BCAS

Art Trevena/BCAS

Have you ever looked at a full or gibbous Moon through binoculars or a telescope? If so, you may have noticed some bright streaks that radiate outward from a few bright craters.

Johannes Kepler published the Laws of Planetary Motion in the 17th century. In combination with Newton’s Law of Gravity, scientists still use these laws to determine the motion of objects around a larger object, including planets and suns in other solar systems. These exo-planets, so-termed because they are external to our solar system, have become an area of research in recent years.

Trying to find the official constellations can be a challenge, but most of us saw shapes in the clouds without even trying as children. In the same way, we can see new shapes in the stars, if we simply slow down and look. In doing so, we can reconnect with all the people who for millennia passed the time after dark by simply looking up at the stars, and coming up with their own constellations. 

The western sky darkens, air temperatures drop, birds and animals become suddenly quiet.  Almost instantly, daylight is transformed into deep twilight, as Venus and the brighter stars appear.  Incredibly, where the Sun stood sits a black disk surrounded by a pearly white halo with delicate, spiky streamers extending outward in all directions.  You’re experiencing a total solar eclipse.

By NASA/JPL

October 15, 1997 – The Cassini Mission to Saturn is launched. After almost seven years en-route to Saturn, the space probe entered orbit on July 1, 2004.

What value can be found in a truly dark, star-speckled sky? Simply put, there is no universal answer.

Many people are familiar with finding Polaris, the North Star, by using the two end stars in the Big Dipper Bowl as ‘pointer stars.’ However, you may not know that if you follow these same two stars in the OPPOSITE direction during spring and summer, you will find the constellation Leo, the Lion. Early in May, Leo is directly south and high in the sky at about 9 pm.

Joyce Tanihara

Have you ever seen a star-like object moving across the night sky over several minutes?  You may have seen an artificial satellite. 

Zach Schierl

Every Boy Scout knows how to find the North Star; just follow the two stars on the end of the Big Dipper’s bowl, and voila… you’re there! The North Star might be the most famous star in the entire sky, yet also the most misunderstood.

Mercury, the innermost and speediest planet, can be hard to see, because it never appears very far from the brilliant Sun in our sky.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/yellowstonenps/14582291897/in/photostream/
NPS photo by Neal Herbert - https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

In the early days of the U.S. space program, President John Kennedy proclaimed, “We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.”

If you have attended an astronomy event in the summer, you probably observed Messier objects, such as the Swan Nebula (Messier 17) or the Great Hercules Cluster (Messier 13).  Charles Messier was a French astronomer in the 18th century.  While his interest was discovering comets, now he is best known for the list of Messier objects, which was published between 1774 and 1781.

December nights are usually cold on the Western Slope, but there are some great celestial treats for those willing to endure the frigid temperatures.

As humans on Earth, it’s hard to grasp how vast the Universe is, starting with our own Solar System.  To us, our Solar System seems like a big place.

The nineteenth-century English poet John Keats famously described autumn as the “season of mists and mellow fruitfulness / close bosom-friend of the maturing sun”-- a welcomed time of harvest beneath golden afternoon light. Autumn customarily heralds the appearance of falling leaves, ripe pumpkins, and wool sweaters. But also, it occasions an elusive apparition in the nighttime sky, a celestial ghost showing up for Halloween— the Gegenschein.

Joyce Tanihara

At Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, we are lucky to have dedicated local astronomers, powerful telescopes, and pristinely dark skies.

NASA/JPL-Caltech/ESO/R. Hurt

Now is a great time to gaze into our dark skies and to contemplate the Milky Way, our home galaxy.   After twilight ends on late September evenings, the luminous band of the Milky Way stretches from the southwest to overhead and beyond, into the northeastern sky.   To the southwest in the direction of Sagittarius, the Milky Way’s clouds of stars and glowing gas are brightest.  This is the direction of the galactic center, where stars are most concentrated.   As we trace the Milky Way from overhead in Cygnus and into Perseus in the no

September 8th marked the beginning of NASA’s launch window for OSIRIS-Rex, a mission to study an asteroid called Bennu and return a sample of the asteroid’s surface material to Earth for further analysis. This mission is particularly exciting because it will not only give us a peek back in time towards the beginnings of our planet and our solar system as a whole, but also might provide clues as to how life began here on Earth. (Ed.

NASA/JPL-Caltech/T. Pyle

Exciting research in the field of astronomy has been the search for exoplanets. An exoplanet is a planet that is orbiting a star other than our Sun.

Today, I thought you might like to hear how any young person can get started on a career path to astronomy.

NASA

One year ago, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft made its historic flyby of Pluto.

Joyce Tanihara

It’s a dark area broken by the faint glow of red lights, and your eyes are just adjusting to make out a figure, hunched over what vaguely looks to be a telescope.

“Hey, I’ve got Saturn!” exclaims the figure. “I’ve got a double star,” shouts another voice. “I’ve got the Andromeda galaxy. Come take a look!” says someone toward the back.

R. Hazzard

  The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the word “festival” as “a special time or event when people gather to celebrate something.” In Colorado we love our festivals. Here, you can celebrate wildflowers, hot air balloons, rodeos, sweet corn, your favorite beverage, and bluegrass. On the Western Slope, there is another type of festival, and it’s coming up very soon. The 7th Annual Astronomy Festival will be held at Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park from June 1st through the 4th. 

Art Trevena

A rare cosmic event will occur on the morning of May 9, 2016.  Mercury, the innermost, smallest, and speediest planet, will appear to cross the sun’s disk, as seen from Earth.

Public Domain, w/restoration by Adam Cuerden

My earliest memory of the night sky begins with the nursery rhyme:

Star light, Star Bright,
First Star I see tonight.
I wish I may, I wish I might,
Have the wish I wish tonight.

Art Trevena

What’s a sure sign of spring? Daffodils emerging in the garden, cheerful songbirds in the trees? These are familiar, terrestrial indicators.

The celestially-minded look upward for their sign— to a softly luminous beehive appearing above the western horizon, shortly after twilight ends. This faint but lovely sight is known as the zodiacal light.

By Anirban Nandi (Own work) [<a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0">CC BY 3.0</a>], <a href="https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AOrion_constellation_with_star_labels.jpg">via Wikimedia Commons</a>

The first constellation most of us are able to find in the night sky is Ursa Major, the Great Bear.  Most people know the brighter stars as the Big Dipper asterism.  For many of us, the next constellation we discover is Orion, the Hunter.  At this time of year you can see it in the southern sky shortly after sunset.  The brighter stars include Betelgeuse, Rigel, and the easy-to-identify three stars of the belt.

CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons

If any of you have attended an astronomy event during the warm season, then you may recall the stars of summer, such as Antares, Vega, and Albireo.  There are several bright stars in winter that are of interest on our cold, clear nights.  One advantage to winter viewing is that dark skies arrive early.


The New Year is well upon us. This is always a good time to reflect on the year gone by and look to the new adventure that is about to begin. By now you’ve probably set your resolutions for 2016. The national parks are no different. 2015 was a banner year for dark skies throughout the Colorado Plateau, but we still have much work to do in 2016.

Art Trevena

Comets are small, icy and rocky bodies that orbit the Sun. Many comets have highly elongated orbits that extend to the farthest reaches of our solar system, out to a sizeable fraction of the distances to the nearest stars. Out there, in what astronomers have termed the Oort Cloud, a vast collection of comets is thought to exist.

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