Utah Skies

Utah Skies: observing the Andromeda galaxy

Nov 2, 2021
Stellarium

The Milky Way is the home of our sun and its planets including our earth. But during the fall season we can view another distant galaxy. The Andromeda galaxy appears in the east in the evening skies in the constellation Andromeda. In Greek mythology Andromeda is the daughter of King Cepheus and Queen Cassiopeia.

Tom Westre


The night sky is divided up into 88 constellations. The easiest constellation to recognize is Orion the Hunter. Orion is easy to see in the evening during the winter months. The major stars that make up Orion are bright and form the outline of a hunter including his belt and sword.

Utah Skies: the Horsehead Nebula

Oct 6, 2021
Dell Vance

The popular Orion constellation is rising about midnight this month. It is relatively easy to find as it is made up of very bright stars. The three bright stars in a line, Mintaka on the west, Alnilam in the middle and Alnitak on the East, form the belt of Orion. Alnitak is right next to a bright nebula, NGC 2024 or Flame Nebula. Sliding down slightly to the Southwest of the Flame Nebula is another bright nebula, NGC 2023. A little to the right of NGC 2023 is the famous Horsehead Nebula.

Utah Skies: Summer Triangle In The Fall

Sep 30, 2021
Tom Westre

In astronomy an asterism is a group of stars that form an image but is not a constellation. The Big Dipper is a common asterism. It is made of seven stars, four forming the bowl and three forming the handle. But it is part of the larger constellation called Ursa Major, or the Big Bear.

Utah Skies: Fall Equinox And Harvest Moon

Sep 28, 2021
Tom Westre


Have you noticed the weather is changing? The days and nights seem cooler as the month of September moves on.



 

 

Utah Skies: Saturn Seasons

Sep 8, 2021
Dell Vance

As the sky darkens tonight, you can easily see Jupiter to the East. Looking a little further to the Southeast the next bright object is Saturn. Saturn is one of my favorite objects to observe. The rings make it spectacular to see. Saturn orbits the sun every 29 years. Saturn is the second largest planet in our solar system and is about one-third less massive than Jupiter. It is about 850 million miles away from earth. Saturn has 82 identified moons, which means that it has more identified moons than any other planet in our solar system. The largest moon is Titan. Titan is larger than the planet Mercury.

Utah Skies: Measuring The Distance To Stars

Sep 1, 2021

After sundown in the late summer, one of the first visible stars will be Vega. It will be almost directly over your head. At star parties I am often asked how far away objects are and the next question is, “How do astronomers know it is that far?”

Utah Skies: Jupiter In Opposition

Aug 25, 2021
Tom Westre

The following is an unedited transcript:

Jupiter is the largest of the sun’s planets. Like Saturn, Jupiter is a “gas giant” made up of mostly hydrogen and helium gas. In a telescope, you can see the outer layers of Jupiter’s atmosphere defined by its dark bands called belts and lighter bands called zones.

Utah Skies: Colors Of Astronomy

Aug 24, 2021
Bruce Horrocks

The following is an unedited transcript:

My wife will often say that astronomy is a deceiving hobby.  When you look at something through a telescope lens you never see the same object as it appears in pictures you will see in magazines or web articles.  Even the great Orion Nebula with its beautiful array of red to purple looking dust clouds looks grey and fuzzy in most telescopes.  And when you look at Hubble Telescope images, they are never shown in the objects true color.  So why such a difference? 

Utah Skies: Peak Of The Perseid Meteor Shower

Aug 20, 2021
Stellarium

The following is an unedited transcript.

It’s not unusual to look up at the night sky and see a swift moving object light up the sky and just as quickly disappear.   These are known as meteors and are generally small dust grains or particles from asteroids or comets.  We see them   enter the earth’s atmosphere at 60 miles up at a high rate of speed of 30,000m mph.   As they enter the upper atmosphere the heat vaporizes them creating what are known as shooting stars. Larger meteors that survive the trip through the atmosphere and reach the ground are called meteorites.

Utah Skies: Venus And Regulus

Jul 27, 2021
Stellarium

After the sunsets this week the constellation Leo the Lion will be setting in the western horizon. His head is formed by a few stars that look like a backward question mark. At the base is the bright star Regulus. As Regulus nears the north-western horizon it meets the bright planet Venus. 

Utah Skies: Fixing The Hubble Telescope

Jul 27, 2021
Bruce Horrocks

Imagine using the same computer you have had for more than 30 years and then having problems with this computer and you need to have them fixed. This is the issue that has plagued NASA this past month. Launched into space in April 1990, the Hubble Telescope has been providing scientists and the general public with fascinating images and space information for over 30 years. Designed to last for 15 years, the telescope has also amazed its designer by doubling its life expectancy.

Utah Skies: Venus Passes Mars

Jul 16, 2021

This week after the sun sets and if you have a good view of the western evening sky you will see two planets, Venus and Mars, very close to one another. This type of event is called a conjunction. If you have a pair of binoculars or even a small telescope you will get a memorable view of these celestial objects.

Utah Skies: Star Clusters

Jul 7, 2021
Dell Vance

High concentrations of stars viewed in binoculars or a telescope are always exciting to see. These sometimes appear as star clusters. There are two main types of star clusters—open clusters and globular clusters.

