Bruce Bookout

Looking Up: Name That Leftover

Feb 24, 2020

This week on Looking Up Bruce Bookout tells us a bit about the naming process for asteroids.

During another 80's musical interlude, I wondered how asteroids are named. Asteroids are those left-over parts of the cloud that formed our solar system. These planetesimals didn't quite make it to a full planet and literally are our debris field among the planets. There are more than 794,000 known minor planets known. 

Looking Up: The Spectral Light Knows

Jan 27, 2020
NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington /

This week on Looking Up Bruce Bookout takes on a listener question. 

One of our listeners, Scott K., asked a great question that is the basis of how we know, what we know about the universe. His question is: “How do astronomers determine things such as the existence of water and/or the estimated temperature on a planet that is light years away?”

Looking Up: Spinning Under Control

Nov 25, 2019
NASA, Mysid / / public domain / wikimedia commons

This week on Looking Up Bruce Bookout sets his sights on the Earth's precession.

During a recent 80’s musical flashback, I wondered about a fundamental part of our movement in the universe.  It is well understood that our spherical earth spins on its axis providing the basic unit of time defined as a day.  That spin establishes an axis of rotation that we further define by having poles on the surface of the earth; in the north and south.  And like a top spinning in space, the Earth wobbles, or more precisely “precesses”.

Looking Up: The Ages Of Aquarius

Oct 28, 2019
public domain / Photo via <a href="">Good Free Photos</a>

Bruce Bookout steers this week's episode of Looking Up and guides us to the constellation of Aquarius.

Constellations are fickle things.  Defining what shape you see and what that means is all derivative of your culture and what that pattern appears to be.  We call this pareidolia; the tendency to interpret a vague stimulus as something known to the observer, such as seeing shapes in clouds or seeing faces on Mars. 

Looking Up: Scooting Off To Scutum

Sep 30, 2019
Johannes Hevelius [Public domain] / wikimedia commons

This week on Looking Up we are 'shielded' from ignorance about the constellation Scutum, thanks to Bruce Bookout.

The night sky contains many odd objects besides the menagerie of strange creatures.  This time of year, in our southwestern sky, you will find a “shield” of stars. The shield is the constellation Scutum.

Looking Up: That's Nice, But Now Back To Me...

Aug 26, 2019
Original image by Niko Lang / wikimedia commons

This week on Looking Up we learn how a world view did change. The only destruction talked about is that of Ptolomy's geocentric system. Count yourself in...

Ever consider yourself central to a discussion? We humans for many centuries considered ourselves the center of the discussion, literally the center of everything.  As a model for the cosmos we called that geo-centralism – the placement of the earth in the middle of it all. 

public domain / / creative commons

This week on Looking Up our month long tribute to the 50th anniversary of the Apollo missions continues with Bruce providing insight on how the program came to be named.

In July 1960 NASA was preparing to implement its long-range plan beyond Project Mercury and to introduce a manned circumlunar mission project, unnamed at that time, at the NASA/Industry Program Plans Conference in Washington DC.

Looking Up: A Celestial Object By Any Other Name...

Jun 24, 2019
NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA) /

Would any given astronomical object still look as cool if it had a different name? Bruce Bookout delves into that very subject on this week's Looking Up.

I was once asked at a local star party; how do we know the names of things in the sky?  The answer is simple – someone named it. 

Looking Up: South Side Of The Sky

May 20, 2019
B. Saxton (NRAO/AUI/NSF) /

This week on Looking Up we're bound for a star that's 50 light years from home.

Deep in our southern skies, in the constellation Centarus lies a dead star 50 light-years away from the Earth. V886 Centauri is at first glance an ordinary white dwarf. But it is more than it appears.

Looking Up: Crossing The Universe

Apr 8, 2019
public domain /

Bruce Bookout has been some days in preperation for this week's episode of Looking Up...

Our springtime brings to view a northern-sky asterism many amateur astronomers call the Kite. An asterism is a recognizable pattern of stars that’s not one of the “official” 88 constellations. The Big Dipper is an asterism. So is the Northern Cross. The Kite is actually the constellation Boötes, the Herdsman.

