Looking Up

Each week Hal Bidlack from the Colorado Springs Astronomical Society alerts Southern Colorado listeners to what to watch for in our night skies.

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Looking Up: Bear Witness

Aug 29, 2016
VegaStar Carpentier / NASA

This week Bruce gives us different cultural perspectives on the constellation Ursa Major (the Big Dipper).

The skies of Southern Colorado were not always seen the same way as we do in modern times. If you take look at our evening skies this week to the northwest after sunset, you will see the familiar group of stars known as the Big Dipper.  The Big Dipper is an asterism contained in the constellation Ursa Major – the greater she-bear. 

Three's Company

Aug 22, 2016
earthsky.org

This week Hal lets us know about the conjunction of Mars and Saturn.

The summer of 2016 is a particularly good one for anyone interested in planets. All the naked eye planets are visible, and the nights are warm enough that we can stay outside without getting too uncomfortable. Even binoculars will let you see the red surface of Mars, the stripes on Jupiter, and the rings of Saturn. 

After The Dusk Settles

Aug 1, 2016
earthsky.org

This week Hal tells us about a stellar planetary conjunction in our early evening sky.

August 2016 is shaping up to be a pretty interesting month for people who like looking up. A number of unusual and lovely things are happening up there, and the warm days and nights will hopefully cooperate in letting you go outside and take a peek. 

My Very Educated Mother Just Served

Jul 25, 2016
Eliot-Herman-Tucson-AZ / earthsky.org

This week Bruce enumerates on the planets currently visible in our night sky.  

As residents of Southern Colorado we are afforded a spectacular view  for the next several weeks of six naked eye planets in our evening skies. Starting shortly after sunset you can tour the original planets known to our ancient ancestors.

Cosmic Debris-fing

Jul 18, 2016
B. Balick (U. Washington) et al., WFPC2, HST, NASA

This week Hal sheds light on the Saturn Nebula.  

How many Saturn’s do you see in the night sky? Well, right now, the answer could be two!

We talked recently about the beautiful and awe-inspiring planet Saturn, now high in southern Colorado skies. In many people’s eyes, it’s the most beautiful of all the planets, Saturn’s gorgeous system of rings make it appear oblong in binoculars or small telescopes.

This Week Hal Does Just Enif

Jul 11, 2016
Till Credner - AlltheSky.com

Hal discusses the big, bright, strange supergiant star Enif in the constellation Pegasus.

Enif of a good thing is visible in southern Colorado skies right now. And by Enif, I mean a remarkable star in the constellation Pegasus. Enif is the brightest star in that winged horse. It’s a fairly bright point of light, in otherwise fairly dim area of the sky, but what makes it special is what’s happening 670 ly away from Earth.

This Independence Day We Do The Invading

Jul 4, 2016
NASA/JPL-Caltech

This Independence Day Hal briefs us on the Juno Mission to Jupiter.  

It was just about one year ago that the New Horizons spacecraft flew past Pluto. That wonderful gizmo is still returning great scientific information and stunning pictures from 3 billion miles away.

This Fourth of July, NASA will do it again, as the Juno spacecraft will arrive at Jupiter, the largest planet in the solar system. 

Dschubba "... one star out of four"

Jun 27, 2016
M. Procell

    

This week Hal discusses Dschubba, a star (or 4) located in the head of Scorpius the Scorpion.

There are 88 constellations in the night sky, counting those in both the northern and southern hemispheres. Many of them look nothing like their names. Indeed, some of them are quite a stretch - I’m looking at you Ophiuchus. Sure, you look like a snake bearer.

But there are some that really do look like their namesake, and Scorpius the scorpion is one of those. With stars that seem to line up to make a body with a curved tail and stinger, and other stars that appear to line up to form the head and pincers, Scorpius looks like, well, a scorpion, and you can see it all summer in the southern Colorado sky.

Tipping Is Appreciated

Jun 20, 2016
dear_theophilus's Clipart

This week Hal talks about the Summer Solstice.  

This year, 2016, the longest day of the year, June 20th, the summer solstice, occurs on the same day as a full moon. What is the cosmic significance of this astronomical coincidence? Sorry, absolutely none. 

Icy Rings of Dust... What A Wonderful World

Jun 13, 2016
Cassin-Huygens / nasa

This week Hal revisits Saturn.  

We’ve talked before about things that make you say wow, when you see them in the night sky. For lots of people, including lots of astronomers, the most wow – inducing object of all is visible to southern Colorado listeners right now – the amazing planet Saturn.

Red Rover

Jun 6, 2016
NASA, ESA, the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA), J. Bell (ASU), and M. Wolff (Space Science Institute)

This week Hal lets us know what that bright red object in the night sky is.  

