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 - The Summer Solstice

Jun 11, 2021

  Have you ever wondered why the summer solstice is the longest day in the year? This year the summer solstice will be on Sunday, June 20th, which will officially be our first day of summer.

Western Slope Skies - Black Holes

May 28, 2021

If you have any interest in astronomy, then you have most likely heard of black holes. Or you may have watched the movie Interstellar and had no idea what was going on but knew black holes were at the center of it. They are extremely massive objects that we cannot see, yet they affect their surroundings in measurable ways. It’s intriguing to think that something exists where even light, the fastest moving source in all of the universe, cannot escape the gravitational pull of a black hole. Even time itself is altered in the presence of a black hole.

Rise early on Wednesday morning, May 26th, find a place with an open western horizon, and look up. If the sky’s clear, you’ll see the first of this year’s two lunar eclipses.


Galaxies, those enormous accumulations of stars, dust, gas, and other stuff, are a bit like people – they tend to congregate in big groups.


You’ve heard the warning; “Don’t play with fire unless you want to get burned.” This is good advice that has prevented many singed eyebrows and painful blisters. NASA’s Parker Solar Probe has ignored this warning in the most extreme fashion.

Western Slope Skies - A Wandering Soul in the Asteroid Belt

Apr 2, 2021

Likely you have heard of the asteroid belt, that planetary graveyard between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter, where numerous space rocks revolve around the Sun. The asteroids formed early in the Solar System’s development, when pre-planetary bodies (planetesimals) repeatedly collided under Jupiter’s immense gravitation, continually fragmenting into what we see today. You may know some of their names— Ceres, Vesta, Pallas, Juno. You can add one more to your list-- the strange, spud-shaped world of Psyche.

Western Slope Skies - North Pole of an Asteroid

Mar 19, 2021
NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona

After a recent presentation on the OSIRIS-Rex mission to asteroid Bennu, someone asked "How do you define the north pole of an asteroid?" According to the International Astronomical Union, the correct answer is that asteroids do not have north poles!

Western Slope Skies - Fun with Asteroids

Mar 5, 2021
By Mdf at English Wikipedia - Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1951518

Do you watch space movies? How many have you seen with the hero’s spaceship travelling a dangerous route through the asteroid belt, bobbing and weaving to miss catastrophic collisions with numerous asteroids in order to escape and save the Solar System! Today, we are going to find out what travelling through the asteroid belt would really look like.

Western Slope Skies - The Sun Awakens

Feb 19, 2021

When it comes to astronomy, the dark night skies of the Western Slope command most of our attention. It can be easy to forget that the most important astronomical object actually lives in the daytime sky: the Sun!

Western Slope Skies - Traveling with TESS

Feb 5, 2021

A starry night sky sparkles with mysteries, such as whether Earth is the only inhabited planet. Are we alone?

Western Slope Skies - Geology of the Moon

Jan 22, 2021

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

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

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

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?


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?


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

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?


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.


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.