Saturday 09/12/09 Black Star Canyon star party
By: Steve Short
September 9, 2009 12:21AM PDT
BSC - Saturday 12 September 2009
Hello Fellow OCA club members!
This Saturday I plan to open the gate at 6:30 pm, about a half hour before the sun sets. The weather report for this Saturday indicates that Black Star Canyon will be clear and warm. The 3rd Quarter Moon will not rise until after Midnight when we have to close the gate so it should be 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.
There will be no evening ISS (International Space Station), HST (Hubble Space Telescope) or Iridium flares this Saturday. But I am sure we will see a few satellites pass over as we are looking up in the sky. Tonight (09/08/09) as I write this notice, the space shuttle is departing the ISS and they were both visible with the naked eye.
~Mercury (Mag .1.3) sets about 7:45 pm so will be almost impossible to see this Saturday evening low in the West. It is 66 million miles from Earth in constellation Virgo. Mercury can best be seen just before sunrise this month,
~Venus (Mag -3.8) rises about 4 am, in constellation Cancer and is very bright and easily seen before sunrise. It is about 85% illuminated so looks like a 3/4 moon in a telescope. Venus is getting further from Earth and will be about 128 million miles away on Saturday. Venus will not be visible Saturday evening as it sets about 5:45 pm.
~Mars (Mag 0.9) is now in Constellation Gemini traveling eastward and is about 145 million miles away. Mars sets about 3:30 pm so will not be seen this Saturday evening. It rises about 1 am and a waning crescent moon will be just a few degrees away.
~Jupiter (Mag -2.6) rises about 6 pm in constellation Capricornus so the big planet will be visible right away as the sun sets. It now is about 383 million miles away. Europa will be the lone moon to the east while moons Io, Ganymede, & Callisto will be to the west of Jupiter in that order.
~Saturn, (Mag 1.1) sets about 7:30 pm Saturday in constellation Virgo so will be washed out by the sun. It is about 970 million miles away getting further from Earth. It can be seen in the morning sky as it rises about 7 AM but you might as well wait until October to view this planet. Now we will see the northern side of the rings for the first time since 1996.
~ Uranus (Mag 5.8) will rise about 7:30 pm in constellation Pisces this week so can be seen Saturday evening. It shows up as a blue-green disc in a telescope and is about 1.777 billion miles away inching closer to Earth. This planet reaches opposition September 17th.
~ Neptune (Mag 7.8) will be in constellation Capricornus about 2.705 billion miles away this week. It is seen as a bluish disc in a telescope and we should see it this Saturday as it rises about 6 pm. It will be just a few degrees behind Jupiter along the Ecliptic.
The Aurigid meteor shower peaked September 1st showing only about 5 per hour. This meteor shower is attributed to the debris from comet Keiss passing through Earth’s orbit back in 1911. That comet takes 2,000 years for each orbit around the sun.
Comet 22P Kopff (Mag 10.0) will be just 10 degrees east of the Ecliptic in Aquarius half way between Jupiter and Uranus. It is now about 83 million miles away slowly getting further from Earth and has a period of 6.44 years.
Comet C/2008 02 McNaught (Mag 9.0) has moved from Andromeda and is now in Cassiopeia right beside the star that does not make a good “W“. You might want to scan that area with your scope this Saturday evening. It is about 102 million miles away from Earth getting ever closer.
Minor Planet 1 Ceres (Mag 8.8), the very first asteroid ever discovered, is now floating inside Virgo. It will be hard to see due to being in the west as the sun sets. This asteroid has a period of 4.6 years and is about 321 million miles away. It was discovered back in 1801 and is the largest asteroid we have found, having a diameter of 580 miles.
Minor Planet 3 Juno (Mag 7.6) reaches opposition this month and is brighter than it has been since 2005. It is only 1/4th the diameter of Ceres yet was one of the first 4 asteroids discovered. It can be found in Pisces at the southern border just above the Circlet asterism and will get just 110 million miles from Earth in 2009.
Minor Planet 89 Julia (Mag 9.5) has moved up the main Andromeda strand right next to the hip star Mirach heading towards Pegasus. It has a period of 4.07 years and is about 115 million miles from Earth.
Lets look for some Globular Clusters this month in Capricornus where Jupiter and Neptune are hanging out. Before using a telescope to look at M30 & M75, you might want to get out binoculars and look at Dabih, hanging below Alpha Capricornus (an easy naked eye optical double). The Beta lower pair are an easy binocular double separated by 20,000 light years yet are gravitationally attached.
Globular cluster M30 (Mag 7.2) is just 20’ east of 5th magnitude star 41 Capricorni. It is thought to be 26,000 light years away and as a diameter of 83 light years. M30 is a large dense globular cluster containing stars of magnitude 12 to 16. Messier observed this object in 1764.
Globular cluster M75 (Mag 8.5) is pointed out by the horizontal bar of a cross asterism at 62 Sagittarii. It is estimated to be 61,000 light years away and has a diameter of 106 light years. This is a small globular that looks like a fuzzy star. Messier observed this object back in 1780.
Don't forget to bring your gloves, coats & sweaters because you never know if it will 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,