Looking Up: Royal Road

Mar 25, 2019

Bruce Bookout carries the weight of this week's episode of Looking Up in which four majestic stars come together for something special. Why? Because we want you to know how ancient cultures viewed the night sky.

Around 3000 BCE, the Persians looked at the sky saw kingliness.  They had four stars they considered “Royal Stars”; Aldebaran, Antares, Fomalhaut and Regulus. 

Looking Up: Enter The Dragon

Jan 21, 2019
By Firkin / open clipart / public domain

This week on Looking Up Bruce Bookout is back, and he has a dragon 'tale' to tell.

Our Colorado skies contains a constellation that coils around the north celestial pole.  Let’s briefly discuss the dragon constellation – Draco.

Looking Up: Large Visitor To A Small Planet

Nov 26, 2018
herval / Wikimedia Commons / flickr

This week on Looking Up Bruce Bookout sends us an invitation to learn more about the meaning of meteorites in the Native American community.

In Native American communities, space rocks are not just astronomical curiosities; they are sacred objects.  One such famous meteorite is known by the Grand Ronde tribes of Oregon as “Tomanowos”; translated as “heavenly visitor” or “visitor from the moon”. 

Looking Up: We Love You Mr. Moonlight

Sep 24, 2018
by caizheng / Creative Commons Open Clipart

It's known by many names but there's no mistaking being face to face with a full moon.

Many early Native Americans tribes kept track of time by observing the seasons and lunar months, although there was much variability. Some tribes defined a year as 12 Moons, while others assigned it 13. Certain tribes that used a lunar calendar added an extra Moon every few years, to keep it in sync with the seasons. Colonial Americans adopted some of the Native American full Moon names and we maintain that tradition even today. 

Looking Up: Here Comes The Sun...

Aug 27, 2018
Johann Melchior Dinglinger / wikimedia commons / public domain

This week on Looking Up Bruce Bookout illuminates us on the historic and cultural aspects of that special star nearest to us.

The most obvious celestial object and most influential is the Sun.  Every ancient culture around the world saw the Sun as some form of deity. There are over a hundred difference names of the Sun, as either a god or goddess, in the various cultures of the world.  Consider how many song lyrics speak of the Sun.

Looking Up: 8 Days A Week Was Not Enough...

Jul 16, 2018
By Firkin / Creative Commons Open Clipart

This week on Looking Up Bruce Bookout takes time to explain calender reformation. 

We again mark a calendar to help us break up our revolution around the sun into smaller more manageable portions. Calendars are funny things in that keeping them and naming their parts lends to strange things. 

Looking Up: At The Shadow The Time Will Be...

Jun 25, 2018
by oksmith; A public domain image uploaded to by user AzaToth / Creative Commons Open Clipart

This week on Looking Up Bruce Bookout sheds some light and some shadow on the origins of the sundial.

As we have discussed before, timekeeping is an essential part of Astronomy.  The ancients relied on very low tech for many methods to tell time.  One effective method divides the day into relevant parts. Let’s shine a little light on the Sundial.

Looking Up: The Ethos Of...

May 28, 2018
Andrew Dunn / Wikimedia Commons

This week on Looking Up Bruce Bookout enlightens us as to what the study of archaeoastronomy actually is. 

One of the newer disciplines in science is the field of Archaeoastronomy.  We have been speaking to this subject during my tenure on “Looking Up”, but have never actually defined it. Archaeoastronomy is the study of astronomical practices, celestial lore, mythologies, religions and world-views of ancient cultures.  In many ways it is an “Anthropology of Astronomy”.

Wikimedia Commons

On Looking Up this week, Bruce Bookout speaks about the mythical Thunderbird and the thunderous Navajo legend behind it. 

The mythology of the thunderbird is wide and various across America and Canada. Navajo legend holds that the Thunderbird carries all the clouds in its tail and rain under its wings. Thus when the Thunderbird constellation is shining brightly in the spring sky, the rainy season has arrived.

Looking Up: Planet Chaco

Mar 26, 2018

We head south of the Colorado border with guest host Bruce Bookout for this month's archeo-astronomy subject - Chaco Canyon.

The earliest inhabitants of this region were skywatchers of immense sophistication.  Down just below the southern Colorado border is a major center of culture for the ancient Pueblo Peoples.  It is focused in the Chaco Culture National Historical Park in northern New Mexico. The Chaco Canyon area contains the most sweeping collection of ancient ruins in the Southwest.

