Western Slope Skies


  • Highway 133 opens to two-way traffic for the weekend
  • Small victory for opponents of drilling in Thompson Divide
  • Ensuring melon safety at Rocky Ford
  • If you see a guy in high heels…
  • Senate rejects increase in fines for oil and gas industry
  • Williams delays plant expansion at leak site
  • Take the Delta County Economic Development Broadband Survey
  • Western Slope Skies Takes a closer look at our closest celestial neighbor

Western Slope Skies 4/26/2013

Apr 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.


  • Pinon Ridge approved by state; first new uranium mill in the U.S. in more than three decades
  • Authorities tie Grand Junction drug ring to Mexico kingpin
  • Court upholds firing of medical marijuana patient for off-the-job use
  • CU President won’t honor student wishes to divest fossil fuels companies
  • Western Slope Skies: Viewing Saturn will be a treat in the next few weeks

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


  • “Non-citizen” driver’s license bill passes Senate committee
  • Whooping cough breaks out in Garfield County
  • Can medical marijuana users buy guns? Some say no.
  • The strange tale of the U.S. government and helium
  • Western Slope Skies: The moon and its phases


  • Early and Severe Fire Season Forecast For West Slope
  • Four BLM Controlled Burns Planned for Grand Mesa Area
  • Driving While Stoned Bill Passes State House
  • Western Slope Skies From Black Canyon Astronomical Society
  • KVNF Comment Line

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


  • Legislative Agenda Is Not All About Guns
  • NF Trees Portend Serious Fire Danger
  • Western Slope Skies: Comet In The Western Skies

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. 

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.

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

Moon Illusion

Jan 14, 2013

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."


  • Governor To Expand Medicaid Coverage
  • North Fork Earthquake May Be Mining Related
  • Ouray's Wright Opera House Gets New Owners, Director and Soon, New Roof
  • Funding Will Help Restore Endangered Colorado Fish
  • Western Slope Skies


  • State Economy Better Than Expected
  • State Biologists Work To Restore Blue Mesa Salmon
  • KVNF Sports Report
  • Western Slope Skies - Solstice Edition
  • Good Solstice Wishes

Winter Solstice

Dec 19, 2012

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.

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.


  • Authorities Search Mark Redwine's Property
  • Accused of Embezzlement, Former Town Finance Officer Has No Plans For Payback
  • With Reservoirs Low, Water Managers Preparing For More of Less
  • Seniors Food Assistance Program Expanding
  • Western Slope Skies
  • Keblar Pass Closed For The Season


  • Law Enforcement Response To Amendment 64 Varies
  • A Bright Side To Beetle Kill
  • Forest Service Plans Slash Pile Burns
  • Christmas Tree Harvesting Permits Available (click on 'read more' for details)
  • Western Slope Skies

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.      

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.

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.

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.   

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.

On  clear August nights,  the Milky Way extends brilliantly from our southern  horizon, creating a beautiful vision of stars,  reflected light, nebulae, gas and dust.   As darkness falls, and you step outside, it first appears as a band of clouds reaching across the sky. These "clouds" are actually stars that cannot be distinguished from one another with the unaided eye.  In the southern portion you will be able to pick out constellations like Sagittarius, the Archer, more commonly known as “the teapot”, and Scorpius, the scorpion, pinchers reaching upward, tail trailing.

During the wee morning hours from August 9th to the 14th, you may see tens of meteors per hour streaking across our Western Slope Skies. This is the annual Perseid Meteor Shower, one of the most reliable of about 20 meteor showers that occur during the year.  Meteors, sometimes called “shooting stars”, are actually debris from comets or asteroids that have entered earth’s atmosphere at high speed. The Perseid Shower consists of icy and rocky debris from Comet Swift-Tuttle, a 17 mile-wide comet that last passed near Earth in 1992. 

On August 5th, the planet Mars will be invaded by an alien spacecraft – a robot probe from planet Earth! On Tuesday evening, NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory, also known as Curiosity, will arrive at Mars.