Blaine Dickey

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 -, CC BY 4.0,

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.

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: 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.

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.

Utah Skies: Neutron Star

Jul 13, 2020

As a large star between 10 and 29 solar masses comes to the end of its life and uses up its fuel, it will collapse down to the size of a small sphere about 12 miles in diameter and form what is called a neutron star. The collapse of the star sets off a colossal explosion known as a supernova and gravity compresses the left over core of the star into a large mass of neutrons.

Planetary Nebula

Jun 10, 2020
Blaine Dickey


When I was a boy one of the first deep sky objects that I observed was Messier 57. I saw it through a three-inch reflecting telescope that my parents gave me for Christmas. Messier 57, commonly called the Ring Nebula, looks very much like a smoke ring projected against the starry background of the sky in the constellation Lyra. The Ring Nebula is part of a group of objects called planetary nebula. 


Halley's Comet

Jun 2, 2020


Halley’s Comet is the most famous comet in history. It has probably been observed by more people living on the earth than any other comet. It has been periodically appearing in the night sky every 74 to 79 years since 240 BC.

The Large Binocular Telescope

May 18, 2020

While visiting my wife’s family in Safford Arizona I learned that a member of her family knew one of the chief engineers at the Large Binocular Telescope and that he was willing to give me a tour of that facility. The Large Binocular Telescope is part of the Mount Graham International Observatory and is located on 10,719 foot Mount Graham near Safford Arizona.

The Discovery Of The Minor Planet Ceres

May 11, 2020
Ceres, the minor planet
NASA Solar

Ceres, a minor planet orbiting the sun between the planets Mars and Jupiter, was discovered on New Year’s Day in 1801 by Giuesppe Piazzi, a Sicilian astronomer.

April Skies

Apr 17, 2020
Celestron Sky Portal App with permission

April is a superb time to watch four of the naked eye planets.

If you have noticed a brilliant gleaming star in the western sky the past few months, then you have probably seen the planet Venus which is the second planet from our Sun. It far outshines any other star in the Sky this month and is positioned high in the western sky in early evening and sets around midnight. Every eight years this same spectacle is seen in about the same place in the evening sky. You only have this month to observe Venus because it will be setting earlier each night until it disappears over the western mountains and then moves quickly to the morning sky.

William Herschel’s Discovery of Uranus

Apr 17, 2020

For most of the history of mankind there were only five known planets. These included the planets Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn. The sixth planet Uranus was unknown until William Herschel observed it with a homemade telescope on the 13th of March in the year 1871. It had been observed several other times previously by other astronomers but it was William Hershel that realized that it was not a fixed star as others had thought.

Jupiter, Saturn, Mars, And Moon Conjunction

Mar 18, 2020
A graphic showing the conjunction of Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, and the Moon.
Celestron Sky Portal App


A beautiful conjunction will occur tomorrow morning March 18th at 6:00 AM in the Southeastern skies of Utah. The crescent moon will be within a few degrees of the planets Jupiter and Mars. Not to be left out is Saturn situated just 6 degrees to the east. It is not often that you see these four celestial objects so closely associated together in the sky. It is definitely worth taking a look. Jupiter, Mars, and the moon should be visible together in a pair of binoculars.

The Big Dipper

Mar 4, 2020


One of the most recognized asterisms in the sky is the Big Dipper. The Big dipper is part of the Constellation named Ursa Major which represents a great bear. The Big Dipper is easy to find and this month it can be seen rising in the northeastern sky. The handle is pointing downward. If the cup portion was able to hold a liquid then it would all spill out this month due to the vertical position of its cup.

The Winter Triangle

Feb 11, 2020
Celestron Sky Portal App


In the past I have talked about the Summer Triangle consisting of three bright stars in the summer sky namely, Deneb, Altair, and Vega. Did you know that there is also a Winter Triangle formed by the three stars, Sirius, Betelgeuse, and Procyon?

Betelgeuse Is Dimming

Feb 5, 2020
Blaine Dickey



No supernova has been observed in our Milky Way galaxy since the invention of the telescope in 1608. That may be about to change. 