What’s bright and red and pretty darn close right now? Southern Colorado listeners can see the answer in the evening sky right now. The beautiful crimson planet -- Mars. Mars is just about as bright as it ever gets in our sky, and is as close as it’s been in the last dozen years. It’s definitely worth a look, and even small binoculars may show you something remarkable, though a small telescope will do the best job. 

Born Dubhe A Star

May 30, 2016
Credit & Copyright: Jerry Lodriguss (Catching the Light) nasa.gov

This week Hal overflows with information about Dubhe, a star in the Big Dipper.  

The most famous constellation in the sky, for most people, isn’t actually a constellation. The famous Big Dipper is technically part of a larger constellation, Ursa Major, or the great Bear. The dipper part is what we call an asterism. An asterism is simply a group of prominent stars, often with the nickname, such as the Big Dipper, that is in turn part of a larger constellation. 

M61 - BIMGO!!!

May 23, 2016
ESA/Hubble, NASA; Acknowledgements: G. Chapdelaine & L. Limatola

This week Hal tells us about another Messier object - M61.  

We talked before about French astronomer Charles Messier and his famous list of astronomical objects. Remember that Messier was obsessed with finding comets, and kept getting irritated by seeing things that he thought were comets that turned out to be, well, not comets. So we can imagine his excitement on the night of May 5th, 1779, when he spotted what he was quite sure was a comet in the constellation Virgo. 

Denebola - An Interesting Tail...

May 16, 2016
By GDJ on Openclipart.com

  This week Hal tells us about a relatively close star - Denebola, which marks the tip of the lion's tail in the constellation Leo the Lion.  

You’ve heard the expression, “catch a lion by the tail?” Well, in the southern Colorado and northern New Mexico skies, you can do that right now, at least metaphorically. The constellation Leo the Lion is prominent in our night sky right now. We talked about the very interesting and unusual star, Regulus, located at the head of Leo the Lion, but today let’s talk about the other end, and the equally interesting star Denebola.

Dimmer Time

May 9, 2016
Thierry Legault / nasa

This week Hal tells us about the not so speedy transit of Mercury.  

Did the Sun look a little dimmer to you today? Well, no. But something did block a tiny portion of the Sun’s light today. Starting just after 5 AM, and finishing about 12:45 PM, the planet Mercury is transiting the Sun’s disk, today! What does that actually mean?

Sunny Sombrero

May 2, 2016
Image Data: NASA, ESO , NAOJ, Giovanni Paglioli - Processing: R. Colombari

  This week Hal tells us about M104, otherwise known as the Sombrero Galaxy.

Regular listeners to Looking Up may recall my earlier comments regarding objects in the night sky that make you say Wow. Sometimes that wow comes from the intrinsic beauty of the thing, and sometimes from the realization of what a remarkable thing you are looking at scientifically.

Moonshine

Apr 25, 2016
NASA/JPL-Caltech/SETI Institute

This week Hal informs us of yet another Galilean Moon of Jupiter - Europa.

In the last two editions, we’ve talked about two moons of Jupiter, Ganymede, and Io. Today let’s talk about a third member of Jupiter’s Galilean moons, Europa. Europa is clearly not like its neighbors. Indeed, there is a strong possibility that at least in one way, it’s a lot like the Earth.

Rising Crust Frozen Pizza

Apr 18, 2016
Cassini Imaging team / NASA

This week Hal introduces us to Io, another one of Jupiter's Galilean moons.  

Last week we talked about the largest moon in the solar system, Ganymede. Ganymede is one of the at least 67 moons orbiting Jupiter, and is one of the very bright so-called Galilean moons of Jupiter, spotted by Galileo in the 17th century.

Well... Isn't That Spacial

Apr 11, 2016
Credit: Galileo Project, DLR, JPL, NASA

This week Hal talks about Ganymede, the largest moon in our solar system.  

One of the brightest objects in the night sky for southern Colorado and northern New Mexico listeners right now is the amazing planet Jupiter. Shining brilliantly in the southern sky, Jupiter is so big it could hold 1000 Earths inside it. But there are other fairly big things out by Jupiter, and the biggest of all is Ganymede, the largest of the at least 67 known moons of Jupiter.

No Comet

Apr 4, 2016
F. Antonucci, M. Angelini, & F. Tagliani, ADARA Astrobrallo / nasa.gov

This week special guest host Bruce Bookout lets us know all about a beautiful double star cluster located right between Cassiopeia and Perseus. 

Everyone likes looking at babies. Today let’s talk about a couple of groups of beautiful baby stars that I know you’ll enjoy looking at.

In a number of previous editions of Looking Up, we’ve talked about the beautiful objects in the sky that appeared on comet-hunter Charles Messier’s famous list of things not to look at, because they weren’t comets. One absolutely gorgeous object that does not appear on Messier’s list is the famous double cluster in Perseus, because, well, no one could mistake it for a comet. 

