Saturday Feb 13th Black Star Canyon star party
By: Steve & Bonnie Short
February 9, 2016 5:56AM PDT
Views: 1523

Black Star Canyon Star Party notice - Saturday February 13th, 2016
Hello Fellow OCA club members!
This Saturday, we 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 Black Star Canyon should start off warm, have clear skies and humidity near 20% inland.  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.
With a 3rd quarter Moon two days after Saturday, it should not rise until after midnight, so our star party should have a dark night sky. 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. Or just park along Black Star Canyon Road and walk down to the star party site.

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

The BSC star party site has a Latitude of 33.7520N, Longitude 117.6745W and Elevation 297'.
Warning:  No Pets allowed!  (This is an OC Parks and Nature Conservancy rule).
  The ISS (International Space Station) will not make any visible passes Saturday evening at BSC.
  The HST (Hubble Space Telescope) will make two visible passes Saturday evening. The first magnitude 2.1 pass starts at 6:20:06 pm 10 degrees high SW going to 28 degrees high SSE at 6:23:41 pm and then falling to 13 degrees high ESE at 6:26:37 pm. The second magnitude 3.3 pass starts at 8:00:43 pm 10 degrees high WSW going to 19 degrees high WSW at 8:02:02 pm where it will fade out of sight.
  Iridium flares: There will be one visible Iridium Flare this Saturday evening. It will flare at 6:50:32 in the NNE (23 degrees) at 48 degrees high from Iridium Satellite # 21. I am sure we will also see a number of satellites pass over in the early evening.
Planets & Pluto:
~Mercury, (Mag -0.1) sets about 3:30 pm in constellation Capricornus this Saturday evening so will not be seen at the BSC star party. Mercury will be about 103 million miles from Earth and does not rise until 5:30 am so could be seen in the morning sky.
~Venus, (Mag -3.7) will set just after 3 pm in constellation Sagittarius so won't be seen this Saturday evening. Venus will be about 132 million miles from Earth with a disc size of 12” and about 85% lit. Look for it just before dawn when it rises about 5 am in the SE sky.
~Mars, (Mag 0.6) will be in Constellation Libra setting about 10:45 am so will not be seen Saturday evening as does not rise until 20 minutes after midnight. It will be about 115 million miles from Earth Saturday evening. Mars will have a diameter of 7” growing to 8.6” at the end of the month while brightening by half a magnitude.
~Jupiter, (Mag -2.3) might be seen Saturday evening after it rises about 7:30 pm in constellation Leo, about 10 degrees below the hind end of the Lion. It will be about 420 million miles from Earth getting a little closer every day. Jupiter will have a disk size of 43”. It will be visible all night after rising as does not set until 8 am. At 8 pm, largest moon Ganymede will be 2 planet widths to the east of Jupiter followed by Europa a planet width closer. To the west will be moon Io just a half planet width away followed by Callisto about 2 planet width's from Jupiter.
~Saturn, (Mag 1.3) will be in constellation Ophiuchus this Saturday setting about 12:15 pm so will not be seen this Saturday evening. It rises at 2:15 am so could be seen in the South early in the morning. Saturn will be about 960 million miles away Saturday evening .
 ~ Uranus, (Mag 5.9) will be in constellation Pisces this Saturday evening setting about 9:30 pm so should be seen at the BSC star party. It shows up as a small 3.4” blue-green disc in a telescope. Uranus will be about 1.912 billion miles from Earth this Saturday. See page 43 of this month's Astronomy Magazine to see the path Uranus is following just above Vesta in February.
~ Neptune, (Mag 8.0) is in constellation Aquarius, about 2.875 billion miles away this week. It is seen as a bluish gray 2.2” disc in a telescope and might be seen at BSC this Saturday evening before it sets about 6:30 pm. Neptune cannot be seen in the morning as does not rise until about 7:30 am.
 ~ Pluto, (Mag 14.2) will set in constellation Sagittarius about 2:30 pm so will not be seen Saturday evening. It is about 3.145 billion miles from Earth and is so dim, you would need a 12” or larger telescope to see it visually. Pluto will rise about 4:30 am so might be seen in the early morning sky.

February has no major meteor showers so we should not expect to see very many at the BSC star party. But I would expect see a few stray meteors Saturday evening as we always do at every 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 several dim comets in the sky this month, but the best one that will be visible Saturday evening might be Comet Catalina or Comet C/2012 X1 Panstarr.

Comet C/2014 Catalina be shining at a magnitude 7.0 (according to the Heavens-above website) and will be 113 million miles from Earth Saturday in constellation Camelopardalis just a two degrees to the left (east) of IC 342. This comet was discovered on 31 October 2013 by the Catalina Sky Survey when at an apparent magnitude of 19 using a 0.68 meter (27”) Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope. This comet came from the Oort cloud and looks like it is on an ejection trajectory never to come back. See page 42 of the February 2016 Astronomy Magazine for the path Catalina is following this month.

Comet C/2012 X1 Panstarrs is shining at a magnitude 9.0 (according to the Heavens-above website) and will be 220 million miles from Earth Saturday in constellation Pegasus just 5 degrees below the bottom center of the big square. This comet was discovered on 04 December 2013 by the Pan-Starrs 1 telescope (Haleakala). It looks like this comet pass is a one-time event, not periodic.

Brightest visible asteroids:
Finding an asteroid is always very challenging as they are dim and are just small dots.

Minor Planet 4 Vesta (Mag 8.3), the 2nd most massive object in the asteroid belt is the brightest asteroid again this month. It is found in constellation Pisces this month, well above the Whale's head and a few degrees below the ecliptic and about 5 degrees from Uranus. Vesta has a diameter of about 330 miles and was discovered in 1807. It is about 275 million miles from Earth at this time and has an orbit period of 3.63 years. It might be seen Saturday evening in the South. NASA’s Dawn spacecraft was in orbit around this asteroid and sent back stunning close-up pictures. The path Vesta is taking in February is shown on page 43 of this month's Astronomy Magazine.

Asteroid 5 Astraea (Mag 8.7) is a large highly reflective S-type asteroid with a composition of nickle-iron and is the 17th brightest asteroid. It will be in constellation Leo Saturday evening about 5 degrees in front of bright star Regulus, so might be seen at the BSC star party. This asteroid has a mean diameter of about 75 miles and is about 175 million miles from Earth. Astraea was the fifth asteroid discovered, on December 8, 1845 by Karl Ludwig Hencke. It has an orbit period of 4.13 years.

Minor Planet 1 Ceres (Mag 9.1) is the biggest object in the asteroid belt with a diameter of about 590 miles. It is in constellation Aquarius just 10 degrees below the Ecliptic and about 20 degrees above bright star Fomalhaut. Ceres will be about 365 million miles from Earth Saturday 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 as is too close to the Sun. The Dawn spacecraft has reached this asteroid and will be orbiting it taking pictures for at least a year.

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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