Saturday Dec 17th BSC star party
By: Steve & Bonnie Short
December 14, 2016 2:38AM PDT
Black Star Canyon Star Party notice - Saturday December 17th, 2016
Hello Fellow OCA club members!
This Saturday, we plan to open the gate around 4:15 pm, which is about a half hour before the sun sets. The weather report for this Saturday night indicates that Black Star Canyon should be cold with partly cloudy skies and humidity at about 50%. 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 Full Moon on 12/14 and the 3rd Quarter Moon not until 12/21, our star party will not have a Moon-free night. It should rise at 9 pm giving us a darker sky early in the star party. 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 visible magnitude -1.7 pass this Saturday evening starting at 6:37:56 pm 10 degrees high NW going to 30 degrees high NW at 6:39:46 pm where it will enter Earth's shadow and fade out of sight. Look for it to pass above the Summer Triangle parallel to the Vega – Deneb side fading out just past Vega.
The HST (Hubble Space Telescope) will not make any visible passes this Saturday evening.
Iridium flares: There will be one visible very bright magnitude -8.1 Iridium Flare this Saturday evening at 6:08:54 52 degrees high NE (43 degrees) by Iridium Satellite # 45. Look for it half way between Capella & Cassiopeia. I am sure we will also see a number of other satellites pass over in the early evening.
Planets & Pluto:
~Mercury, (Mag 0.0) sets about 6 pm in constellation Sagittarius this Saturday evening so might be seen at the BSC star party after a 4:45 pm sunset. Mercury will be about 78 million miles from Earth and will not rise until about 8:15 am well after sunrise. It will span 8” and be 33% lit.
~Venus, (Mag -4.2) will set about 8 pm in constellation Capricornus so should be seen this Saturday evening. Venus will be about 81 million miles from Earth Saturday, very bright with a 60% illuminated disk of about 20”. It will not rise until 10 am well after sunrise.
~Mars, (Mag 0.8) will be in Constellation Aquarius to the left of Capricornus along the Eucliptic so should be easily seen Saturday evening as a bright reddish object to the naked eye. It will be about 144 million miles from Earth Saturday evening not setting until about 9:30 pm. Mars will have a diameter of about 6” so it will be hard to see any detail on the red planet.
~Jupiter, (Mag -1.7) will not be seen Saturday evening as sets about 1 pm in constellation Virgo. Jupiter can be seen near bright star Spica. It will be about 536 million miles from Earth and will have a disk size of 34”. Jupiter rises about 1:30 am so can be seen well after midnight all the way until sunrise.
~Saturn, (Mag 1.4) will be in constellation Ophiuchus this Saturday so will not be seen at the BSC star party as it sets about 4:15 pm. It will not rise until 6:20 am and will be about 1.025 billion miles away Saturday evening.
~Uranus, (Mag 5.8) will be in constellation Pisces this Saturday evening rising just after 1 pm so should be seen at the BSC star party Saturday evening high in the sky. It shows up as a small 3.4” blue-green disc in a telescope. Uranus will be about 1.816 billion miles from Earth this Saturday and can be seen all the way until it sets at 1:40 am.
---The October issue of Sky & Tel Magazine page 50 shows the paths Uranus & Neptune are following.
~ Neptune, (Mag 7.9) is in constellation Aquarius, about 2.811 billion miles away this week. It is seen as a bluish gray 2.2” disc in a telescope and should be seen at BSC this Saturday evening as it rises about 11 am and does not set until 10:20 pm.
~ Pluto, (Mag 14.3) will be in constellation Sagittarius so will not be seen Saturday evening as it sets just after 6 pm. It is about 3.177 billion miles from Earth and is so dim, you would need a 10” or larger telescope to see it visually.
I would expect to see a few stray meteors Saturday evening as we always do at every BSC star party. But the Ursid Meteor Shower will be active from December 17 – 26 with meteors radiating from a point inside Ursa Minor near star Kochab. This is usually just a minor shower showing up to 10 meteors/hour at it's peak on December 22nd.
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:
The website Heavens-above shows a few very dim comets starting at magnitude 11.
Comet 45P/Honda (Mag 10.0) might be seen at the star party. The December issue of Astronomy Magazine shows the path this comet is following on page 42. It should be just 2 degrees from globular star cluster M75 Saturday evening just 15 degrees above the horizon in constellation Capricornus. It was discovered December 3, 1948 by Minoru Honda and has a period of 5.25 years.
Brightest visible asteroids:
Finding an asteroid is always very challenging as they are dim and are just small dots.
Minor Planet 4 Vesta (Mag 7.0 ), the 2nd most massive object in the asteroid belt is the brightest asteroid again this month. It is found in constellation Cancer, just a degree above the Ecliptic and to the right of the Moon and left of the Gemini Twins. It might be seen Saturday evening after 10 pm. Vesta has a diameter of about 330 miles and was discovered in 1807. It is about 156 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 8.4) 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 under the “V” in Pisces. Ceres will be about 213 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 should be visible Saturday all star party long. The Dawn spacecraft has reached this asteroid and will be orbiting it taking pictures for at least a year. You can see the path Ceres is taking this month in the December Astronomy magazine on page 43.
Asteroid 18 Melpomene (Mag 9.3) is a large, bright main-belt asteroid. It will be in constellation Cetus Saturday evening about 20 degrees below the Pisces “V” and to the left of Ceres, so might be seen at the BSC star party. This asteroid is slightly elongated with a mean diameter of about 100 miles and is about 108 million miles from Earth. Pallas was discovered on June 24th, 1852 by astronomer John Russell Hind. It may have a satellite of about 22 miles in diameter and has an orbit period of 3.48 years.
This month let’s consider looking at some Messier objects in the greater Andromeda area:
M31 is the famous magnitude 3.5 Andromeda Galaxy, a nearby spiral galaxy like our Milky Way. It is about 2.4 million light years away and spans at least 120,000 light years. It contains about 300 billion stars and is heading towards our galaxy at 60 MPS so should arrive in about 2 billion years. On a dark clear night this galaxy can be seen with the naked eye. It is found along the middle strands of the Andromeda constellation. This nebula was discovered in 1612 by Simon Marius and observed by Messier in 1764.
M33 is the famous magnitude 5.7 Pinwheel Galaxy, another nearby spiral galaxy like our Milky Way. It is about 2.2 million light years away and spans at least 40,000 light years. It is large and seen face on with faint arms. This galaxy is in constellation Triangulum and is found at least 10 degrees below M31. Look for it in a line from Mu & Beta Andromedae almost twice the distance from Beta as Beta is from Mu. This nebula was observed by Messier in 1764.
M34 is a magnitude 5.2 open star cluster about 1,400 light years away that spans 14 light years. You can find it in constellation Perseus as it forms the apex of a shallow isosceles triangle with Algol and gama Andromedae. It fills about the space of a Full Moon and contains at least 60 stars, some red in color, the brightest shines at a magnitude 7.3. Its age is estimated to be 190 million years. Messier discovered this object in 1764.
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 hosts, Steve & Bonnie