November’s Meteor Shower

The November Leonid meteor shower has produced some of the greatest meteor storms in history.     

The Milky Way
Air Dates: October 24 & 29, 2014

On these late October evenings, you may see a hazy band of light stretching from the southwestern horizon and crossing overhead to the northeast.  This is the Milky Way, an object of great wonder throughout human existence.

October 23 Solar Eclipse

On October 8 we were treated to a total eclipse of the moon, and on October 23 North American sky-watchers can experience a partial solar eclipse. 

Here are some photos taken of the eclipse in the U.S., China and Nepal:

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If you missed the total eclipse of the moon in April, you might have another chance: On Wednesday morning, the second of four lunar eclipses this year and next will occur.

Pre-Dawn Lunar Eclipse

The second total lunar eclipse of 2014 will occur in the pre-dawn hours of Wednesday, October 8th. Nearly the entire eclipse will be visible from Western Colorado.

Binary Stars

Next time you see the Big Dipper out of the corner of your eye, take a look at the star in the middle of the handle. If you have decent eyesight, you may see not one, but two stars: a brighter star known as Mizar, and a fainter star called Alcor. 


"BORING!" said the 5-year-old of the little blue dot appearing through the telescope…

Perhaps at first glance, but considering that Neptune, the 8th planet,  is 30 times farther from the Sun than Earth, it’s actually an amazing sight. At approximately 2.8 billion miles away, it cannot be observed with the un-aided eye.  Seeing the disk and color requires a moderately sized telescope, and a keen-eyed astronomy buff.

Planetary Conjunctions

Late August will be a great time for planet watching, in the morning and the evening. If you are up early on Monday, August 18, you will be rewarded by a spectacular pre-dawn sight. 

The Tidal Dance of the Earth and the Moon

We learn in grade school that the Moon, our nearest neighbor in space, causes tides on the Earth’s oceans. It does so through its gravitational attraction to the Earth. But the gravitation interplay between Earth and Moon has other, subtler effects as well.

The Evening Sky in Late July

The Sun sets late on these long summer days, and it’s not fully dark until almost 10 PM.  And, because of this week’s late-rising moon, the sky remains dark long after twilight, allowing us great views of the Milky Way and the stars of summer.

Pluto a planet?  Not a planet?  Beloved Disney Dog?

June Solstice

With the arrival of warmer temperatures, perhaps you’ve been enjoying some outings to the mountains or a float trip on a river.  While there is no doubt that summer is in full swing here in western Colorado, it’s not until this coming Saturday that the Universe makes it official. 

Light Pollution

Those of us that live on the Western Slope are no stranger to spectacular scenery. The jagged peaks, chiseled canyons, and expansive plateaus of western Colorado are treasures that we all cherish. But one of our most spectacular natural wonders may also be one of our least appreciated: our incredibly dark and pristine night skies.

Mercury in Evening Twilight

Have you ever seen the planet Mercury? When conditions are near optimal, Mercury is easy to see. However, optimal conditions are rare, and many casual observers search for Mercury without success. This is because of the planet’s proximity to the sun.  The safe time to view Mercury is after sunset or before sunrise, depending upon the Mercury's orbit.

Saturn at Opposition

Last month on the program we learned that only the five superior planets can be at opposition. The fast movement of our planet’s orbit brings us between those five planets and the sun every year. In April, Mars was at opposition. This month, on Saturday, May 10th, its Saturn’s turn to shine!

Navigating the Night Sky

The Big Dipper is a great starting point for learning the night sky. Located near the pole of the sky, it never completely sets or dips below the horizon—it’s visible in the night sky year-round from the Western Slope! 

The Big Dipper itself is not a constellation, but it resides in one called Ursa Major, the Great Bear, third largest of the 88 constellations. The name originates from the dipper-shaped pattern formed by the seven main stars in the constellation.

April’s Total Lunar Eclipse

Late on the evening of April 14th and into the early morning hours of April 15th, skygazers throughout the America’s and much of the Pacific region will be treated to a total lunar eclipse. This eclipse will be the first of two for the year. By the time the sun, earth and moon line up it will have been 857 days or 28 months since we last saw our moon completely in the shadow of our planet.

Mars At Opposition

Astronomers use a number of curious words to describe the planets in their orbits, for example, quadrature, conjunction, elongation, and ... opposition.

This is a continuing series on Women in Astronomy.  Today, we meet Margaret Burbidge.

Today we discuss two giant stars that are easily observed right now and relatively close in the sky.  Aldebaran is an orange giant star, while Betelgeuse is a red super giant.

This is a continuing series on Women in Astronomy.  Today, we meet Vera Rubin.

When you look at the night sky with the naked eye, everything that you see is in our Milky Way Galaxy.

For this episode of Western Slope Skies from the Black Canyon Astronomical Society, we learn about the planet Jupiter, which can be seen shining bright in the night skies of January.

For the latest episode of Western Slope Skies from the Black Canyon Astronomical Society, we'll learn about the bright stars of winter. 

Gaze to the east at about 8 PM on a clear January evening and enjoy the bright and colorful stars of winter.  A star chart, planisphere, or smart-phone App may help you navigate. 

The centerpiece of our wintery celestial display is the constellation Orion, now well above the southeastern horizon. 

As the holidays approach, the days shorten, bringing with them our glorious Western Slope night skies.  Joining us to celebrate the season is a brilliant cluster of stars, called the Pleiades, or Seven Sisters. 

Rising on our eastern horizon, the Pleiades first appears as a cloud-like thumbprint.  As your eyes adapt to the darkness, you’ll be able to pick out point-like stars, as many as six or seven. 

Look low in southwest as the sky darkens in early December. That brilliant “evening star” is actually not a star, but the planet Venus. 

Venus is at its brightest now, in part because it’s relatively close by, only about 35 million miles from Earth. Venus is so very bright that it can cast shadows, and it’s sometimes confused with airplane landing lights, or even reported as a UFO. 

For this episode of Western Slope Skies, a look at the moons of Jupiter, and the two Galileos - the man and the machine.

In 1610, Galileo Galilei became the first person to observe another planet, Jupiter, and its 4 largest moons, Callisto, Europa, Ganymede, and Io.   For the next 380 years, most scientists believed that those moons were similar to our Moon, that is, rocky spheres without activity or atmosphere.   

Comet ISON has been in the news for more than a year now. Discovered in September 2012, the comet should now be visible with binoculars or a small telescope.

ISON is a ‘sun grazer’ comet, as it will pass only 700,000 miles from the sun on November 28th.  This distance is less than the sun’s diameter!

Did you know that the Big Dipper is NOT a constellation?  It’s actually an asterism - a pattern of stars in the sky, much like a pattern of clouds.  

While there are many asterisms that are commonly known, none of them are constellations.  Other fall and winter asterisms include the Little Dipper, the Winter Hexagon, and the Great Square of Pegasus.

The Big Dipper is part of the constellation, Ursa Major, the Great Bear.  What most people see as the handle of the Big Dipper is the tail of the bear, while the bowl of the dipper is part of the body of the bear.