus. Mercury is at greatest elongation Saturday, 23 degrees west of the sun and can be seen 30 minutes before sunrise.

~Venus (Mag -4.2) rises about 3:15 AM, in constellation Cetus and is very bright and easily seen shortly before sunrise. It is 50% illuminated so looks like a half moon in a telescope and now is about 68 million miles from Earth. Venus will not be visible Saturday evening.

~Mars (Mag 1.1) is in Constellation Aires and now is about 183 million miles away. Mars sets about 4:30 PM so will not be seen this Saturday evening. It rises about 3:19 AM and will be about 15 degrees high Saturday morning.

~Jupiter (Mag -2.4) rises about midnight in constellation Capricornus so we won't have time to view the big planet Saturday evening. It now is about 427 million miles away.

~Saturn, (Mag 1.0) sets about 1 AM so will be up high when the Sun sets Saturday. It is about 877 million miles from Earth and is still about 6 degrees below the hind end of Leo the Lion. The rings are tilted about 3.5 degrees and will narrow to 3 degrees at the end of June. The moons also orbit edge-on so are seen more in line now and sometimes seen in the rings. Brightest moon Titan will be far off to the east of Saturn on Saturday with Tethys and Dione very close to the planet. Only moons Enceladus & Rhea will be to the west of Saturn next to the rings.

~ Uranus (Mag 5.9) will set by 1:20 PM in constellation Pices this week so cannot be seen Saturday evening. It does rise at 1:30 AM so can be seen in the pre-dawn sky. It shows up as a blue-green disc in a telescope and is about 1.879 billion miles away.

~ Neptune (Mag 7.9) will be in constellation Capricornus about 2.755 billion miles away this week. It is seen as a bluish disc in a telescope but we will not see it this Saturday as it does not rise until just after midnight. It will be within a degree of Jupiter this month.


The Bootids meteor shower peaks June 27th so can be seen later this month if you look above the 1st Big Dipper handle star. These meteors are just small particles from Comet 7P/Pons-Winnecke smashing into Earth’s atmosphere.

Comet 22P Kopff (Mag 8.1) will be along the Ecliptic between Capricornus and Uranus just a few degrees from Jupiter so won’t be seen until after midnight. It is about 87 million miles away and has a period of 6.44 years.

Two other dimmer Comets P/2009 F7 & P/2003 H4 (Mag 11.2) are inside Virgo next to the Ecliptic. If you find one, you will see both in the same field of view this Saturday evening. They are about 88 million miles away and have a period of 6.1 years.

Minor Planet 1 Ceres (Mag 8.3), the very first asteroid ever discovered, is floating inside Leo the Lion near the hind end. This asteroid has a period of 4.6 years and is about 235 million miles away. It was discovered back in 1801 and is the largest asteroid we have found, having a diameter of 580 miles.

Another Minor Planet 14 Irene (Mag 9.8) is heading into Virgo and will be between Spica (much closer) and Arcturus Saturday evening. This asteroid has a period of 4.16 years and is about 139 million miles away. It was discovered back in 1851 by English astronomer John Hind and is 112 miles wide.

Deep Sky:

Lets look for some galaxies this month up near the Big Dipper.

The Whirlpool Galaxy, M51 (Mag 8.1) is just off Big Dipper handle end star Alkaid and was discovered by Messier in 1773. It is 37 million light years away 118,000 light years in diameter. The bright knot nearby is another more distant galaxy NGC 5195 which seems to be interacting with spiral galaxy M51.

The Sunflower Galaxy, M63 (Mag 8.6) is between stars Alkaid and Canum Venaticorum. It was discovered by Messier in 1779 and has a 9th magnitude star sitting on its edge. It is 30 million light years away and 105,000 light years in diameter. This spiral galaxy is angled towards us and looks somewhat like a sunflower.

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