Utah Skies

Every Tuesday at 4:48 p.m.
  • Local Host Tom Westre and Blaine Dickey

Utah Skies is a journey to the astronomical universe featuring astronomical enthusiasts Tom Westre and Blaine Dickey from the Cache Valley Astronomical Society. This weekly two minute segment can be heard Tuesday afternoons at 4:48 during All Things Considered. Clear skies!

Utah Skies: Telescopes And The Future

Feb 24, 2021
Bruce Horrocks

In the summer of 1968, my father and I went to a neighbor’s house to look through a new telescope he had just purchased. I was eight-years-old and with the United States in the heat of the space race, I was fascinated with both rockets and telescopes. I remember that night looking though this new telescope and seeing the planet Saturn with it rings for the first time in my life. I was hooked, and I knew right then what I wanted for Christmas that year and thankfully Santa placed a new Sears telescope under the tree for me and my father to enjoy for many years to come.

Utah Skies: Perseverance Lands On Mars

Feb 23, 2021

About every two years Earth and Mars are aligned in their orbits so that a space mission can be sent to Mars at the most opportune time. That alignment took place during July 2020 when NASA launched the large robotic rover called Perseverance to Mars. After a 300 million  mile journey, Perseverance landed on Mars on Feb. 18. Another Mars adventure begins on the Red Planet.

Utah Skies: Clyde Tombaugh and Pluto

Feb 23, 2021
Dell Vance

Clyde Tombaugh, as a young man, built his own Telescopes and made sketches of Mars and Jupiter. In 1929 he sent his sketches to the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona. The staff was impressed with his work and offered him a job as a researcher on a project to find Planet X.

Utah Skies: Proxima Centauri Radio Waves?

Feb 13, 2021
NASA Hubble Space Telescope

Over the last twenty years or so, astronomers have detected over 4,000 planets orbiting other star systems. Our Milky Way galaxy may have billions of planets orbiting other stars. It’s a goal to find earth-sized planets orbiting their stars in what is called the habitable zone, or that distance from their parent star where any water on the planet is liquid. 

Utah Skies: Three Mars Missions In February

Feb 13, 2021

Mars has been the center for the search for life in our solar system since the first US Viking lander in 1976. Since that time dozens of unmanned missions have been sent to Mars by the US or Russia as orbiters, landers or rovers.

Utah Skies: Orion

Jan 26, 2021

The constellation Orion is certainly one of the most recognized objects in the winter sky. In the middle star that forms the sword of Orion, we find the mighty Orion Nebula. Charles Messier included this in his catalog of deep space objects, and it is known as M42.

Utah Skies: The Moon, Mars, Uranus

Jan 26, 2021
Stellarium App

On Jan. 5 the planet Mars entered the small constellation of Aries the Ram. Mars is bright and easy to locate in the evening skies. Mars will continue to move eastward during January. 

Utah Skies: The Moon, Jupiter And Mercury

Jan 13, 2021
Stellarium Planetarium App

During the past few months sky watchers have been treated with an evening planetary show compliments of Jupiter and Saturn. Because Saturn is farther away from Jupiter, Jupiter’s orbit is

Utah Skies: Orion In January

Jan 13, 2021
Stellarium App

Orion is one of the brightest constellations in the January skies. It represents a famous hunter who often bragged about his hunting prowess. Mother Earth became concerned about Orion’s destroying all the predators so she placed a giant scorpion with heavy armor for protection near Orion. The giant scorpion was able to sting Orion causing his death. The gods immortalized Orion and placed him among the stars. The scorpion was also placed among the stars, but only to be seen six months later in summer skies. 

Utah Skies: The Great Conjunction of 2020

Dec 22, 2020

In astronomy a conjunction is when two or more planets come very close to each other in the sky because their orbits line up with the Earth’s orbit. On December 21, we will be treated with not only a conjunction of two planets, but a great conjunction. Just after the sun sets the planets Jupiter and Saturn will appear so close to each other they will appear to the human eye to be one bright planet.

Utah Skies: The Geminid Meteor Shower

Dec 9, 2020
Celestron Sky Portal App, permission to use by Celestron

The best meteor shower of the year will occur this week on Sunday evening. Up to 120 meteors per hour may be observed. The Geminid meteor shower is known to have some fireballs that are much brighter than the average meteor and leave long trails that linger in the sky.

Utah Skies: Kepler 1649 c

Dec 2, 2020
By NASA/Ames Research Center/Daniel Rutter

Just a little over 300 light years from Earth in the constellation of Cygnus, astronomers have discovered a rocky exoplanet that is very similar in size to the Earth, orbiting a star in what is called the habitable zone. This means that the planet is in a place where it is not too cold or too hot, and where the conditions are favorable for the existence of life. To be clear however, life has not yet been found on this planet.

Utah Skies: November Penumbral Eclipse

Nov 25, 2020
Stellarium Planetary App

Mark your calendar for the evening of November 30th. On that evening you will see the November full moon called the Beaver moon or the Frost moon. You can find the moon located in the constellations of Taurus the Bull and Aries the Ram.

Utah Skies: Dragon Crew Headed To ISS

Nov 23, 2020

The International Space Station is a permanently crewed Earth orbiting station. Over 230 astronauts, cosmonauts and other space visitors from 19 nations have visited the space station.

