Saturday March 5th Black Star Canyon star party
By: Steve & Bonnie Short
March 1, 2016 11:41PM PDT
Views: 942

Black Star Canyon Star Party notice - Saturday March 5th, 2016
Hello Fellow OCA club members!
This Saturday, we 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 Black Star Canyon should start off with mild weather but may get rain in the evening.  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.
With a 3rd quarter Moon March 1st, the Moon 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 not make any visible passes Saturday evening.
  Iridium flares: There will be one visible Iridium Flare this Saturday evening. It will flare at 7:05:27 in the N (10 degrees) at 43 degrees high from Iridium Satellite # 94. Look for the flare between the Big Dipper pointer stars and the North Star Polaris. I am sure we will also see a number of satellites pass over in the early evening.
Planets & Pluto:
~Mercury, (Mag -0.4) sets about 4:30 pm in constellation Aquarius this Saturday evening so will not be seen at the BSC star party. Mercury will be about 123 million miles from Earth and does not rise until 5:45 am so could be seen in the morning sky.
~Venus, (Mag -3.7) will set just after 3:50 pm in constellation Capricornus so won't be seen this Saturday evening. Venus will be about 141 million miles from Earth with a disc size of 11” and about 90% lit. Look for it just before dawn when it rises about 5:15 am in the eastern sky.
~Mars, (Mag 0.2) will be in Constellation Libra setting about 10 am so will not be seen Saturday evening as does not rise until almost midnight. It will be about 96 million miles from Earth Saturday evening. Mars will have a diameter of 9” growing to 11.7” at the end of the month and becomes twice as bright reaching a magnitude -0.5. After Mars reaches a diameter of 10”, a 6” telescope should show significant surface details.
~Jupiter, (Mag -2.3) should be seen Saturday evening after it rises about 6 pm in constellation Leo, about 10 degrees below the hind end of the Lion. It will be about 413 million miles from Earth getting a little closer every day. Jupiter will have a disk size of 44”. It will be visible all night after rising as does not set until 6:30 am. At 8 pm, moon Io will be one planet width to the east of Jupiter while Europa will be just barely to the west with Callisto very far to the west. Ganymede will be passing behind the big planet but if viewed at 6 pm, was visible just to the west of Jupiter. It will become visible again to the east of the big planet at 11 pm. Io will pass in front of Jupiter starting at 10 pm and be seen on the west edge of the planet at midnight.
~Saturn, (Mag 1.2) will be in constellation Ophiuchus this Saturday setting about 11 am so will not be seen this Saturday evening. It rises about 1 am so could be seen in the East early in the morning. Saturn will be about 927 million miles away Saturday evening .
 ~ Uranus, (Mag 5.9) will be in constellation Pisces this Saturday evening setting about 8 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 1.935 billion miles from Earth this Saturday. See page 46 of September 2015 Sky & Tel Magazine to see the path Uranus is following.
~ Neptune, (Mag 8.0) is in constellation Aquarius, about 2.878 billion miles away this week. It is seen as a bluish gray 2.2” disc in a telescope and but will not be seen at BSC this Saturday evening as it sets about 5:15 pm. Neptune can be seen briefly in the morning after it rises about 6am.
 ~ Pluto, (Mag 14.2) will set in constellation Sagittarius about 1 pm so will not be seen Saturday evening. It is about 3.121 billion miles from Earth and is so dim, you would need a 12” or larger telescope to see it visually. Pluto will rise about 3 am so might be seen in the early morning sky.

March has no major meteor showers but I would expect to 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.

Comet C/2013 US10 Catalina be shining at a magnitude 7.5 (according to the Heavens-above website) and will be 172 million miles from Earth Saturday in constellation Camelopardalis. 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. The comet came from the Oort cloud and looks like it is on an ejection trajectory never to come back. See page 42 of the March 2016 Astronomy Magazine for the path Catalina is following this month. Look for this comet midway between Cassiopeia and Auriga.

