Western Slope Skies

Every other Friday at about 8:10 am, repeats the following Wednesday at 8:00 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 after the Friday morning local newscast (8:10-8:15 AM) and on the following Wednesday night at 8 PM during 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

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.”

Friday June 21st marks this year’s summer solstice. The word “solstice” comes from the Latin words “sol,” meaning ‘sun,’ and “stitium,” meaning ‘stopped.’ Ancient sky observers noticed that the sun achieved its highest possible position in the sky on this summer day each year.

On June 13, 2010 a bright fireball streaked across the sky over Australia. Was this a meteor or an errant piece of space junk burning up in Earth’s atmosphere? Actually, none of the above. It was Japan’s Hayabusa space probe returning to Earth at 25,000 m.p.h., after visiting the asteroid Itokawa.

A few months ago, we toured the Galactic Menagerie in the sky.  Today, let’s take flight and do some birdwatching!

EHT Collaboration

One of the mathematical outcomes of Albert Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity is that an object with sufficiently high density will have such strong gravity that nothing, not even light, can escape. This is a ‘black hole.’

NASA, Goddard Space Flight Center, University of Arizona

In 2016 NASA launched the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft toward an asteroid named Bennu, a 1,700-ft-wide body that orbits the Sun near Earth’s orbit. 

NASA

If April showers bring May flowers, what do meteor showers bring?

Scorpius over Norwood, CO and Lone Cone Mountain
Braden Barkemeyer

Just over a century ago there were no electric lights and no light-pollution. For millennia, anyone looking into a nighttime sky would see the Moon, 5 planets, and stars – lots and lots of stars.

Art Trevena

Constellation Orion stands high in the south during these March evenings. 

If you were asked to picture the most fascinating thing named Mercury, what would come to mind?

National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Two interplanetary probes, Voyagers 1 and 2, were launched by NASA in 1977. Each headed in a different direction, but their mission included exploring the planets. They also contained a gold phonograph record with sounds and images, hoping to contact intelligent extraterrestrial life.

Year 2019 is in full swing and features some eye-catching astronomical events.

NASA

Here we sit in the middle of January 2019. Yet follow the months back to January of 1805, to find Meriwether Lewis, William Clark, and their crew overwintering at Fort Mandan, in the heart of North Dakota. Like sailors of old who navigated seemingly endless oceans, Lewis and Clark were explorers, gazing across a vast sea of snow-covered plains, wondering where exactly they were.

Joyce Tanihara

Long, dark winter nights are upon us, and while we may be dreaming of sunnier days, we must not forget that winter brings the stars to our doorstep.

NASA/JHUAPL/SwRl/Steve Gribben

In July 2015, the world marveled as NASA’s New Horizons probe revealed the wonders of Pluto and its moons for the first time. Now, New Horizons returns for an encore: a New Year’s Day flyby of a distant world known as 2014 MU69, nicknamed “Ultima Thule.”

National Park Service

Over my ranger career, I’ve been posted at some of the most spectacular locations on the planet. Grand Teton, Zion, Everglades, Wind Cave, and the Black Canyon, conjure up images of grand landscapes, wildlife, and history. At each park, I’ve talked to visitors from Topeka, to Tacoma, to Tampa. As you might expect, they come with questions - "How deep is the canyon?" "What animals might I see?" and, of course, the ever urgent "WHERE IS THE RESTROOM?!"

Looking toward the eastern horizon on a cool, mid-November evening the Autumn constellations are on prominent display while those of Winter are just starting to rise, and the constellations of Summer are setting in the west. Almost due east is the bright star Capella, in the constellation Auriga. Between Auriga and the constellation Andromeda lies the constellation Perseus, known for the famous double cluster and Algol, the Demon star.

In early August 1596, astronomer David Fabricius observed a star in constellation Cetus, the sea monster, carefully noting the star’s position and brightness. Eighteen days later he noticed that the star had more than doubled in brightness.

Sidney Hall 1825

There are 88 defined constellations. More than half of these are animals.

While some animal constellations are visible year round in western Colorado, during October evenings, many are along a path from north to south, known as the meridian. Get out your star chart and let’s go to the Meridian Zoo!

NASA Earth Observatory

All over the world, people are losing night. In fact, 80% of the global population cannot see the Milky Way from where they live. How can this be?

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