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

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!

Event Horizon Telescope Collaboration

A black hole is an object with such strong gravitational attraction that even light can not escape.

NASA

Meteors occur when rocky or icy particles impact Earth’s atmosphere and disintegrate, producing streaks of light, often bright and sometimes colorful.  The particles can range from sand grains to rocks of substantial size.

Mercury will transit the Sun on November 11. A planetary transit happens when either Mercury or Venus appears to pass in front of the Sun as seen from Earth.

With the onset of autumn, the natural scenery changes. From the vibrant fall leaf change at Black Canyon National Park to the changing constellations up above, autumn brings new perspectives.  And, as night falls earlier and earlier, we are given an extended opportunity to appreciate these newly-risen constellations.

NASA

Most of us can probably recall the childhood tale of “Goldilocks and the Three Bears,” in which that finicky young girl insisted that her porridge be “not too hot, and not too cold, but just right.” As it turns out, Earth may be equally persnickety. At a distance of about 93 million miles from the sun, our planet falls within the bounds of what astronomers have nicknamed “The Goldilocks Zone.” This term identifies the orbit around a star that is “not too hot, and not too cold, but just right.”

NASA

September 23rd marks the first day of autumn, also called the autumnal equinox in the Northern Hemisphere.  The word equinox comes from the Latin words aequus, meaning equal, and nox, meaning night.

Greetings, my name is Brenda Harvey and I am a Volunteer Solar System Ambassador with NASA/JPL. As part of my job I get to inform my community of NASA happenings.

NOAO/AURA/NSF Local Group Survey Team and T.A. Rector

When hot summer days yield to cool, pleasant nights, late summer evenings provide some of the best opportunities for star gazing. The constellations of summer and early autumn contain some of the finest examples of the various types of astronomical objects.

Eugene Cernan/NASA

In July,1969, NASA first landed men on the Moon, attaining humanity’s first ever visit to another world.

NASA

Globular star clusters form a huge halo around the Milky Way Galaxy. If we resided at the center of our Galaxy, we would see them in every direction. However, we reside not in the center, but more than half way to the edge. We therefore view them in the direction of the galactic center, which we see best in summer. They are almost totally absent in the winter sky.

Joyce Tanihara

The North Fork Valley of the Gunnison River has built its reputation on riches from the Earth, whether coal deposits to fuel the mining economy, or fertile irrigated land for the valley's productive agriculture. But what might surprise you is the amazing resource found when we raise our awareness up above towards the night sky.

Earlier this year we lost a space exploration giant. Or better yet, a small robot. On February 13, 2019 we said a final farewell to our good pal, the Mars Opportunity Rover. That day, NASA’s last attempt to reach the rover failed. Its mission finally ended. If it had a burial site, its epitaph may read something like “Opportunity Rover: Roll on Good Robot” or “Here lies Opportunity, a real life Wall-E.”

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