Comet C/2012 X1 Panstarrs is shining at a magnitude 9.0 (according to the Heavens-above website) and will be 226 million miles from Earth Saturday in constellation Pisces just 10 degrees below the bottom center of the Pegasus big square. This comet was discovered on December 4th, 2013 by the Pan-Starrs 1 telescope (Haleakala). It looks like this comet pass is a one-time event, not periodic.

Comet C/2014 S2 Panstarrs is shining at a magnitude 9.5 (according to the Heavens-above website) and will be 171 million miles from Earth Saturday in constellation Ursa Minor just a few degrees below the Little Dipper's pan. This comet was discovered on September 22nd, 2014 by the Pan-Starrs 1 telescope (Haleakala). It looks like this comet has a period of 2,220 years so is 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 8.4), the 2nd most massive object in the asteroid belt is the brightest asteroid again this month. It is found in constellation Pisces again this month, well above and to the left of the Whale's head and a few degrees below the ecliptic It can be found about 25 degrees to the left and just below the Pegasus big square. Vesta has a diameter of about 330 miles and was discovered in 1807. It is about 295 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 was taking in February is shown on page 43 of the February Astronomy Magazine and might help you find it in March as is still near Uranus.

Minor Planet 1 Ceres (Mag 9.0) 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 and the Sun. Ceres will be about 368 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.

Asteroid 5 Astraea (Mag 9.5) 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 10 degrees in front of bright star Regulus just above the ecliptic, so might be seen at the BSC star party. Look for this asteroid by finding Jupiter and take a straight line through Regulus, keep going about 10 degrees. This asteroid has a mean diameter of about 75 miles and is about 107 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 and the path it is taking in March is shown on page 43 of this month's Astronomy Magazine.

Deep Sky:
During March, there are many Messier Marathons going on where people are trying to find every one of the 110 objects in his catalog during one night. That will be going on at the Anza star party but not at the BSC star party as we close at midnight.

If Messier came back and saw people doing a Messier Marathon, he would say “STOP! Why is everyone wasting time trying to find objects he catalogued so they would not mistake them for comets?”

So this month at BSC, let’s consider looking at some lesser known Messier objects that will be in the winter evening sky:

M40 is nothing but an optical double star in Ursa Major. It consists of a magnitude 9.6 and 10.1 star at an unknown distance. The separation of these stars is a wide 52”. Some thought Messier thought this object had some nebulosity but not according to his 1760 notes. You can easily find M40 by pointing to bright dipper star Megrez, and then move north 1 ½ degrees where you will pass 70 Ursae Majoris and the two faint stars will become visible in a direct line from Magrez to 70 and just beyond. Messier observed this object in 1760 and logged it on October 24, 1764.

M78 is a magnitude 8 nebula in Orion, not the famous Orion Nebula, about 1,600 light years away that spans 4 light years. This nebula is conical in shape and has a magnitude 9.5 star just within the nebulosity. There is also another star just 15' away with some nebulosity that is NGC 2071. It is easy to locate M78 as it forms a right angle with far left belt star Alnitak and is as far from Alnitak as the width of the three belt stars. Its age is estimated to be 2 million years old so is quite young and forming new stars. Discovered by Pierre Mechain early in 1780 and then Messier logged this object 1780 on December 17th, .

M79 is a magnitude 7.7 globular star cluster about 4,200 light years away that has a diameter of 106 light years. You can find it in constellation Lepus, well below Orion, along a line formed by the alpha & beta stars, at a distance of that length from the beta star. It has a double star just ½ degree away. This is really the only globular cluster visible in the winter and is slightly more compact than average. Its age is estimated to be 11.7 billion years so that means it is in a dwarf galaxy making a very close encounter with the Milky Way. Discovered by Pierre Mechain in 1780 and Messier observed this object later in 1780 and logged it December 17th.
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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