Saturday November 23rd Black Star Canyon star party
By: Steve & Bonnie Short
November 20, 2013 4:39AM PDT
Views: 2656


Black Star Canyon Star Party notice - Saturday November 23rd, 2013


Hello Fellow OCA club members!


This Saturday, I plan to open the gate around 4:15 pm, which is about a half hour before the sun sets. The weather report for this Saturday indicates that Orange County may be cloudy and cool with humidity at 45%.  So please keep an eye on the OCA website “Home” page (below the next speaker info) where we will post a notice should the star party be canceled for any reason.


We should have fairly dark skies as the 3rd quarter Moon will not rise until close to midnight. 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.

Try to park two cars in each slanted slot between the rock turning circles so we can get 20 cars into that area. I will help guide the first cars into the slots and then expect that others will follow that pattern. The first car in each slot must stay back, about a foot, from the road that leads out of the parking area so cars that leave early with headlights off will not accidentally bump into parked cars.


WarningNo Pets allowed(This is an OC Parks and Nature Conservancy rule).



  The ISS (International Space Station) will not make any visible passes Saturday evening.

  The HST (Hubble Space Telescope) will make one visible magnitude 3.4 pass this Saturday evening starting at 6:56:45pm 10 degrees high SSW rising to 13 degrees S at 6:57:37 and then drop out of sight.

  Iridium flares: There will be two visible Iridium Flares this Saturday evening according to the Heavens-Above website and we always see a number of slow moving satellites cross the night sky. The first flare from Iridium Satellite #4 will be a magnitude -7.0 at 5:13 pm 32 degrees high SSW (197 degrees). The second flare from Iridium Satellite #35 will be a magnitude -2.0 at 5:14:56 pm 31 degrees high SSW (198 degrees). Both will be near bright Venus (about 10 degrees east).


Planets & Pluto:

~Mercury, (Mag -0.6) sets about 3:47 pm in constellation Libra this Saturday so will not be seen at the BSC star party. Mercury will be about 106 million miles from Earth and doesn't rise until 5am so can be seen just before sunrise.

~Venus, (Mag -4.6) should be seen Saturday evening before it sets about 7:30 pm in constellation Sagittarius. Venus will be about 46 million miles from Earth, approaching 35” in diameter and will be 29% lit.

~Mars, (Mag 1.3) is now in Constellation Leo setting about 1:30 pm, so won't be seen in the evening. Mars can be seen in the early morning sky as it rises about 1 am. It will be about 161 million miles away Saturday and had an impressive comet companion last month. Comet Ison had been traveling just above Mars but on Saturday will be right in front of the Taurus the Bull “V”.

~Jupiter, (Mag -2.1) will rise about 8pm Saturday in constellation Gemini so can be seen this Saturday evening. It will be about 415 million miles from Earth getting a little closer every day with a diameter of about 44”. At 9pm, we should see moon Europa far east of Jupiter and then Io half way closer to the big planet. Callisto will be just west of Jupiter while Ganymede will be far west of the giant planet.

~Saturn, (Mag 1.2) will be in constellation Libra this Saturday so cannot be seen Saturday evening. It has a disk measuring 15” and can be seen just before sunrise when it rises about 5:15am.

-----The October ”Sky & Telescope” magazine page 50 shows the path Uranus is taking into 2014.---

 ~ Uranus, (Mag 5.8) will be in constellation Pisces high in the sky this Saturday evening as it rises about 2 pm. It shows up as a small 3.6” blue-green disc in a telescope so look for it Saturday evening. Uranus can be seen until setting about 2:20am and will be about 1.807 billion miles from Earth.

-----The October ”Sky & Telescope” magazine page 50 shows the path Neptune is taking into 2014.---

~ Neptune, (Mag 7.9) is in constellation Aquarius, about 2.786 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 until it sets about 11:25pm.

