Utah Skies

Utah Skies: Neutron Star

21 hours ago

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.

The Great Hercules Cluster

Jul 1, 2020
Tom Westre

Globular clusters are large collections of hundreds of thousands of stars in a gravitationally bound small area of space. They are one of most spectacular objects to view in binoculars or telescopes. These objects lie well outside in the halo of the Milky Way.

The Summer Triangle

Jun 24, 2020
NASA/JPL/Stellarium

The stars Altair, Vega and Deneb are three stars that form what is known as the Summer Triangle. These three stars are not a constellation but form an asterism which is an easily identified pattern of stars.

Summer Solstice Approaching

Jun 18, 2020
NASA Blog

The Sun will appear highest in the sky above Utah and any place in the Northern Hemisphere on Saturday, June 20th at 3:44 pm MDT, known as the Summer Solstice.

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.

American Astronauts Headed To Space

May 29, 2020
NASA/Space X

In 1961 Alan Shepherd became the first American in space. He made the first flight as part of Project Mercury in a spacecraft called Freedom 7.

Venus, Mercury, And The Moon

May 21, 2020
Stellarium

 

This spring after the sun sets in the west the 2nd planet from the Sun, Venus, has given us a wonderful evening celestial show. Venus at this point in its orbit around the Sun is known as the “evening star”.

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.

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
NASA/JPL-Caltech

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.

Leo The Lion

Mar 12, 2020
Leo the Lion constellation
Sky Portal

Leo the Lion is one of the most recognized constellations in the Sky. It is now rising in the East in the early evening and marks a transition between the winter and spring seasons. The shape of the constellation Leo forms a pattern that resembles a Lion. Leo also contains an easy to see asterism that looks like a hook or a backward question mark.

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.

Venus After Sunset

Feb 26, 2020
Venus shines with the Moon in Night Skies
https://pixabay.com/

Welcome to Utah Skies. This past month, we’ve been treated with a spectacular evening show as the bright planet Venus has dominated the western skies after sunset.

Early Morning Planets

Feb 24, 2020
Tom Westre

 

 

During February Venus is easy to spot in the evening sky after the sun sets.

For early risers, three planets are lined up in the eastern sky about one hour before the sunrises.

Mars is the highest, followed by the king of the planets, Jupiter, then closer to the horizon is the famous ringed planet Saturn.

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.

Sirius: Brightest Night Time Star

Jan 2, 2020
Sirius and Pup in the night sky.
NASA, ESA, H. Bond (STScI), and M. Barstow (University of Leicester)

 

 


Of the thousands of stars humans can see at night with our eyes alone, Sirius is the brightest star we can see. 

Sirius is also known as the Dog Star.  It lies at a distance of only 8.6 light years in the constellation Canis Major or the Big Dog. Sirius is the fifth closest star to the Earth and brighter than all of them. 

Moon and Venus Show in Evening Sky

Jan 2, 2020
The Moon and Venus in the night sky.
Abhay Kushwaha, flicker.com

 

 

As the Moon orbits the Earth, the Moon moves eastward away from the Sun in the sky and we see a little more of the sunlit side of the moon each night.  A few days after new moon, the Moon appears as a thin crescent in the western sky just after sunset.   

 

Sun Reaches Record Sunspot Low

Dec 23, 2019
A picture of the Sun with no sunspots.
Tom Westre

Over the past 300 years, astronomers have learned that the Sun goes through periods of high and low solar activity averaging about 11 years from solar minimum to solar maximum. During this period the Sun produces cooler, darker areas on the surface called sunspots which can be the size of the Earth or much larger. 

The 82 Moons Of Saturn

Dec 9, 2019
NASA

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.

Sky and Telescope

As the month of November ends the planets Venus, Jupiter, Saturn and the Moon will put on a spectacular show in the southwestern evening sky just after sunset. 

Apollo 12 NASA

November 24 was the 50th anniversary of the landing of Apollo 12, NASA’s 2nd moon-landing.  Apollo 12 landed on the moons Ocean of Storms.   The Lunar Module lander was flown by Pete Conrad and Alan Bean.  The command module pilot Richard Gordon, orbited the moon taking photographs. 

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