Utah Skies: Apophis, A Large Near Earth Object

Nov 17, 2020
Astronomical Institute of the Charles University: Josef Ďurech, Vojtěch Sidorin

On April 13, 2029 a large asteroid named Apophis (Op-O-Hiss) with a diameter of over 1,000 feet will pass within 19,000 miles of the Earth. Because this asteroid is so large and comes so close to earth it could possibly be observed with the naked eye by about 2 billion people as it moves across the sky. This is the largest known asteroid to come this close to Earth in our life time. This event is still nine years away giving scientists time to plan how to observe it and learn what they can from this rare event.

Utah Skies: Fomalhaut, The Lonely Star of Autumn

Nov 10, 2020

Fomalhaut at this time of year can be seen as a bright star in the southern sky. Fomalhaut is also called the Lonely Star of Autumn because it is the only bright star in the evening sky at this time of year. 

Utah Skies: Finding Our Galaxy Neighbor Andromeda

Oct 28, 2020
Tom Westre

Now that we are well into Fall, the night sky presents us with a number of interesting objects to observe.

Utah Skies: Mars At Opposition

Oct 16, 2020
Celestron Sky Portal App

On Oct. 6,  the planet Mars was nearer the Earth than at any time since July 2018. It will not be this close again for another 16 years. If you own a telescope this would be a good time to take a look. You may be able to observe some markings on its surface and an icecap on its pole.

Utah Skies: BepiColoumbo, a Mercury Mission

Oct 16, 2020
By National Aeronautics and Space Administration

On October 20, 2018 BepiColumbo, a planetary mission to the Planet Mercury, was launched by the European Space Agency and the Japan Exploration Agency. It consists of three parts, the Mercury Planetary Orbiter, the Mercury Transfer Module and the Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter that will separate into independent spacecraft upon arriving at Mercury. The transfer Module is an ion thruster that will give the spacecraft propulsion.

Utah Skies: Saturn Motionless In The Sky

Oct 6, 2020
NASA Hubble Telescope

This summer, evening sky observers have been treated to two solar system planets, Jupiter and Saturn.

Utah Skies: Autumnal Equinox

Sep 24, 2020
Tom Westre

Fall arrived in Utah this morning at 7:31 am Mountain Time. This is called the Autumnal Equinox. The word “equinox” is Latin and means “equal and “nox” means “night.” For a few days the time between Sunrise and Sunset is about 12 hours and the days and nights will just about be equal.

Utah Skies: Planets With Rings

Sep 16, 2020
By NASA/Jet Propulsion Lab

When we think of a ringed planet in our solar system, Saturn naturally comes to mind. Besides Saturn however, there are three other planets that have rings, namely Jupiter, Uranus, and Neptune.

The Minor Planet Eris On 'Utah Skies'

Sep 9, 2020
NASA, ESA, and M. Brown

Eris (AIR-ees) is the second-largest minor planet in our solar system and is only slightly smaller than Pluto by a mere 31 miles. Eris has an orbital period of 551 years, compared to Pluto’s 248 years.

Utah Skies: Atacama Large Millimeter Array

Sep 2, 2020
By Iztok Bončina/ESO - http://www.eso.org/public/images/potw1040a/, CC BY 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=11686363

The Atacama Large Millimeter Array also known by the acronym ALMA is a large interferometer of 66 radio telescopes located in the Atacama Desert in northern Chili. The array of radio telescopes is located at an altitude of 16,000 feet which allows it to see sub millimeter wavelengths that would otherwise be absorbed by the atmosphere if it were located at lower altitudes.

Beautiful Albireo On Utah Skies

Aug 24, 2020
Tom Westre

One of the most popular night sky objects for amateur astronomers is the star Albireo located in the constellation Cygnus the swan.

Perseid Meteor Shower on Utah Skies

Aug 12, 2020
Celestron Sky Portal App with permission

The Perseid meteor shower is one of the best and most reliable meteor showers of the year. This year the shower is predicted to peak Tuesday night August 11th after 10 PM and into the pre-dawn hours of Wednesday morning on August 12th. This meteor shower regularly produces 50 to 100 meteors an hour at its peak. A great feature of this meteor shower is that occurs on the warm nights of August each year.

Utah Skies: News Mars Rover

Aug 6, 2020

While Jupiter and Saturn dominate the summer evening skies, the fourth planet from the Sun, Mars, rises in the eastern skies a little after midnight in the constellation Pisces the Fish. By mid-August Mars will rise about 10 pm. Its tiny disk will grow in size as the distance between Mars and Earth decreases.

Mars has been the focus of decades of robotic exploration looking for evidence of past life on Mars.

Utah Skies: Titan, Saturn's Largest Moon

Aug 6, 2020

Saturn’s largest moon Titan is a wondrous world that is both similar and different from our Earth.

On Oct. 15, 1997 a spacecraft launched from Earth arrived at the planet Saturn. The spacecraft consisted of two parts. The first part named Cassini was an orbiter that would orbit Saturn exploring it and its many moons. Huygens, the second craft, was destined to land on this mysterious cloud-covered moon named Titan.

The NEOWISE Comet on Utah Skies

Jul 23, 2020
Tom Westre

In 2007 NASA proposed a mission to look for New Earth Objects. The name of the mission was called the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE). In late 2004 NASA selected the Space Dynamics Laboratory at Utah State University to build the telescope for WISE. WISE successfully launched in December of 2009.

Saturn At Opposition

Jul 14, 2020

The planet Saturn will reach opposition on Monday July 20, 2020. On that date if you were to draw a line between the Sun and the earth and then extend it outward it would pass close to Saturn. In the evening sky Saturn will be rising in the east at sunset. As soon as the sky darkens it will be high enough in the sky to be seen above the eastern mountains.