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: So Close, So Far

Nov 12, 2018
earthsky.org

This week on Looking Up Hal speaks of night sky wonders both near and far. 

There are lots and lots of amazing and wonderful things in the Colorado night sky. Some make you say “wow” because of how beautiful they are and others because of the wonder of what you are actually seeing. And if you are an early riser this Wednesday, November 14th, you get to see something that is both – a pair of bright and beautiful objects very close to each other.

Looking Up: Khan-Gratulations Are In Order...

Nov 5, 2018
X-ray: NASA/CXC/RIT/J.Kastner et al.; Optical: NASA/STScI / nasa.gov

To the star Menkar, which, as we learn on this week's episode of Looking Up, is well on its way to becoming a planetary nebula.

With the end of daylight savings time, the nights come early to southern Colorado. And while that make it tough to get a round of golf in after work, it makes it easier to look up at the many cool things in the Colorado night sky. And one of the coolest, literally, is the very interesting star Menkar.

Looking Up: Can You Hear Me Now?

Oct 29, 2018
E. Kolmhofer, H. Raab; Johannes-Kepler-Observatory, Linz, Austria (http://www.sternwarte.at) / wikipedia

This week on Looking Up Bruce Bookout inspires us with comet 'tales' from various cultures.

Comets are very remarkable objects in the night sky. Most celestial bodies travel across the skies at regular, predictable intervals; comets' movements have always seemed very erratic and unpredictable. Ancient people in many cultures believed that the gods dictated their motions and were sending them as a message.

Looking Up: From Dusk To Dawn

Oct 22, 2018
NASA/Erich Karkoschka (Univ. Arizona) / nasa.gov

This week on Looking Up Hal gives us the low down on a planet that will be up all night long. 

Regular listeners of Looking Up will recall that I really like the planet Uranus. Uranus is cool in many ways – it’s the first planet discovered in modern times, as it is too dim for ancient folks to properly map it. It also is tipped way over on its axis, with a single year lasting 84 Earth years, Uranus has 42 years when only the northern hemisphere gets sunlight, followed by 42 years with only the south getting some sun. So, you want to plan your Uranus vacations carefully.

NASA / JPL-Caltech / MPS / DLR/ IDA / PSI / nasa.gov

This week Hal takes a "vested" interest in space rocks of all kinds.

Have you ever touched a rock that was not of this Earth? If you visited the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC, you may well have stood in line to touch the moon rock they have on display in the great hall. But other than that, have you touched a moon rock? A rock from Mars? Or even an asteroid?

Well, maybe.

Looking Up: Hamal Is A Special Star, Just Like Every Star

Oct 8, 2018
public domain / Creative Commons

This week on Looking Up Chloe Brooks-Kistler returns as guest host with some info on Hamal, a protoype orange giant star.

Today’s edition of Looking Up is going to be, well, very average. And that’s because the subject of today’s episode is a very average star named Hamal. But in this case, being average is very, very helpful to astronomers. Let me tell you why.

Looking Up: 'B' Is For Brightest

Oct 1, 2018
Till Credner - AlltheSky.com / Wikimedia Commons

The alpha star is not always the brightest star in a constellation, as we learn on this week's Looking Up.

I want to tell you about a very strange star known formally as Beta Ceti, and less formally as Diphda.

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: Tilt The Season

Sep 17, 2018
open clipart

This week on Looking Up we learn the astronomical reason for the seasonal changes.

I have breaking news from the world of astronomy. The Earth has seasons! Ok, so maybe you already knew that. But do you know why? Ok, you probably do. You know that the Earth is tilted off being straight up and down in space by about 23 ½ degrees. But do you know why? Well, it’s because, we think, not too long after the Earth was formed, it got smacked by a massive collision with a protoplanet perhaps the size of Mars that knocked our fair planet off vertical and into, well, having seasons.

