Western Slope Skies

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 on the Friday morning local newscast (from 8-8:15 AM) and on Wednesday nights 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!

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Western Slope Skies
8:00 am
Fri June 7, 2013

Western Slope Skies 6/7/2013

Have you ever attended a night sky session and heard people talk about Messier 13 or Messier 6?  Today we discuss the man whose list is a legacy that still excites astronomers over 200 years later. 

Charles Messier was born in France on June 26, 1730.  He became interested in astronomy at a young age.  In 1751, the French Navy hired Messier as an assistant astronomer in Paris. 

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Western Slope Skies
11:14 am
Fri May 24, 2013

Western Slope Skies 5/24/2013

This week, just after sunset, we can see an amazing grouping of  planets in the western sky.  From May 24 until May 29, Venus, Jupiter, and Mercury will fit within a 5 degree circle – less than half the width of your fist held at arm’s length!   On May 26 these planets will be within 2 and one half degrees of each other – only half the apparent distance between the pointer stars of the Big Dipper!    

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Western Slope Skies
5:23 pm
Fri May 10, 2013

Western Slope Skies 5/10/2013

“Hey, can you see the flag in that thing?!”  It’s a question that makes us wince when observing the moon at astronomy outreaches.  The answer is…Maybe if you were aboard NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter… but, all six of the flags are now faded to white, and the first one blew over when the Apollo 11 lunar module blasted off departing the moon.  

From our backyards, the moon, our closest celestial neighbor, is easily observed by the unaided eye  as it moves through its changing phases.  During the next two weeks, the moon will move from new to nearly full.

 

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Western Slope Skies
9:38 am
Fri April 26, 2013

Western Slope Skies 4/26/2013

Saturn…The ringed planet. The sixth planet from the Sun; second largest in the Solar System behind Jupiter; and the one that evokes the most vivid images in our thoughts. It is an unforgettable sight, even in a small telescope.  

From now until early May, Saturn will be the brightest it has been for more than 5 years. It rises in the east as the Sun sets and will be visible all night long.

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Western Slope Skies
10:32 am
Fri April 12, 2013

Western Slope Skies 4/12/2013

Listen to Western Slope Skies, a report on the night sky by the Black Canyon Astronomical Society.  

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Western Slope Skies
1:31 pm
Fri April 5, 2013

Western Slope Skies 4/3/2013

Listen to Western Slope Skies, a report on the heavens from the Black Canyon Astronomical Society.  

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Western Slope Skies
8:08 am
Fri March 15, 2013

March Equinox

March 20th is the March equinox, one of four important days in the year that define the relation between the sun and the Earth.


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Western Slope Skies
8:00 am
Fri March 1, 2013

Comet Pan-STARRS

This could be a spectacular year for comets, ending with one that may be the brightest comet in many years appearing in the last 2-3 months of the year. 


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Western Slope Skies
8:00 am
Fri February 15, 2013

Light Pollution

The term Light Pollution refers to excessive and glaring artificial lighting, especially light that is scattered above the horizon.  This is a very serious problem for astronomers, because it can prevent them from seeing objects in space.

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Western Slope Skies
2:00 pm
Thu January 31, 2013

Planets of February

In our Western skies, three planets are visible with the naked eye or binoculars during February evenings. They are Jupiter, Mars, and Mercury.


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Western Slope Skies
1:06 pm
Mon January 14, 2013

Moon Illusion

On Saturday night, January 26th, a full moon will rise in the east just after sunset.  Look at the full moon when it’s still near the horizon.  Does it appear especially large to you?  Then, look at the moon later this same night, when it’s higher in the sky.  Does it appear smaller?  For most people, the moon looks much larger when on the horizon.  This is the "Moon Illusion."


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Western Slope Skies
10:52 am
Mon January 7, 2013

Winter Sun

Do you know when the Earth is nearest the sun?  It’s January 4th, during what is typically the coldest part of our winter.   Seasons are caused by the tilt of the Earth’s rotation axis, not by our distance from the sun.

When the northern hemisphere is tilted away from the sun in late December and January we experience deep winter, while the southern hemisphere is tilted toward the sun and experiencing summer. 

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Western Slope Skies
11:56 am
Wed December 19, 2012

Winter Solstice

December 21st marks the year’s longest night and shortest day, with daylight lasting only 9 hours and 20 minutes on the Western Slope.  This is our winter solstice, the first official day of winter.


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Western Slope Skies
9:40 am
Tue December 4, 2012

Jupiter

This month marks an anniversary for Western Slope Skies. Our first broadcast was in November of 2011 and Jupiter was the topic. Once again this year, Jupiter will be the brightest object in the night sky. It rises in the east during evening twilight in late November.


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Western Slope Skies
4:34 pm
Tue November 13, 2012

Autumn Skies

Autumn is a wonderful time to observe our Western Slope Skies.   While the temperatures are not bitter cold, the nights are getting longer.


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Western Slope Skies
2:45 pm
Wed October 24, 2012

The Hunter's Moon

During these late October evenings, a bright moon rises in the east as sunlight and twilight fade. The full moon that occurs nearest the first day of fall is known as the Harvest Moon. The next full moon after that is known as the Hunter’s Moon. This year, there is a Hunter’s moon on October 29th.      

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Western Slope Skies
11:49 am
Tue October 9, 2012

The Northern Lights

One summer, when I was growing up, it was common to hear about sightings of the “northern lights” over Grand Mesa. Most of the stories came from high school kids staying out too late on dates. At the time, I scoffed at those stories, but have since learned that that summer happened to be during a particularly active sun cycle.

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Western Slope Skies
11:25 am
Tue October 9, 2012

Albireo: Double Star

Albireo is a beautiful double star in the constellation Cygnus, the Swan.  If you heard the previous edition of Western Slope Skies, you learned about the Summer Triangle, which includes Deneb, the tail of Cygnus.  Albireo is the head of Cygnus and is dimmer than Deneb. 

Many stars have Arabic names dating back hundreds of years.  For example, Deneb means ‘tail.’  Because of the history involving several languages, the current name Albireo, while appearing to be Arabic, is actually meaningless.

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Western Slope Skies
11:21 am
Tue October 9, 2012

Venus Meets Regulus

As these early fall days grow shorter, our western slope skies are still dark at 6:00 AM.  So, this is a great time to see a celestial spectacle in the morning without having to get up too early.  From September 29 through October 7 the brilliant planet, Venus, often called the morning star, will be moving past Regulus, the brightest star in the constellation Leo.   

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Western Slope Skies
11:16 am
Tue October 9, 2012

The Summer Triangle

The Summer Triangle dominates the summer sky. It crosses the hazy band of the Milky Way, which is split into two by a large dust cloud near the star Deneb.

The points of the triangle are three of the brightest stars in the summer sky, and each is the brightest star in its own constellation. The brightest is Vega, in Lyra; second is Altair, in Aquila; and third is Deneb, in Cygnus. Even city-dwellers with glowing, light-polluted skies can find the Summer Triangle.

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