Saturday 01/08/2011 Black Star Canyon star party
By: Steve Short
January 5, 2011 1:40AM PDT
Views: 3694

BSC - Saturday 8th January 2011
Hello Fellow
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, cold (50% humidity) and clear. We will have a 1st quarter crescent moon that will set early in the evening so should have fairly dark skies. 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 not make any visible evening passes this Saturday. But the HST (Hubble Space Telescope) will make one visible Mag 2.5 pass Saturday evening starting at 6:32:51 pm 10 degrees high SW moving to 22 degrees high SSE at 6:36 and then dropping to 21 degerees high SE at 6:37. There will not be any visible Iridium flares, but I am sure we will see a few dim satellites pass over as we are looking up in the sky.

~Mercury, (Mag -0.1) sets about 3:24 pm so will not be seen this Saturday evening but rises at 5:14 am so can be seen just before dawn. It is about 86 million miles from Earth in constellation Ophiuchus.

~Venus, (Mag -4.4) will not be seen Saturday evening as it sets about 2 pm but can be seen in the morning as it rises about 3:20 am high in the sky in constellation Libra at sunrise heading into Scorpius. It will be very bright and about 50 percent illuminated going from 46% to 61% lit in January while it’s angular diameter will go from 27” to 20”. It is now just 60 million miles from Earth.

~Mars, (Mag 1.2) is now in Constellation Sagittarius setting about 5:24 pm and rises at 7:30 am so is too close to the Sun to be seen this month. It is about 222 million miles away, still too far away to see any detail on the planet anyway.

~Jupiter, (Mag -2.2) will not set until 10:40 pm and is so bright that it will become visible in constellation Pisces as the sun sets. It now is about 480 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 still obscured by something.

This Saturday Io will pass in front of Jupiter with Europa, Calisto and Ganymede to the right (East) of the big planet.

~Saturn, (Mag 0.8) sets about noon Saturday in constellation Virgo so will not be visible at the BSC star party. Saturn is about 891 million miles away slowly moving closer to Earth. The ringed planet will rise around midnight so can be seen only in the morning hours this month. The rings will be tilted 10 degrees from edge on for the first time in almost 3 years.

~ Uranus, (Mag 5.9) will set at 10:40 pm this week, the same time as Jupiter, in constellation Pisces. It will be about 1 degree NE of Jupiter so both planets can be seen in the same binocular view and maybe wide angle eyepiece telescope view. It shows up as a small 3.4” blue-green disc in a telescope and is about 1.894 billion miles away moving further from Earth.

~ Neptune, (Mag 8.0) is in constellation Capricornus, about 2.858 billion miles away this week slowly moving farther from Earth It is seen as a bluish 2.2” disc in a telescope and we should be able to see it at BSC this Saturday evening as it does not set until 8:15 pm.


We will miss the Quadrantid meteor shower Saturday as it will peak January 4th (Tuesday). The shower’s radiant lies in the northern part of Bootes and under ideal condition will show 120/hour. We normally see a few stray meteors at every BSC star party even when no meteor shower is expected.

Comet 103P Hartley (Mag 9.9) is in constellation Canis Major and is now about 46 million miles from Earth. The comet has a 6.46 year period and on Saturday evening will be 10 degrees east from Sirius (about 1 degree north) so binoculars aimed there should pick it up.

Comet 9P Tempel 1 (Mag 11.8) is in constellation Ophiuchus and is now about 218 million miles from Earth. The comet has a 5.52 year period and can be seen about 1 degree SE of Mercury just before the sun rises.

Minor Planet 7 Iris (Mag 8.2) is the 4th brightest object in the asteroid belt with a diameter of about 125 miles. It is in constellation Cancer and is easy to find this month half way between Procyon and Regulus, just a few degrees north. Iris is about 110 million miles from Earth, getting closer and has a period of 3.68 years. It was J.R. Hind’s first asteroid discovery made on August 13, 1847.

Minor Planet 6 Hebe (Mag 9.5) 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 at the top of the Whale’s head about 10 degrees below Jupiter and 13 degrees east. Hebe is about 165 million miles from Earth and has a period of 3.78 years.

Minor Planet 1 Ceres (Mag 9.2) can be found in constellation Sagittarius just 13 degrees due east of the Teapot and 6 degrees below the ecliptic. It is about 362 million miles from Earth and has a period of 4.60 years. This is the largest known asteroid having a diamater of about 580 miles. Current research indicates it contains a large volumn of water, enough to fill every fresh water lake and river on Earth.

Deep Sky:

This month, lets look at some open clusters in Gemini and M1 nearby in Taurus:

M35 (Mag 5.1) is an open cluster found as the right angle of a small triangle with the last two 3rd and 4th magnitude “feet” stars. It is about 2,800 light years away and has a span of about 23 light years. It contains about 200 stars with the brightest having a magnitude of 8.2. It has an age estimated to be 110 million years and Messier discovered this object in 1764 near the left foot of Castor.

NGC2158 (Mag 8.6) is an open cluster found just 20’ southwest of M35. It also has a span of about 23 light years (5 arc minutes) but looks much smaller than M35 because it is 14,000 light years away. This cluster has many more stars than M35 compacted more tightly It has an age estimated to be 1 billion years old so consists of stars yellow in color. William Herschel discovered this object on November 16, 1784.

M1 (Mag 8.4) is a supernova remnant better known as the Crab Nebula. It is found about 1 degree from the southern 2.5 magnitude lower “horn” star Tauri. It is thought to be 4,000 light years away and is 7 light years by 4.6 light years in physical size, expanding at 999 miles/second. This supernova explosion occurred July 4th, 1054 according to Chinese, Japanese & Arab records and was visible for 22 months, even during the day for a while. Messier observed this object in 1758 thinking it looked like a comet but did not move across the stars. It inspired him to start cataloguing deep sky objects that might be confused as a comet.

Don't forget to bring your gloves, coats & sweaters because it will get even colder 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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