E.T. The Extra-Celestrial

Mar 28, 2016
Jason Furman/ CSAS

  This week Hal introduces us to NGC 457, otherwise known as the Owl Cluster, alias the E.T. Cluster.

We humans have brains that are wired to recognize patterns. We can’t help it, it’s the way we’ve evolved. We fall victim to pareidolia, a fancy word that simply means were conditioned to find patterns that make sense to us. That’s why some people see a face on Mars in a mountain range, and others think they see familiar shapes in cloud banks.

Whirlpool Watcher

Mar 21, 2016
Martin Pugh / nasa.gov

This week Hal gets face to face with the Whirlpool Galaxy.  

One of the things that will really make you say “wow” in the night sky is visible now, the Whirlpool Galaxy. It can be found in the southern Colorado and northern New Mexico sky year-round, just below the last star in the handle of the Big Dipper.

Stars That Play Together Stray Together

Mar 14, 2016
Credit & Copyright: Processing - Noel Carboni, Imaging - Greg Parker / nasa

This week Hal tells us about M 67, the oldest open star cluster in the entire Messier catalog.

We’ve talked before about objects in the southern Colorado and northern New Mexico sky that appear on 18th-century astronomer Charles Messier’s list of things not to look at. Messier was a comet hunter, and he kept getting confused by objects in the sky that turned out not to be comets. 

Lightly Dusted

Mar 7, 2016
Image Credit & Copyright: Yuri Beletsky (Las Campanas Observatory, Carnegie Institution) / NASA

This week Hal illuminates us on some particular particulates. 

Our Solar System is mostly empty space. Extending across billions of miles, the Solar System you learned about in school contains eight or nine planets, depending on how old you are, with the Sun in the middle, and lots of empty space between. But as with most things, it’s a little more complicated, and a little more beautiful, than you might think.

Classy Gassie Cassie

Feb 29, 2016
NASA/JPL-Caltech/STScI/CXC/SAO Animation: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Ariz./STScI/CXC/SAO

This week Hal wonders what the night sky would look like from a different perspective.

How bright are the brightest things you see in the sky?

As you remember from school, there are forms of electromagnetic energy, such as radio waves, that have wavelengths that can be measured in miles, while at the other end of the spectrum, gamma rays have wavelengths so tiny several could fit across a hydrogen atom.

Navi - The Guiding Light As The World Turns...

Feb 22, 2016
M. Procell

 This week Hal tells the tale of a star named Navi.

Did you know that you are being watched over by a queen on her throne every night, year-round? Well, you are. Queen Cassiopeia sits on her throne in the northern sky, and this constellation is visible year-round. 

Es-steamed Crab

Feb 15, 2016
NASA/CXC/SAO

 This week Hal's "Guest Star" is the Crab Nebula...

If you were looking up during the daytime, in July of the year 1054, you might’ve noticed what observers saw in China, Japan, Korea, and quite possibly in North America -- something that shouldn’t be there -- a new star visible in the daytime. Each of those cultures documented the appearance of this new star, which was visible for days, even in the bright blue skies of a warm July afternoon. Eventually it faded, and was gone from the sky. 

Saiph Cracking

Feb 8, 2016
John Gauvreau / nasa.gov

This week Hal sheds some light on Saiph, a lesser known star in the constellation Orion.

The universe is a remarkable place, filled with remarkable objects that never appear to play it safe. Except, of course, for the star named Saiph.

Saiph is perhaps the most overlooked star in the wonderful constellation Orion. The brilliantly bright Rigel shines in the lower right star in the constellation, while the nearly-as-bright Betelgeuse famously sits as the upper left star in Orion’s shoulder. Across from Betelgeuse, occupying the other shoulder, is Bellatrix, a wonderful star whose name was borrowed for character in Harry Potter.

But poor Saiph, which is spelled S-A-I-P-H...

2016: A Space Oddity

Feb 1, 2016
earthsky.org

This week Hal lets us know what we can see in the early morning sky for the next several weeks...

How many planets are there in the solar system? I admit, it’s a trick question. Before 2006, most school kids learned that there were nine planets. There were a number of ways to remember all the names. One of my favorites was “My very educated mother just served us nine pizza pies.” That rhyme helped children remember the planets in the order out from the Sun: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto.

Ivo Scheggia / nasa.gov

This week Hal tells us about Rigel, another beautiful star located in the Orion constellation.

Many of the most beautiful stars in the sky appear in the winter for southern Colorado and northern New Mexico listeners. One of the most beautiful is the star Rigel, which makes up the lower right star in the constellation Orion. And, like Betelgeuse in the upper left corner of Orion, Rigel is a baby – only 8 to 10 million years old. 

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