Saturday December 28th Black Star Canyon star party
By: Steve & Bonnie Short
December 26, 2013 4:05AM PDT
Views: 2664


Black Star Canyon Star Party notice - Saturday December 28th, 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 warm with humidity at 20%.  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 after 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 make one visible magnitude -3.3 pass Saturday evening starting at 5:46:25 pm NW 10 degrees high going to 61 degrees high NE at 5:49:45 and then dropping back to 10 degrees high ESE at 5:53:03.

  The HST (Hubble Space Telescope) will not make any visible passes this Saturday evening.

 Iridium flares: There will not be any visible Iridium Flares this Saturday evening.


Planets & Pluto:

~Mercury, (Mag -0.5) sets about 4:30 pm in constellation Sagittarius this Saturday so will not be seen at the BSC star party. Mercury will be about 135 million miles from Earth and doesn't rise until 7am so might be seen just before sunrise.

~Venus, (Mag -4.6) should be seen Saturday evening before it sets about 6:30 pm in constellation Sagittarius. Venus will be about 28 million miles from Earth, approaching 59” in diameter but will be just 5% lit.

~Mars, (Mag 0.9) is now in Constellation Virgo setting about noon, so won't be seen in the evening. Mars can be seen in the early morning sky as it rises about midnight. It will be about 84 million miles away Saturday.

~Jupiter, (Mag -2.4) will rise about 5:40pm Saturday in constellation Gemini so can be seen this Saturday evening. It will be about 393 million miles from Earth getting a little closer every day with a diameter of about 47”. At 6pm, we should see moon Callisto far east of Jupiter and then Europa half way closer to the big planet. Ganymede will be almost touching the east side of Jupiter while Io will be just a planet width west of the big planet. A few hours later, Ganymede will pass in front of Jupiter while Io will pass behind the 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 before sunrise when it rises about 3:30am.

-----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 noon. 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 midnight and will be about 1.855 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 2.835 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 9:20pm.

 ~ Pluto, (Mag 14.2) rises at 7am in constellation Sagittarius so probably can't be seen Saturday evening as it sets about 5:20 pm. It is 3.120 billion miles from Earth and since it is so dim, you would need a 10” or larger telescope to see it visually.


The Geminids meteor shower peaked December 14th but the nearly full moon washed out many meteors. They traveled at 80,000 mph and produce yellowish fireballs because they are small bits of rocks from a tiny asteroid 3200 Phaethon. At its peak, you might see over 100 meteors an hour that seem to come from the bright Gemini star Castor.

If you ever wanted to do some real scientific meteor counting, the International Meteor Organization (IMO) always needs more observers. You will need to follow the IMO's standards so your counts will be meaningful. See for more information.

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

Brightest visible Comets:

Magnitude 5.5 Comet C/2013 R1 Lovejoy might be seen Saturday in Hercules just below the northern leg end star in the NW. It will be about 91 million miles from Earth and has a period of 10,454 years.

Magnitude 15.5 Comet ISON (C/2012 S1) was a big disappointment as it broke up after rounding the Sun and will not be the bright comet that had been predicted.

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 7.8), the 2nd most massive object in the asteroid belt, can be found in constellation Virgo this month 5 degrees above bright star Spica. Vesta has a diameter of about 330 miles and was discovered in 1807. It is about 215 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 8.1), 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 150 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 8.6) 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 about a third of the way from Spica to Arcturus. It is about 245 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 be visible Saturday evening around 11pm 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 objects in the greater Andromeda area:

M31 is the famous magnitude 3.5 Andromeda Galaxy, a nearby spiral galaxy like our Milky Way. It is about 2.4 million light years away and spans at least 120,000 light years. It contains about 300 billion stars and is heading towards our galaxy at 60 MPS so should arrive in about 4 billion years. On a dark clear night this galaxy can be seen with the naked eye. It is found along the middle strands of the Andromeda constellation. This nebula was discovered in 1612 by Simon Marius and observed by Messier in 1764.

M33 is the famous magnitude 5.7 Pinwheel Galaxy, another nearby spiral galaxy like our Milky Way. It is about 2.2 million light years away and spans at least 40,000 light years. It is large and seen face on with faint arms. This galaxy is in constellation Triangulum and is found at least 10 degrees below M31. Look for it in a line from Mu & Beta Andromedae almost twice the distance from Beta as Beta is from Mu. This nebula was observed by Messier in 1764.

M34 is a magnitude 5.2 open star cluster about 1,400 light years away that spans 14 light years. You can find it in constellation Perseus as it forms the apex of a shallow isosceles triangle with Algol and gama Andromedae. It fills about the space of a Full Moon and contains at least 60 stars, some red in color, the brightest shines at a magnitude 7.3. Its age is estimated to be 190 million years. Messier discovered this object in 1764.


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,


d that year

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