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
8:15 am
Fri September 13, 2013

Western Slope Skies 9/13/13

The sun rises in the east each day in our western slope skies and appears to shine with constant brightness. However, we shouldn’t take the sun for granted, because the sun’s energy sustains most life on Earth.  And, in this age of widespread, complex technology, the sun can impact our daily lives. 

The sun, in fact, is not constant, and we need to pay attention to our active, local star.  

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Western Slope Skies
10:05 am
Fri August 30, 2013

Western Slope Skies 8/30/13

Just about any clear night provides an invitation to go outside and see what’s up. Some nights, however, might offer a special attraction: a meteor shower; a conjunction between the Moon and a bright star or planet; or even a lunar eclipse. If you are a beginner stargazer you can maximize your sky watching efforts by taking a few simple steps.

Start with a star chart, and/or a Planisphere or a star-charting app that runs on a smart phone, tablet, or PC.  These are valuable tools in learning the night sky, displaying any number of sky objects for any hour of the night.

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Western Slope Skies
10:16 am
Fri August 16, 2013

Western Slope Skies 8/16/13

As August began, all of the bright planets were visible in our western slope skies. Since all of our solar system planets orbit the sun, the visible planets change from night to night. 

As of today’s program, we have already lost Mercury from view for the rest of this month. It was visible in the early dawn for the first two weeks of the month. However, we still have Venus shining low on the evening horizon. Saturn will end the month just a little higher than Venus. Jupiter rises well after midnight, followed by Mars even later.

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Western Slope Skies
9:08 am
Fri August 2, 2013

Western Slope Skies 8/2/2013

The Perseid meteor shower sprinkles the night sky with shooting stars in August.

The meteors are bits of icy and rocky debris left behind by the Comet Swift-Tuttle, which was discovered in 1862. As Earth flies through the comet’s path, some bits of comet dust slam into the atmosphere at tens of thousands of miles per hour. They quickly vaporize, creating bright but brief streaks of light in the night sky.

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Western Slope Skies
8:53 am
Fri July 19, 2013

Western Slope Skies 7/19/13

This is the second in a series on Women in Astronomy. 

In the early 1900s, Henrietta Swan Leavitt discovered a characteristic of certain variable stars that is still used today to measure astronomical distance. 

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Western Slope Skies
1:22 pm
Sat July 6, 2013

Western Slope Skies 7/5/2013

While there are always objects of interest to see in the night sky throughout the year, the summer sky is unique in that it offers us a view into the very center of the Milky Way, our home galaxy.

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Western Slope Skies
8:15 am
Fri June 21, 2013

Western Slope Skies 6/21/13

This is the first in a series of Western Slope Skies episodes about Women in Astronomy.  We hope that, in some manner, these inspire our young female listeners to become involved in astronomy.

On June 16, 1963, the Russians launched Vostok 6.  The lone astronaut on board was Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman in space.  She was in space for 48 orbits over three days.  In her single mission, she logged more time in space than all the American astronauts who had been in space to that date combined.

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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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