 ~ Pluto, (Mag 14.2) rises at 9:20am so could be seen Saturday evening through a very large scope until it sets about 7:15 pm. It is 3.099 billion miles from Earth in constellation Sagittarius. Since it is so dim, you will need a 10” or larger telescope to see it visually.


The Leonid meteor shower peaked November 17th but the full moon washed out many meteors. But this shower is active through November 30th so we might see some of those meteors Saturday evening. They travel at 44 miles per second so produce impressive fireballs. At its peak, you might see 15 meteors an hour that seem to come from the backward “?” head of Leo the Lion (near bright star Regulus).

We usually see a few stray meteors during every Saturday evening BSC star party.

Brightest visible Comets:

Magnitude 5.3 Comet C/2013 R1 Lovejoy might be seen Saturday in Ursa Major about 15 degrees below the Big Dipper “Handle” near Canes Venatici towards the North horizon. It will be about 38 million miles from Earth and has a period of 10,454 years.

Magnitude 13.5 Comet ISON (C/2012 S1) cannot be seen Saturday evening as will be just a few degrees from Saturn in constellation Libra. It will be shining at a magnitude 5.2 and will be about 80 million miles from Earth. The November “Sky & Telescope” magazine page 50 shows the path Comet ISON has been following during November. Pages 49-49 show depictions of how Comet Ison will look at dawn on many November dates.

Brightest visible asteroids:

Finding an asteroid at the BSC star party this month will be very challenging as they are dim and not well positioned for evening observing.

The brightest asteroid this month is Minor Planet 4 Vesta (Mag 8.1), the 2nd most massive object in the asteroid belt, can be found in constellation Virgo this month., about half way between the Lions rear end tail star Denebola and Virgo bright star Spica. Vesta has a diameter of about 330 miles and was discovered in 1807. It is about 254 million miles from Earth at this time and has an orbit period of 3.63 years. It will not be visible at the BSC star party. NASA’s Dawn spacecraft was in orbit around this asteroid and sent back stunning close-up pictures.


Minor Planet 2 Pallas (Mag 8.5), is the second asteroid to have been discovered (after Ceres), and one of the largest in the Solar System. It can be found in constellation Hydra this month. This asteroid has a diameter of about 338 miles. When Pallas was discovered by astronomer Heinrich Wilhelm Matthaus Olbers on March 28, 1802, it was counted as a planet, as were other asteroids in the early 19th century. The discovery of many more asteroids after 1845 eventually led to their re-classification. It is about 184 million miles from Earth at this time and has an orbit period of 4.62 years. It will become visible around 11pm so might be seen at the BSC star party.

Minor Planet 1 Ceres (Mag 8.8) is the biggest object in the asteroid belt with a diameter of about 590 miles. It is in constellation Virgo and can be found just ahead of Vesta. It is about 382 million miles from Earth now and has a period of 4.61 years. It was discovered in 1801 and for 50 years was classified as the 8th planet. But don’t expect to see anything more than a small dot. It will not be visible Saturday evening so cannot 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 Cassiopeia:

M103 is a magnitude 7.4 open star cluster about 8,500 light years away that spans 15 light years. You can find it in constellation Cassiopeia just 1 degree from Delta Cassiopeiae. It is shaped like an arrow in a very thick area of the Milky Way and contains about 25 stars. Its age is estimated to be 22 million years. Messier’s friend Mechain discovered this object and Messier didn’t have time to observe it himself before adding it to his 1781 catalog.

M52 is a magnitude 6.9 open star cluster about 3,000 light years away that spans 11 light years. You can find it in constellation Cassiopeia along a line from Caph and Alpha Cassiopeiae, about the same distance from Caph as Caph is from Alpha Cassiopeiae. It is shaped like a triangle in a sparse area of the Milky Way and contains at least 100 stars. Its age is estimated to be 35 million years. Messier discovered this object in 1774 while observing a comet he discovered that year


Don't forget to bring your gloves, coats & sweaters as it can get cold 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,


| Search