Saturday February 22nd Black Star Canyon star party
By: Steve & Bonnie Short
February 19, 2014 2:50AM PDT
Views: 2275


Black Star Canyon Star Party notice - Saturday February 22nd, 2014


Hello Fellow OCA club members!


This Saturday, I plan to open the gate around 5:15 pm, which is about a half hour before the sun sets. The weather report for this Saturday indicates that Orange County should be warm with humidity inland at 25%.  But 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 may 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 two visible passes this Saturday evening. The first (magnitude -1.0) pass will start at 6:16:16pm 10 degrees high North going to12 degrees high at 6:17:42 NNE and then dropping back to 10 degrees high at 6:19:08 NE. The second (magnitude -0.4) pass will start at 7:51:28pm 10 degrees high NW going to 16 degrees high at 7:52:15 NW when it will fade away in the Earth's shadow.

  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.

But I am sure we will see a number of satellites pass over in the early evening.


Planets & Pluto:

~Mercury, (Mag 2.3) sets about 4:30 pm in constellation Aquarius this Saturday so won't be seen at the BSC star party. Mercury will be about 62 million miles from Earth and might be seen in the morning when it rises about 5:40 am.

~Venus, (Mag -4.5) will not be seen Saturday evening as it sets about 2:25 pm in constellation Sagittarius. Venus will be about 44 million miles from Earth, dropping to about a 34” in diameter but will be 35% lit. Venus rises about 4 am so can be seen before sunrise.

~Mars, (Mag -.03) is now in Constellation Virgo rising about 9:45pm so can be seen at BSC this Saturday evening. It is now about 80 million miles away and doesn't set until 9 am.

~Jupiter, (Mag -2.2) will rise about 1:20 pm Saturday in constellation Gemini so can be seen high in the sky this Saturday evening. It will be about 425 million miles from Earth getting a little further every day with a diameter of about 42”. At 6:30 pm, we should see moon Ganymede east of Jupiter and then Callisto half way closer to the big planet. Io and Europa will be about a planet width west of the Jupiter. Europa will then move east towards Jupiter as Io moves further west and by 11:30pm, Europa will begin a transit in front of the big planet.

~Saturn, (Mag 1.0) will be in constellation Libra this Saturday so cannot be seen Saturday evening until 11:45 pm and we close at midnight. It has a disk measuring 16” and can be seen all night after it rises as does not set until 10:20 am. It will be about 900 million miles away Saturday.

 ~ Uranus, (Mag 5.9) will be in constellation Pisces high in the sky this Saturday evening as it rises just after 8 am. It shows up as a small 3.5” blue-green disc in a telescope so look for it Saturday evening. Uranus can be seen until setting about 8:30 pm and will be about 1.937 billion miles from Earth.

~ Neptune, (Mag 8.0) is in constellation Aquarius, about 2.880 billion miles away this week slowly moving farther from Earth. It is seen as a bluish gray 2.3” disc in a telescope but we probably won't be able to see it at BSC this Saturday evening as it sets about 5:40 pm. It does not rise until 6:40 am.

 ~ Pluto, (Mag 14.2) sets about 1:35 pm in constellation Sagittarius so can't be seen Saturday evening. Since it rises at 3:30 am, it could be seen early in the morning before sunrise It is 3.090 billion miles from Earth and since it is so dim, you would need a 10” or larger telescope to see it visually.


There are no major meteor showers in February and the only minor one (Alpha Centaurids) lies deep in the southern sky. But an occasional sporadic meteor can appear at any time. We usually see a few stray meteors during every Saturday evening BSC star party.

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.

Brightest visible Comets:

There are no comets bright enough to view this Saturday evening according to the Heavens-above website.

Comet ISON (C/2012 S1) was a big disappointment as it broke up after rounding the Sun but was possible to see in the first 10 days of February, according to Astronomy Magazine (Page 42), as it starts its long trek back to the Oort Cloud.

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 early evening observing. The February Sky & Telescope Magazine, on pages 50-51 shows the circular paths that Vesta and Ceres will be taking in 2014 through July 2nd. Note that they will be only about 3 1/2 degrees apart Saturday evening and only a few degrees from Mars. But on July 1st, these asteroids will be less than ½ degree apart. The circular paths are between Spica and Arcturus, closer to Spica than Arcturus.

The brightest asteroid this month is Minor Planet 4 Vesta (Mag 6.9), the 2nd most massive object in the asteroid belt. It can be found in constellation Virgo this month 10 degrees above bright star Spica. Vesta has a diameter of about 330 miles and was discovered in 1807. It is about 146 million miles from Earth at this time and has an orbit period of 3.63 years. It will be visible at the BSC star party about 10 pm. NASA’s Dawn spacecraft was in orbit around this asteroid and sent back stunning close-up pictures.


Minor Planet 2 Pallas (Mag 7.0), 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 115 million miles from Earth at this time and has an orbit period of 4.62 years. It will become visible around 9 pm so might be seen at the BSC star party.

Minor Planet 1 Ceres (Mag 7.9) 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 half way from Spica to Arcturus. It is about 182 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 11 pm so might be seen at the BSC star party. This asteroid will be the next stop for the Dawn spacecraft.

Did anyone get to view asteroid 2000 EM26 make a near earth pass this past Monday? This asteroid has a diameter of 885' and passed within 8.8 lunar distance from Earth.


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 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,


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