Saturday April 30th Black Star Canyon star party
By: Steve & Bonnie Short
April 27, 2016 3:08AM PDT
Views: 1633

Black Star Canyon Star Party notice - Saturday April 30th, 2016
Hello Fellow OCA club members!
This Saturday, we plan to open the gate around 7:00 pm, which is about a half hour before the sun sets. The weather report for this Saturday indicates that Black Star Canyon should be warm with fairly clear skies.  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.
With a 3rd quarter Moon Saturday, the Moon will not rise until well 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 any front 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 no 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 2.5) sets about 8:30 pm in constellation Aries this Saturday evening so might be seen at the BSC star party. This month will be the best viewing of this planet all year. Mercury will be about 60 million miles from Earth and does not rise until 6:38 am so could probably not be seen in the morning sky.
~Venus, (Mag -3.7) will set just after 6:30 pm in constellation Aries so won't be seen this Saturday evening. Venus will be about 158 million miles from Earth Saturday. Look for it just before dawn when it rises about 5:45 am in the eastern sky.
------------------Mars viewing should be best in a decade!------------------
~Mars, (Mag -1.3) will be in Constellation Ophiuchus rising about 9:45 pm so might be seen Saturday evening. It will be about 54 million miles from Earth Saturday evening setting about 7:30 am so could be seen in the morning southwest sky. Mars will have a diameter of 16” which is the largest it has been for a decade. It will make this year's closest approach to Earth Saturday. Telescope should show significant surface details including the shrinking white North Pole which will be slightly tilted towards Earth. It is summer time on Mars.
~Jupiter, (Mag -2.1) should be seen Saturday evening after dark as it rises about 3 pm in constellation Leo, about 10 degrees below the middle of the sleeping Lion. It will be about 450 million miles from Earth getting a little closer every day. Jupiter will have a disk size of 41”. It will be visible much of the night as does not set until 3:30 am. At 8:30 pm, moon Io will be one planet width to the east of Jupiter while Callisto will be far east. Europa will be 3 ½ planet widths west of Jupiter with Ganymede another 1 ½ planet widths further East.
~Saturn, (Mag 1.0) will be in constellation Ophiuchus this Saturday rising just after 10 pm so might be seen this Saturday evening. It sets about 8 am so could be seen in the South early in the morning. Saturn will be about 855 million miles away Saturday evening .
~Uranus, (Mag 5.9) will be in constellation Pisces this Saturday evening setting about 6 pm so will not 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 1.945 billion miles from Earth this Saturday.
~ Neptune, (Mag 7.9) is in constellation Aquarius, about 2.833 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 2:45 pm. Neptune can be seen in the morning after it rises in the South about 3:30am.
 ~ Pluto, (Mag 14.2) will set in constellation Sagittarius about 10:30 am 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 a half hour after midnight am so might be seen in the early morning sky.

We will have just missed the Lyrid Meteor showers active from April 16-25 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 there is a bright one that will be visible Saturday evening, Comet 252P Linear.

Comet 252P Linear is shining at a magnitude 6.5 (according to the Heavens-above website) and will be 227 million miles from Earth Saturday in constellation Ophiuchus just 20 degrees below Hercules. This comet was discovered on April 7th, 2000 by the Linear survey. It looks like this comet has a period of 5.32 years and passes near Earth and Jupiter.

Comet C/2014 S2 Panstarrs is shining at a magnitude 10.0 (according to the Heavens-above website) and will be 214 million miles from Earth Saturday in constellation Ursa Minor just 10 degrees below the Little Dipper's end pan stars. 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.

Comet C/2013 US10 Catalina be shining at a magnitude 11.0 (according to the Heavens-above website) and will be 320 million miles from Earth Saturday in constellation Persues. 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 5 degrees to the right of bright star Capella in Auriga.

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 Aries this month, about 10 degrees below Mercury. It might be seen Saturday evening in the West. Vesta has a diameter of about 330 miles and was discovered in 1807. It is about 330 million miles from Earth at this time and has an orbit period of 3.63 years. I NASA’s Dawn spacecraft was in orbit around this asteroid and sent back stunning close-up pictures.

Minor Planet 1 Ceres (Mag 9.3) is the biggest object in the asteroid belt with a diameter of about 590 miles. It is in constellation Cetus just 10 degrees below the Ecliptic and and 5 degrees above the Whale's nose. Ceres will be about 346 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 3 Juno (Mag 10.0) is the 11th largest asteroid in the asteroid belt, unusually reflective and is estimated to contain 1% of the total mass of the asteroid belt. It will be in constellation Virgo Saturday evening about 30 degrees to the left of Spica and 20 degrees above the Ecliptic, so might be seen at the BSC star party. This asteroid has a mean diameter of about 145 miles and is about 215 million miles from Earth. Juno was discovered on September 1, 1804 by German astronomer Karl L. Harding, the 3rd asteroid to be discovered but was initially thought to be a planet. It has an orbit period of 4.36 years.

Deep Sky:
This month, lets consider looking at some galaxies in Virgo near M49 just behind Leo the Lion:

M49 is a magnitude 8.4 elliptical galaxy and one of the many Virgo Cluster Galaxies. It spans at least 147,000 light years and is 56,000,000 light years from Earth. Not easy to find but it is 8 degrees west of Virgo star Vindemiatrix by itself between two bright 6th magnitude stars that are about 1.5 degrees apart. Messier observed this object in 1779 and compared its brightness to a comet he was watching. But he first observed it in 1771 and logged it on February 19th.

NGC4526 is a magnitude 9.7 lenticular galaxy that is seen nearly edge-on. It is one of the brightest lenticular galaxies, which is defined as an intermediate galaxy between an elliptical and a spiral galaxy. It is 55,000,000 light years away and has a massive black hole in it's center. It was the first to have that mass estimated by an astronomical interferometer measuring the rotation of gas molecules around its center. It's mass is thought to be 450,000,000 times our Sun. You can find NGC4526 about one degree to the left of M49 and slightly lower, with two stars on either side.

NGC4535 is a magnitude 10.0 barred spiral galaxy that is seen 43 degrees face-on. It is 53,000,000 light years away and has two major spiral arms. In 1999, the Hubble telescope was used to observe Cepheid variable stars in this galaxy and the period-luminosity relationship confirmed its estimated distance, which is consistent with other Virgo cluster galaxies. You can find NGC4535 just a half degree above NGC4526.

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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