Most of us are probably familiar with the massive asteroid that impacted Earth near Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula some 65 million years ago. This asteroid, with a supposed diameter of around six miles, is the one often held responsible for the demise of the dinosaurs. Yet this asteroid is just one of many that have whizzed through our atmosphere and slammed into Earth’s surface over the course of our planet’s history.

Western Slope Skies - Seven Stargazing Tips

Oct 1, 2021
Joyce Tanihara - Black Canyon Astronomical Society

Crisp, clear Autumn nights are some of the best nights for stargazing here in western Colorado. As you head out to enjoy the view, remember these seven tips to help you make the most of your stargazing experience.

Terry Hancock

 Grand Mesa Observatory. Contrary to popular belief, it is not the old, small building on top of the mesa where the chipmunks live!

Joyce Tanihara

Have you ever had the chance to gaze upon the Milky Way? Our ancestors could easily see the Milky Way and thousands of stars in the night sky from their homes. In the present day, if you get a chance to enjoy a truly dark sky, then you’re one of the lucky ones! According to the 2016 World Atlas of Artificial Brightness, the Milky Way is not visible to about two-thirds of the world’s population, including about 80% of North Americans.

What’s that brilliant star in the west after sunset? That “star” is actually not a star, but Venus, Earth’s Sister Planet. After hiding in the Sun’s glare for most of winter and early spring, Venus emerged as a brilliant evening “star” last May. Now, as twilight fades, Venus dazzles us in the west. 

Western Slope Skies - Saturn and its Rings

Aug 6, 2021
NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

It’s hard to imagine not knowing about Saturn’s rings. The planet is iconic, and even those least interested in astronomy can still picture it. Yet, for thousands of years, we didn’t know. Early sky watchers saw Saturn with unaided eyes, looking like a rather bright star.

Western Slope Skies - Cosmic Dust

Jul 23, 2021

As a child, I was tasked with chores to help keep the house in order, none of which I dreaded more than dusting. It seemed a Sisyphean punishment - tenacious, sneeze-inducing; dust always returned no matter how hard I tried to eradicate it. But it was also mysterious - grey anonymous matter, seemingly sprung from nowhere. I would later learn that dust comprises minuscule bits of dirt, soot, pollen, fabric, dander…and heavenly bodies. That’s right - terrestrial dust is partly cosmic.


Famed astronomer and prolific author Carl Sagan put it succinctly: “Exploration is in our nature. We began as wanderers and we are wanderers still.”

Western Slope Skies - James Webb Telescope

Jun 25, 2021

The James Webb Telescope is NASA‘s newest space telescope that’s been in development for about 25 years and has cost nearly 10 billion dollars to build, more than double what it was initially supposed to cost. NASA and its partners are planning to launch it on Halloween of this year.

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,

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 - 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.

One man's mission to protect dark skies in Lake City

Sep 24, 2020
Michael Underwood

The small mountain town of Lake City now hosts an International Dark Sky Park. One man’s love for astronomy and his desire to protect his community’s dark skies made the dream a reality. For KVNF News, Laura Palmisano reports.

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?