astronomy

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.”

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.

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