Western Slope Skies

Every other Friday at about 8:10 am, repeats the following Wednesday at 7:00 pm
  • Hosted by Black Canyon Astronomical Society

Western Slope Skies is produced by members of the Black Canyon Astronomical Society, who take a look at our local night sky. Hear it every other week at 8:10 am, after the Friday morning regional newscast,  and on the following Wednesday night at 7 PM, just before Global Express.

Do you have a question about the night sky or other astronomical topics? Ask it in our comments section below, or email us!

Ways to Connect

Western Slope Skies - Geology of the Moon

20 hours ago
NASA

Step outside on a clear night this week and gaze upward. You’ll see a bright gibbous Moon – or a full Moon on January 28.

Western Slope Skies - Mining the Moon

Jan 8, 2021
NASA

The Moon is iconic, seen and enjoyed from anywhere on Earth. It is so coveted that the U.S. and the Soviet Union were in a space race to see who could reach the Moon first. In 1969, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were the first to land on its surface. This race inspired the first international space treaty. Dubbed “the Outer Space Treaty,” the 1960s document governed the first international laws about space and forbade any single country from owning celestial bodies, including the Moon. Instead, they were to be enjoyed and studied by all.

Western Slope Skies - Astronomy Highlights for 2021

Dec 25, 2020

2021 promises to be a great year for watchers of our Western Slope Skies. The New Year will feature two lunar eclipses, Perseid meteors under a dark August sky, several planetary conjunctions, and increasing solar activity.

Western Slope Skies - Same Stars, Different Stories

Dec 11, 2020

Humans have always felt connected to the night sky. Throughout time, we have looked to the  stars and found meaning. We have grouped stars into constellations and attached stories to them.  These constellations were passed down, generation to generation, creating and influencing  culture. However, different cultures haven’t always seen the same things, even in the same stars.  Humans have been looking at the stars of the constellation Orion for thousands of years, yet their  meaning is different in different cultures.

Western Slope Skies - Deeds In Outer Space

Nov 27, 2020
National Park Service

The American West of the 1500s would be almost unrecognizable to us moderns. For a moment, step into the shoes of a Native American or an early European explorer. Imagine sharing mountains, forests, and prairies with wild creatures like the American Bison.

Western Slope Skies - The Starry Dark

Nov 13, 2020
NASA/ESA/Hubble

Have you ever tried to count the stars on a crisp, clear night, far from city lights? It is not for the numerically faint of heart.

Western Slope Skies - Seeing in the Dark

Oct 30, 2020

Over the next week, the Full Moon will light up the otherwise dark skies of the Western Slope. While a spectacular sight in its own right, the glow of the Full Moon overwhelms many fainter stars and the fuzzy glow of the Milky Way from our sky. Even once it departs, something else often prevents us from getting the best view of the night sky, and it all starts with your own two eyes.

Western Slope Skies - Phosphine & Venus

Oct 16, 2020
NASA

Astronomers announced the surprising possibility of life on Venus last month, based on the discovery of phosphine in the atmosphere. What is phosphine? And are we really ready to reclassify Venus from scary greenhouse-effect nightmare to potentially livable place?

NASA/USGS

As evening twilight deepens, look to the east. You’ll see a brilliant red star rising. That star is actually not a star, but the planet Mars. Over the next several weeks, we on Earth will be swinging by Mars on our faster orbit about the Sun, allowing for great views of our planetary neighbor.

Western Slope Skies - Our Galactic Address

Sep 18, 2020
NASA/JPL-Caltech/R. Hurt (SSC/Caltech)

“We are here.” That is the first thing I tell people at a national park visitor center, as I point to our location on a park map. Even if they didn’t ask, hearing it always seems to be a relief.

Western Slope Skies - Night Sky From Home

Sep 4, 2020
Art Trevena

You don’t have to travel to a national park to enjoy the night sky, especially here on the Western Slope. Even in the midst of Montrose, we can see a faint Milky Way streaming over our sleeping town. Connecting to our universe from the comfort of home is not only possible, but enjoyable, and a good way to let go of pandemic stress.

Western Slope Skies - Dark Skies

Aug 21, 2020
Joyce Tanihara

The best time to see the Milky Way is NOW! Did you know that dung beetles use the Milky Way to navigate?  Yeah - but I'm not a dung beetle you may say. Ok, did you know that humans use the stars for navigating as well?

