astronomy

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?

NASA

By the end of our lives, most of us will have witnessed nearly 1,000 full moons. So perhaps the appearance of yet another one this week will not strike us as anything special.

Zach Schierl

Early autumn is Milky Way season. You may have seen its graceful arch creeping higher above the horizon over the past few months. Now, in early September, our galaxy stretches from north to south, nearly overhead, at about 10 pm.

Remember the Great American Eclipse of 2017?  Now that all the hype, the traffic jams, and the threat of zombie apocalypse have come and gone, we are left with… "So how was it?"

This may be a great year to see summertime meteors.

As evening twilight darkens the July sky, a brilliant orange star rises in the southeast. This is actually not a star, but the planet Mars.

The Ring, the Dumbbell, the Eskimo, the Helix. These lyrical names are assigned to deep sky objects known as planetary nebulae. Hubble Space Telescope images of these display some of the most beautiful objects in the night sky.

In your childhood, you may recall playing with a Spirograph. That’s a popular toy comprising a set of interlocking geared shapes that can be variously situated on paper to trace elaborate geometric patterns. Nature is a master at creating geometric patterns — from the whorls of a nautilus to the petals of a dahlia. Nature is no less masterful in space — one can find a superb example 800 million miles or 1.2 billion kilometers away, at the north pole of Saturn. There, we find a surprising hexagonal pattern whirling in the Saturnian atmosphere.

Ricky Smith

These days, most of us spend our evenings retreating to our favorite corners of the Internet. Our chosen cyber spaces are often unique, different from those of our family members, coworkers, and neighbors. Each of us jokes about distinct factions of pop culture. It’s easy to feel disconnected, like there are no unifying experiences left. And yet, if we crave connections and shared experiences, all we have to do is find a dark spot and tilt our heads to the sky.

“The Roman god, Jupiter, drew a veil of clouds around himself to hide his mischief. But his wife, the goddess Juno, was able to peer through the clouds and reveal Jupiter's true nature,” as noted in a NASA press release. So, too, is NASA’s Juno space probe revealing the true nature of the gas-giant planet, Jupiter.

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