Looking Up: Medicine Map To The Stars

Jan 22, 2018
National Park Service / Wikimedia Commons

This week on Looking Up guest host Bruce Bookout gets around to talking about Medicine Wheels and how they relate to ancient astronomy.

Nearly every ancient civilization has studied the night sky, whether it was for navigation, measuring time, or spiritual purposes.  The Plains Indians of the West were no exception.  Dotting the high hills of the northern plains are hundreds of Native American stone constructions, called medicine wheels that are aligned to the stars.  

Looking Up: The Magnificent 7

Dec 11, 2017
Creative Commons /

This week on Looking Up guest host Bruce Bookout continues our archeo-astronomy lesson on time keeping.

Our calendar has direct ties to astronomy with our count of days as we revolve around the Sun and our count of moonths as the moon goes around the Earth.  The remaining count you might say has a weak relationship to astronomy.

Looking Up: Slippin' Into Darkness...

Aug 7, 2017

This week on Looking Up Bruce Bookout continues our series of episodes regarding the upcoming total solar eclipse on August 21st, 2017.

We continue our series preparing for the solar eclipse. Let’s take a look at how older cultures viewed this celestial event.

An eclipse is always a disruption of the established order.  Cultures depend on the sun's movement because of its predictability; It is regular, dependable, tamper proof. And then, all of a sudden. . . the sun vanishes into darkness.  

Looking Up: Not So Wile E. While He...

May 29, 2017

This week on Looking Up guest host Bruce Bookout is back to finish the 2nd part of the Gemini Twins saga.

Rising high in the spring skies of southern Colorado is the constellation of the twins - Gemini.  Look after sunset high in the west for the two bright stars above Orion – Castor and Pollux.  Let’s pair up on last month’s discussion.

Looking Up: Eternal Twins

Apr 24, 2017
Wikipedia / via

This week on Looking Up guest host Bruce Bookout presents our monthly archeo-astronomy talk, this one is on the Gemini Twins.

Rising high in the winter skies of southern Colorado are the twin brothers of the sky - Gemini.  Look after sunset to the south for the two bright stars above Orion – Castor and Pollux.  Let’s double up on our knowledge of these guys.

Looking Up: Mythed Opportunities

Feb 27, 2017
David Lane /

This week on Looking Up Guest host Bruce Bookout presents another archeo-astronomy lesson.  This month it's all about the Pleiades star cluster.

Our Colorado winter skies contain one of the more famous small asterisms of the sky – the Pleiades.  They resemble a tiny dipper and are often confused as the little dipper.  They are easily found by first locating Orion, then moving to the right to the tiny cluster.  They appear as a petite bright cluster of white stars.

Looking Up: The Great Bright Hunter

Jan 23, 2017
evilestmark /

This week on Looking Up guest host Bruce Bookout presents this month's archeo-astronomy lesson  on Orion.

Rising high in the winter skies of southern Colorado is the great hunter of the sky - Orion.  Look after sunset to the east for three bright stars in a row surrounded by a rectangle of four other bright stars.  Let’s hunt through the world on Orion’s legend.

Looking Up: Long Night's Journey Into Day

Dec 19, 2016
by Kumar /

This week on Looking Up guest host Bruce Bookout sheds light on the longest night of the year and how it's celebrated by other cultures.  

Our Colorado nights are getting deep and as we get to the longest night of the year every culture celebrates the winter solstice differently.  Solstice comes from latin, meaning “the sun” and “to stand still”. Because the winter solstice is also an event that marks the return of the sun’s presence in the sky, it has been connected with renewal, birth, sun gods, and life-death-rebirth deities. There are traditional celebrations that give people hope sunny days lay ahead.

Looking Up: Casio Watch

Nov 28, 2016
Rogelio Bernal Andreo (Deep Sky Colors) / nasa

This week on Looking Up guest host Bruce Bookout regales us with various mythologies surrounding the queen of the night sky, Cassiopeia.

Rising high in the autumn skies of Southern Colorado is the reigning queen of the sky - Cassiopeia.  Take a look after sunset to the northeast for a pattern of stars resembling a “W”. 

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.