Saturday 02/02/2013 Black Star Canyon star party
By: Steve & Bonnie Short
January 30, 2013 2:51AM PDT
Views: 2584

BSC Star Party notice - Saturday February 2nd, 2013


Hello Fellow OCA club members!


This Saturday, I plan to open the gate around 5 pm, which is about a half hour before the sun sets. The weather report for this Saturday indicates that Orange County will be partly cloudy with humidity at 20%.  So with all the bad weather we have had lately, you might want to keep an eye on the OCA website “Home” page (below the next speaker info) where I will post a notice should the star party be cancelled for any reason.


We should have fairly dark skies as it is a day before the 3rd quarter Moon. First time visitors might want to get to the star party site 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 OC Parks and Nature Conservancy rule).



  The ISS (International Space Station) will not make any visible passes this Saturday evening but a South magnitude -1.9 pass will occur in the morning just after 5:07 am.

  The HST (Hubble Space Telescope) will also not make any visible evening passes but will make a SSE magnitude 3.5 pass at 4:22 am.

  We won’t get to see any Iridium flares Saturday evening at BSC but I am sure we will see a few dim satellites pass overhead as we are looking up in the sky.


Planets & Pluto:

~Mercury, (Mag -1.1) sets at about 5:50 pm in constellation Capricornus so might be seen briefly at BSC. Mercury will be about 125 million miles from Earth Saturday.

~Venus, (Mag -3.7) will not be seen Saturday evening as it sets about 4:05 pm in constellation Sagittarius. Venus is now about 153 million miles from Earth and can be seen early morning as it rises about 6:06 am.

~Mars, (Mag 1.2) is now in Constellation Capricornus, so is visible at sunset until setting at 6:37 pm. This month, the red planet will be dropping fast on its way to pass by Mercury February 8th. Mars is about 213 million miles away now with a 4” disk so none of our scopes should be able to see any detail on this planet until it is closer. Mars will be within 1 degree of planet Neptune from February 3-5.

~Jupiter, (Mag -2.3) will rise after noon Saturday in constellation Taurus and will be seen Saturday evening midway between 1st magnitude star Aldebaran and the Pleiades star cluster (M45). It now is about 424 million miles from Earth getting a little further every day with a diameter of about 43”.  All four Galilean moons will be west of Jupiter Saturday evening, with largest moon Ganymede farthest west. Moon Callisto will be midway between Ganymede and Jupiter and next will be Europa and Io close together.

~Saturn, (Mag 1.0) will be in constellation Libra this Saturday but cannot be seen Saturday evening as it doesn’t rise until a half hour after midnight. This planet is about 910 million miles away slowly moving closer to Earth. Saturn can be seen from 1 am until dawn this month.

~ Uranus, (Mag 5.9) will be in constellation Pisces this Saturday evening rising at 11:20 am so will be up high at sunset. It shows up as a small 3.6” blue-green disc in a telescope. This planet reached opposition last year on September 29th, when it was opposite the Sun in our sky. It will remain visible from sunset to 9:30 pm and is about 1.915 billion miles away from Earth.

~ Neptune, (Mag 8.0) is in constellation Aquarius, about 2.874 billion miles away this week slowly moving farther from Earth. It is seen as a bluish gray 2.3” disc in a telescope. We should be able to see it at BSC this Saturday evening (it is bright enough to even be seen through binoculars), as it does not set until about 7 pm.

 ~ Pluto, (Mag 14.1) sets about 3 pm so can not be seen Saturday evening.  It is 3.091 billion miles from Earth in constellation Sagittarius. Since it is so dim, you will need a 10” or larger telescope to see it visually when it rises early morning about 5 am.


There are no major meteor showers in February.

Brightest visible Comets:

This month all the comets orbiting the Sun are very dim so will be extremely difficult to find and see and none are visible Saturday evening. 


The magnitude 14.0 Comet C/2006 S3 Loneos might be seen after midnight Saturday in constellation Libra using a 10” or bigger telescope.  Look for it between Saturn and the Scorpion’s head. It is about 535 million miles from Earth at this time.



Brightest visible asteroids:


Bright asteroids Ceres and Vesta are in Taurus the Bull this month so can be seen Saturday evening.


Minor Planet 4 Vesta (Mag 7.5), the 2nd most massive object in the asteroid belt, can be found in constellation Taurus, less than 2 degrees north of bright star Aldebaran.  Vesta has a diameter of about 330 miles and was discovered in 1807. It is about 180 million miles from Earth at this time and has an orbit period of 3.63 years. It will become visible shortly after sunset so might be seen at the BSC star party. NASA’s Dawn spacecraft was in orbit around this asteroid and sent back stunning close-up pictures.


Minor Planet 1 Ceres (Mag 7.8) is the biggest object in the asteroid belt with a diameter of about 590 miles. It is in constellation Taurus and can be found about 2 degrees southwest of the 2nd magnitude beta Tauri star that marks the Bull’s northern horn. It is about 177 million miles from Earth and has a period of 4.61 years. It was discovered in 1801 and for 50 years was classified as the 8th planet. It will be visible Saturday evening shortly after sunset so might be seen at the BSC star party. This asteroid will be the next stop for the Dawn spacecraft.




Deep Sky:

This month let’s consider looking at some Messier Open Star Clusters near brightest star Sirius:


M41 is a magnitude 4.5 open star cluster about 2,200 light years away that spans 24 light years. You can find it just a few degrees below (south) of Sirius. It contains about 80 stars, the brightest shining at a magnitude 6.9, is orange in color and located at the center. Its age is estimated to be 190 million years old. Messier observed this object in 1765 and logged it on January 16.


M46 is a magnitude 6.1 open star cluster about 5,400 light years away that spans 42 light years. You can find it in constellation Puppis about 10 degrees due east of Sirius. It contains about 100 stars, the brightest shining at a magnitude 8.7. Its age is estimated to be 300 million years old. Messier observed this object in 1771 and logged it February 19th.


M47 is a magnitude 4.4 open star cluster about 1,800 light years away that spans 16 light years. You can find it in constellation Puppis just 9 degree east of brightest star Sirius. It contains about 30 stars with the brightest shining at magnitude 5.7. Its age is estimated to be 78 million years. Messier observed this object in 1771 and logged it February 19th.






Don't forget to bring your gloves, coats & sweaters as it gets cold now after the sun sets and even colder 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 the sky to get dark. Please remember to cart off all your trash as there are no garbage cans at BSC. There is also one portable restroom on site should nature call.


Hope to see you there.


Your OCA star party host,


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