Saturday May 28th Black Star Canyon star party
By: Steve & Bonnie Short
May 25, 2016 3:04AM PDT
Black Star Canyon Star Party notice - Saturday May 28th, 2016
Hello Fellow OCA club members!
This Saturday, we plan to open the gate around 7:30 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 cloudy skies. 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 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 make one magnitude -1.0 visible pass Saturday evening at BSC. Look for it 10 degrees high W at 9:25:57 pm rising to 26 degrees NW at 9:28:45 and then dropping to 10 degrees NNE at 9:31:35 pm.
The HST (Hubble Space Telescope) will not make any visible passes Saturday evening.
Iridium flares: There will be one visible magnitude -3.6 Iridium Flare this Saturday evening 13 degrees high NE at 49 degrees from Iridium Satellite 23 at 10:42:07 pm. I am sure we will also see a number of satellites pass over in the early evening.
Planets & Pluto:
~Mercury, (Mag 1.3) sets about 6 pm in constellation Aries this Saturday evening so will not be seen at the BSC star party. Last month was the best viewing of this planet all year. Mercury will be about 65 million miles from Earth and will rise at 4:45 am so can be seen in the morning sky.
~Venus, (Mag -3.7) will set just after 7:30 pm in constellation Taurus close to the Sun so will not be seen this Saturday evening. Venus will be about 161 million miles from Earth Saturday. We won't be able to see Venus again until July.
------------------Mars viewing should be best in a decade!------------------
~Mars, (Mag -1.8) will be in Constellation Scorpius rising about 7:10 pm so should be easily seen Saturday evening. It will be about 47 million miles from Earth Saturday evening not setting until 5:12 am so could be seen in the morning southwest sky. Mars will have a diameter of 18.6” which is the largest it has been for a decade. It will make this year's closest approach to Earth Saturday and will be a bright reddish object even to the naked eye. A telescope should show significant surface details including the shrinking white North Pole (as it is summer time on Mars) which will be slightly tilted towards Earth.
~Jupiter, (Mag -1.9) should be seen Saturday evening after dark as it rose about 1 pm in constellation Leo, so can be seen about 10 degrees below the middle of the sleeping Lion. It will be about 490 million miles from Earth getting a little farther every day. Jupiter will have a disk size of 41”. It will be visible much of the night as does not set until 1:45 am. At 9 pm, moon Io will be one planet width to the west of Jupiter while Europa will be 2 ½ planet widths west of Jupiter. Ganymede will be 8 planet widths west of Jupiter and Callisto will be 12 planet widths west of the big planet.
~Saturn, (Mag 1.0) will be in constellation Ophiuchus this Saturday rising just after 8 pm so should be seen this Saturday evening. It sets about 6:15 am so could be seen in the Southwest early in the morning. Saturn will be about 840 million miles away Saturday evening .
~Uranus, (Mag 5.9) will be in constellation Pisces this Saturday evening setting about 4 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 1.922 billion miles from Earth this Saturday. It can be seen early morning in the East after it rises about 3:30 am.
~ Neptune, (Mag 7.9) is in constellation Aquarius, about 2.791 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 1 pm. Neptune can be seen in the morning after it rises in the Southeast about 1:40am.
~ Pluto, (Mag 14.1) will not rise in constellation Sagittarius until about 10:30 pm so could be seen Saturday evening. It is about 3.005 billion miles from Earth and is so dim, you would need a 12” or larger telescope to see it visually. Pluto will not set until about 8:30 am.
We will be at the end of the Eta Aquariid Meteor showers active from April 19- May 28 peaking May 5th. If we do see any of these meteors, keep in mind that they are debris left over from a past visit by Comet 1P/Halley. The radiant for this meteor shower is in Aquarius. 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 www.imo.net/visual for more information.
Brightest visible Comets:
There are several dim comets in the sky this month, and the brightest one that will be visible Saturday evening is Comet 252P Linear. This comet had an exceptionally close passage to the Earth, only 13.9 Lunar distances on March 21, 2016.
Comet 252P Linear is shining at a magnitude 9.0 (according to the Heavens-above website) and will be 41 million miles from Earth Saturday in constellation Ophiuchus just 30 degrees above Saturn. 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 10.5 (according to the Heavens-above website) and will be 260 million miles from Earth Saturday in constellation Ursa Major just 30 degrees above Jupiter. 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 8.1), the 2nd most massive object in the asteroid belt is the brightest asteroid again this month. It is found in constellation Taurus this month, just a few degrees below Venus. It can not be seen Saturday evening as it is too close to the Sun. Vesta has a diameter of about 330 miles and was discovered in 1807. It is about 333 million miles from Earth at this time and has an orbit period of 3.63 years. 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 10 degrees above the Whale's head. Ceres will be about 321 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 until 4 am. 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 20 degrees directly below Arcturus and 15 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 230 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.
This month let’s consider looking at some open clusters in Cancer and below:
M44 is a magnitude 3.1 open star cluster, known as the “Beehive Cluster” as it looks like a swarm of bees. It is in constellation Cancer, is about 580 light years away and spans 16 light years. You can find it about half way between bright stars Regulus and Pollux. It contains about 50 stars, the brightest shining at a magnitude 6.3. Its age is estimated to be 660 million years old. Messier observed this object in 1769 and logged it on March 4th.
M67 is a magnitude 6.9 open star cluster, known as the “King Cobra” as it looks a little like a coiled cobra. It is in constellation Cancer, is about 2,700 light years away and spans 24 light years. You can find it about half way between bright stars Regulus and Procyon. It contains about 200 stars, the brightest shining at a magnitude 9.7. Its age is estimated to be 3.2 billion years old. Messier observed this object in 1780 and logged it on April 6th.
M48 is a magnitude 5.8 open star cluster in constellation Hydra, about 1,500 light years away and spans 24 light years. You can find it about half way between bright stars Procyon and Alphard of Hydra as it forms the apex of an isosceles triangle. It contains about 80 stars, the brightest shining at a magnitude 8.2. Its age is estimated to be 300 million years old. Messier observed this object in 1771 and logged it on 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,