NASA

We consider our universe to be limitless. Over the decades, people have explored that infinity to discover what is out there, even who is out there. But what about the space closest to us? The low Earth orbit is overcrowded by satellites, space junk, and the leftover remnants of space exploration. These leftover pieces affect how scientists and people experience space.

Western Slope Skies - Neptune: Cloudy with a Chance of Diamond Rain

Jul 24, 2020
NASA

On Earth, we know rain as a water phenomenon-- falling gently or torrentially from clouds, feeding river and lakes, carving landscapes. You may have danced in it; likelier, you have complained about it. But what if it rained something else…like diamonds?

NASA

As early as 1923, German astronomers dreamt of a telescope that could observe the universe from space, where Earth’s weather and atmosphere would not interfere with its observations. Nearly 70 years later, their dreams became reality – not just for a select group of scientists, but for the masses.

NASA

When most people think of astronomy, they think of planets and galaxies that are far, far away. But one can experience astronomy right here on Earth. Studying the extraterrestrial helps us understand the terrestrial, our own planet.

Western Slope Skies - Constellation Scorpius

Jun 12, 2020
Joyce Tanihara

Go out tonight and look for a constellation that is easy to see at this time of year. Scorpius lies close to the southern horizon. Scorpius is Latin for scorpion and this is a constellation that really looks like its namesake. Yet, as obvious as it appears like an arachnid, the constellation holds mysteries we can’t see.

Millions  of people globally have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Everything from schools to states and countries have shut down to limit the spread of the virus. National parks have been temporarily shuttered in many places to protect visitors, staff, and surrounding communities. With all this going on, it’s hard to remember what day it is much less remember what is happening in the night sky! Why should we care about astronomy during a worldwide emergency? Shouldn’t we be focusing our energy elsewhere?

Gazing into the depths of the night sky, where distances are measured not in miles but in light years, it’s easy to feel that everything is impossibly far away and ultimately apart from us. Take Corvus, a constellation best seen in spring by looking south. Of its 4 brightest stars, the most distant from earth is Minkar, at 303 light years. Somewhat closer, Algoreb is still an impressive 87 light years away. At these distances, you could live a lifetime and not know that one of its stars has died, still seeing its traveling light long after the star itself has ceased to exist.

NRAO/AUI/NSF, Jeff Hellerman

The question as to whether or not we are alone in the universe has been one of the greatest and most difficult to answer in the history of mankind.

In 2004, NASA scientists pointed the Hubble Telescope towards a blank patch of sky in the constellation Fornax the Furnace to see what lies out there in the deepest parts of space. What they recorded has become one of the most profound images in modern history - the Hubble Ultra Deep Field.

Western Slope Skies - The Moon Illusion

Apr 3, 2020
Art Trevena/BCAS

Whether motivated by romance or astronomy, you have probably watched a moonrise. If so, you likely noticed how it looms large against the horizon; yet later, it appears much smaller.

Have you noticed that brilliant star in the western evening sky over the past few months? That “evening star” is Venus, Earth’s nearest planetary neighbor.

NASA

In July of this year NASA will be launching our next rover to Mars, currently known as Mars Rover 2020.

In the last Western Slope Skies episode, we discussed several aspects of astronomy in indigenous North American cultures. Today we focus on the Lakota constellation The Sacred Hoop.

The night sky is mystical to many cultures. Untouchable, seen only part of the day, changing from month to month, yet it clearly has an impact on life on the earth in terms of agriculture, weather changes, and navigation.

Art Trevena/BCAS

If you venture out under clear and dark Western Slope winter skies, you’ll notice a diffuse glow, extending from the northwestern horizon across the zenith to the southeast. This is the winter view of our home galaxy, the Milky Way. While not as bright as the Milky Way we see during summer evenings, the winter Milky Way has a subtle beauty all its own.

Art Trevena/BCAS

  Ready or not, year 2020 is here with a host of new astronomy highlights.

NASA

Over the past year, how many questions did you ask that went unanswered?

NASA/ESA

Have you ever have taken a long, time-exposure photo? Say, 30 seconds long? You can image stars, and even the Milky Way. What if you took a very long time-exposure photo of a seemingly empty part of the sky with a large telescope? Say, 22 hours long!

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