Watch For Orion In January Skies

Jan 14, 2020
Blaine Dickey



Orion the Hunter is the brightest of the constellations and perhaps the best known. In Greek mythology, Orion is described with his dog Sirius and was known for roaming the underworld holding a bronze club. 

First Flyby Of The Sun Made By NASA Parker Probe

Jan 7, 2020
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/Conceptual Image Lab/Adriana Manrique Gutierrez


The NASA Parker Solar Probe recently made its first flyby of our Sun. It came within 24 million miles of the Sun’s surface. Try to imagine what it would be like to be that close to the Sun.

The 82 Moons Of Saturn

Dec 9, 2019

On a good clear dark night using a large amateur telescope you should be able to see the six brightest moons of Saturn, namely Titan, Mimas, Enceladus, Tethys, Rhea and Dione. The other 76 moons are much fainter.

Early This Sunday Morning Is The Leonid Meteor Shower

Nov 15, 2019
Celestron Sky Portal

The Leonid Meteor shower will occur in the early morning hours of Sunday, November 17, 2019. Every 33 years this shower produces an extraordinary display. On November 17, 1966 many thousands of meteors showered down from the sky. It was estimated that the meteors fell that night at a rate of 25,000 per hour. Unfortunately, while my dad and brother were enjoying this spectacle in the sky, I was sound asleep in my bed.

Neptune: The Eighth Planet From The Sun

Oct 17, 2019

The discovery of the planet Neptune was made partly by mathematical calculation. Scientists noticed that the motion of Uranus failed to exactly follow its predicted path across the sky. An English astronomer John Couch Adams and a French mathematician Urbain Le Verrier came to the conclusion that an undiscovered planet’s gravity must be affecting the motion of the planet Uranus. 


Gennady Borisov, an amateur astronomer from Crimea, Ukraine, discovered a new object from his observatory that appears to be a comet coming from the depths of interstellar space. Unlike most comets, it does not appear to be part of our solar system. The orbit of the new object is hyperbolic in shape and is probably not bound by the gravity our sun. 

Blaine Dickey

Recently I had an extraordinary experience observing the night skies with a friend in the Grand Teton National Park. My friend Phil from Alabama set up a camera on a beach near Jackson Lake to photograph the Milky Way while my equipment consisted of a simple pair of binoculars.

Building The Thirty-Meter International Telescope

Sep 12, 2019

When I was younger, the largest telescope in the world was the 200 inch Hale Telescope located on Palomar Mountain in Southern California. At the time it was considered that a telescope with a 200 inch mirror was about the largest practical size that any telescope could be built. It was the largest telescope in the world for over 45 years.

Each summer a familiar shape appears high in the eastern sky that is worth taking a look at. Three bright stars form a large easy to see V shape in the sky called the Summer Triangle. Each bright star of the Summer Triangle is also associated with a well-known constellation that is easy to recognize.

The Annual Perseid Meteor Shower is now underway and is predicted to reach its peak on the early morning of Tuesday, August 13. During the meteor shower an average of 60 meteors per hour can be seen. Many of them are bright, leaving trails across the sky. They can be seen radiating like spokes of a wheel from a central point in the constellation Perseus. Fireballs are often associated with this meteor shower.

Apollo 11 Moon Landing's 50th Anniversary

Jul 17, 2019

On July 20, 1969 two Americans, Commander Neil Armstrong and Lunar module pilot Buzz Aldrin landed the Apollo Lunar Module Eagle on the moon. Six hours later Armstrong was the first person to step onto the lunar surface. At that historic moment he spoke the famous words, “That’s one small step for man, One giant leap for mankind.” 

Total Eclipse Of The Moon

Jul 9, 2019

On January 20th of this year we experienced a total eclipse of the moon in Cache Valley. Unfortunately it was mostly cloudy and quite cold that evening so you may not have made the effort to look. But fortunately there were enough breaks in the clouds that some amateur astronomers including myself were able to take images of it.


When a person looks through my telescope at the moon, I often hear comments something like, wow that’s amazing or you have to come and see this! When you look at the moon with the naked eye about all you can see are some gray and white markings on the surface of the moon but little else. That experience completely changes when you look at the moon through a quality telescope.