Utah Skies: Viewing The Milky Way This Summer

Jun 29, 2021
Bruce Horrocks

With the long days and warm nights, summer is a great time to get out and enjoy the stars and see our own Milky Way Galaxy. Our solar system is just one of the hundreds of billions in our galaxy and is located about halfway between the center and the edge of the Milky Way. 

Utah Skies: The Summer Solstice

Jun 25, 2021
Bruce Horrocks

The Summer Solstice is an event in the Northern Hemisphere that marks the official start of summer. Normally this happens on June 21, but this year this event occurred on June 20 at 9:32 p.m. Mountain Daylight Time. People will often refer to the Summer Solstice as the longest day of the year. While technically all days are the same length, we generally are referring to that this is the summer day with the most amount of daylight hours and the shortest about of nighttime. 

Utah Skies: Venus And The Young Moon

Jun 16, 2021
Tom Westre

Venus is the second planet from the Sun. It is often called the Earth’s twin sister because it is about the same size as Earth.

Utah Skies: Camping, S’mores, And Stars

Jun 2, 2021

June. The days are getting longer, and the nights are getting shorter. For the darkest skies you need to wait at least 90 minutes after sundown. With sun set at about 9:00 PM MDT, that means the darker skies appear about 10:30 PM. To have very dark skies it is best to have a moonless night (this can be before the moon rises or after it sets) and a site that is away from city lights. Utah has many recreational areas that have great dark skies. Many National Parks in Utah have Dark Sky Status and are great for stargazing.

Utah Skies: Moon Meets Spica

May 25, 2021
Stellarium Software

This past week the moon has moved near the planets Venus, Mercury, and Mars. Wednesday the moon’s phase will be first quarter. By the evening of Saturday and Sunday the waxing gibbous Moon will pass the brightest star in the constellation Virgo the Maiden, called Spica. 

Utah Skies: Super Moon And Solar Eclipse

May 25, 2021
Bruce Horrocks

On Tuesday, we will have the opportunity to see the third supermoon of this year. In combination with this full moon is the first and only total lunar eclipse for the year. A lunar eclipse occurs when the earth’s position is between the sun and the moon and therefore able to cast its shadow on the moon. As this eclipse progresses, it will change the color of the moon from its normal greyish appearance to an orange or reddish color.

Utah Skies: Crescent Moon Meets Three Planets

May 24, 2021
Tom Westre

As the moon orbits Earth we see the different phases it goes through during the month. From the new moon to the full moon the illuminated crescent grows in size each day, this is called a waxing moon. From full moon to new moon the illuminated area grows smaller and is known as a waning moon.

Utah Skies: Viewing Mercury In May

May 6, 2021
Dell Vance

On May 4, just after sundown, Mercury will be just above the West-Northwest horizon. It will be a very bright Magnitude of -0.8. Just a couple of degrees north of Mercury, the Pleiades (also known as the Seven Sisters) will be dim, but visible. The Pleiades will be easier to see with binoculars. As the month proceeds, Venus will be joining Mercury in the early evening sky. They will be closest on May 17.

April Astronomical Events

May 4, 2021
Bruce Horrocks

This last week of April will bring a couple of astronomical events that will be worth watching. The first of these will be the Lyrid Meteor Shower. 

April Astronomical Events

May 4, 2021
Bruce Horrocks

This last week of April will bring a couple of astronomical events that will be worth watching. The first of these will be the Lyrid Meteor Shower. 

Utah Skies: April Astronomical Events To Watch

Apr 26, 2021
Bruce Horrocks

This last week of April will bring a couple of astronomical events that will be worth watching. The first of these will be the Lyrid Meteor Shower.  This will happen from April 16 to the 25, with the peak of the shower activity happening from April 22 to the 23.  The Lyrids is one of the oldest meteor showers and is named after the constellation Lyra.  Look to the east for the bright star Vega to have the best possible viewing during this week.

Utah Skies: Moons Of Our Solar System

Apr 15, 2021
Dell Vance

April 7, 2021, just before sunrise, Saturn, Jupiter, and a crescent Moon will be visible in the east southeast. The highest bright object is Saturn. Saturn has 82 known moons. Saturn has the most moons in the Solar System. Titan, the second largest moon in the Solar System, is Saturn’s largest moon. It is usually far enough away from Saturn that it is easy to see in most telescopes. In larger telescopes you may even see the smaller moon Rhea.

Utah Skies: Leo’s Sickle And Planets

Apr 15, 2021
Tom Westre

With the vernal equinox comes warmer weather and longer days which draws us to the great outdoors. For night-time sky watchers spring brings many new constellations. From late March through June six major constellations are seen in the spring night sky.

Utah Skies: March's Full Moon

Mar 31, 2021

March’s Full Moon is known as the Worm Moon in the Traditional Farmer’s Almanac. It was believed that this is the time of year that the earthworms appear as the soil starts to warm up.

Utah Skies: Galaxies

Mar 22, 2021
Bruce Horrocks

Springtime is galaxy season for astronomers. As the days grow longer the night sky offers an opportunity to observe a wide selection of some of the best galaxies to be seen.

Utah Skies: Hyades And Aldebaran

Mar 17, 2021
Stellarium app

During the March evenings, the Hyades star cluster and the star Aldebaran are seen in the southwestern skies after sunset. This cluster is easy to see in the evening sky due to its unique V shape. The V shape is part of the constellation Taurus the Bull. 

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