Utah 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: 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.

Utah Skies: The Moon Meets Antares

Aug 27, 2020

If you look south south west in the early evening in the late summer early fall you will see Antares, the 15th brightest star in the skies. Antares is a bright red star located in the “heart” of the constellation Scorpious the Scorpion, a fishhook shaped constellation. Antares is Greek for “Mars rival” the Greek god of war. Both are red and every few years Mars passes near Antares which lies over 600 light years away. The light we see tonight left Antares around 1400 AD.

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.

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.

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

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

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


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.