Saturday 11/13/2010 Black Star Canyon star party
By: Steve Short
November 10, 2010 4:52PM PDT
Views: 3582

BSC - Saturday 13th November 2010
Hello Fellow
OCA club members!

This Saturday I plan to open the gate about: 4:30 pm, which is about a half hour before the sun sets. The weather report for this Saturday indicates that Orange County will be sunny, warm (25% humidity) and clear.  The 1st Quarter  half lit Moon will be with us most of the 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 (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 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.

   Warning:  No Pets allowed!  (This is an Irvine Nature Conservancy property rule)

The ISS (International Space Station) will make two visible evening passes this Saturday. The 1st pass (Mag -1.9) will start at 5:24:40 pm 10 degrees high NNW rising to 17 degrees NE at 5:26:49 and then dropping to 12 degrees ENE at 5:28:32. The 2nd pass (Mag -0.3) will start at 6:59:35 pm 10 degrees high WNW rising to 14 degrees WNW at 7:00:09 where it will slip out of sight passing into the Earth’s shadow.   The HST (Hubble Space Telescope) will not make any visible passes Saturday evening and there will not be any visible Iridium flares this Saturday at BSC, but I am sure we will see a few dim satellites pass over as we are looking up in the sky.

~Mercury, (Mag -0.4) sets about 5:35 pm so might be seen this Saturday evening at sunest very low on the horizon. It is about 126 million miles from Earth in constellation Scorpious.

~Venus, (Mag -4.3) will not be seen this evening as it sets at 3:45 pm but can be seen in the morning as it rises about 5 am around 5 degrees below star Spica in constellation Virgo. It will be very bright even though just a slender crescent about 5 percent illuminated. It is now just 27 million miles from Earth.

 ~Mars, (Mag 1.4) is now in Constellation Ophiuchus setting about 6:05 pm just a few degrees above much brighter Mercury.  It is about 130 million miles away, still too far away to see any detail on the planet but we should be able to spot it Saturday evening just after sunset.

~Jupiter, (Mag -2.6) is so bright that it will become visible in constellation Aquarius as the sun sets. It now is about 408 million miles from Earth getting a little further every day. We should still see lots of detail on the big planet including the North Equatorial Belt (NEB) and just a thin dark SEB line, since that belt is obscured by something for several months. Smallest moon Europa will pass behind behind Jupiter Saturday evening while closest moon Io will  be the only moon seen on the west of the big planet. Ganymede will be near Jupiter on the east with moon Callisto much further away.  

~Saturn, (Mag 0.9) sets about 3:20 Saturday in constellation Virgo so will not be visible at BSC. Saturn is about 963 million miles away slowly moving closer to Earth. Saturn has returned to prominence in the morning sky this month where it rises around 3:30 am and is high above Venus.

~ Uranus, (Mag 5.8) will set about 2:20 am this week, 15 minutes after Jupiter, in constellation Pisces and will be about 3 degrees northeast of Jupiter so both planets can be seen in the same binocular view. It shows up as a small 3.6” blue-green disc in a telescope and is about 1.809 billion miles away moving further from Earth.

~ Neptune, (Mag 7.9) is in constellation Capricornus, about 2.777 billion miles away this week slowly moving farther from Earth  It is seen as a bluish 2.3 degree disc in a telescope and we should see it at BSC this Saturday evening as it does not set until just before midnight.


The Leonid meteor shower peaks November 17th but is active from November 10 – November 23rd so we might see some late this Saturday.  The radiant is just inside the Lion’s head and the best viewing will be at 3 am where one might see 20 per hour on the 17th. We also normally see a few stray meteors at every BSC star party.


Comet 103P Hartley (Mag 5.4) is in constellation Monoceros and is only about 17 million miles from Earth. The comet has a 6.47 year period and on Saturday evening will be almost directly between Sirius & Procyon so binoculars aimed there should pick it up in the south.


Minor Planet 6 Hebe (Mag 8.6) is another object in the asteroid belt with a diameter of just over 120 miles. It was once much bigger but a collision formed many pieces that have fallen to Earth. Astronomers think that 40% of Earth’s meteroites came from Hebe. It is in constellation Cetus just in front of the Whale’s head about 15 degrees below Jupiter and 5 degrees east. Hebe is about 113 million miles from Earth and has a period of 3.78 years.


Minor Planet 1 Ceres (Mag 8.8) can be found in constellation Sagittarius just below the left side of the Teapot’s lid.  It is about 320 million miles from Earth and has a period of 4.60 years. This is the largest asteroid having a diamater of about 580 miles.


Deep Sky:

This month, lets look at some more objects inside the Summer Triangle, this time in Cygnus the Swan:


M29 (Mag  6.6) is an open cluster just a few degrees from center Swan Gamma star Sadr. It is 4,000 light years away and has a span of 8 light years. It contains about 50 stars with the brightest having a magnitude of 8.6, but with a small scope one only sees about 7 or 8 stars. It has an age estimated to be 10 million years and Messier discovered this object in 1764.


M39  (Mag 4.6) is another open cluster about 10 degrees from Swan tail star Deneb. It is thought to be 800 light years away and has a span of 7.5 light years. It contains about 30 stars spread out wide with the brightest shining at a magnitude 6.8 and most can be seen with a small scope. It’s age is estimated to be 270 million years and Messier first observed this object in 1764.


 M56 (Mag 8.3) is a globular cluster about 5 degrees from Swan head star Alberio in a direct line towards bright star Vega. It is 33,000 light years away and is 67 light years in diameter. The star compactness is very loose and this dim object is a challenge to find in the thick part of the Milky Way. Messier first observed this object in 1779.


We might also want to see if we can spot red dwarf star Gliese 581 (Mag 10.56) just after sunset in Libra near the Beta star. This star is 20 light years away and a recent survey discovered one of it’s planets orbiting in the Goldilocks zone meaning it should have temperatures just right to support life.

 Don't forget to bring your gloves, coats & sweaters because it will get cold after the sun sets and 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.
star party host,


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