Looking Up: Vanishing Point

Sep 10, 2018
NASA / nasa.gov

Sometimes when a thing becomes hidden, something else is revealed. Hal reveals an upcoming occultation in this week's episode of Looking Up. 

One of the great things about astronomy is that there are so many different things you can look at. Some astronomers are fascinated with planets, while others study entire galaxies. And there are some dedicated amateur astronomers that are all about asteroids – those hunks of material left over from the formation of our solar system.

Looking Up: C'mon Back Neptune

Sep 3, 2018
NASA/JPL / nasa.gov

When a planet appears to reverse course and move 'backwards' in the night sky it's said to be in retrograde motion. You may have heard about Mercury doing that but other planets do, as well. This week on Looking Up we learn of Neptune's impending retro action.

Lots of things are going retro – fashion, TV shows, and giant balls of gas. That last one refers to the giant gas planet Neptune, the most distant planet in the solar system.

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: One More Time...

Aug 20, 2018
N.A.Sharp/NOAO/AURA/NSF / nasa.gov / earthsky.org

On this week's Looking Up Hal points out the meteoric rise of GZ (short for comet Giacobini-Zinner) a celestial visitor visible in the Colorado sky this month.

Comets, you recall, are often called dirty snowballs in space. They are made up of the original materials from the formation of the solar system, and thus are some of the oldest things out there. Trillions of comets slowly circle the Sun way, way out there, many times farther than Pluto, in a cloud of comets known as the Oort Cloud. Some of these comets will never fall in toward the inner-solar system, and others will drop by and then zip away for thousands, or even millions of years.

Looking Up: A Big Baby Begs For Attention

Aug 13, 2018
Till Credner - AlltheSky.com / wikipedia

When you're No. 2 you have to shine a little harder. This week on Looking Up we learn of the 2nd brightest,  but much lesser known star in the constellation Aquila.

If you’ve listened to Looking Up for the past three years or so, you may have noticed that sometimes I talk about really obvious things, like, say, the Moon or the Sun, or Jupiter or Saturn. And other times, I tell you about very obscure things that you likely have never heard of. I do the latter for two reasons. First, I think some of these lesser known things are really cool, and second, it gives you something to talk about at cocktail parties.

Looking Up: Cosmic Debris

Aug 6, 2018
Jean-Francois Graffand / nasa.gov

The Perseid Meteor Shower is back and the 2018 edition could be a banner event as we learn on Looking Up this week.

Looking Up: The God Of War Is Getting Rusty

Jul 30, 2018
Damian Peach, Chilescope team / nasa.gov

This week Mars will be as big as the full moon (as long as it's viewed through a telescope at about 100x magnification).

There’s a rusty planet up on the Southern Colorado sky right now that is definitely worth taking a look at, because you’ll won’t see it this well again until 2035. I’m talking about Mars, and as it turns out, the orbits of Mars and the Earth are such that right now, Mars is about as close as it ever gets to Earth. In more “normal” years, so to speak, Mars is still a pretty thing in a telescope. With decent optics, you can make out the frozen pole and some dark places on the surface. With Mars so close, we should get even better views.

Looking Up: There May Be Snow On The Roof...

Jul 23, 2018
New Horizons Mission / nasa.gov

But there's still fire, or some mysterious heat source, deep in the belly of Pluto, as we learn on Looking Up this week.

OK, I admit it, I’m a sucker for Pluto. The diminutive dwarf planet has always fascinated me, and I still clearly remember a few years ago when I was able to actually observe the tiny speck of light that is Pluto through my own telescope.

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: A Spot That's Hard To Spot

Jul 9, 2018
NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington / nasa.gov

It's a good week to try and find the closest planet to our sun.

Often times, the brightest objects in the sky are our fellow planets. Jupiter, Saturn, and especially Venus blaze in the night sky. But the most elusive of all the planets to see might well be one that isn't farthest from the Sun, but rather is closest, the remarkable planet Mercury.

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

Jun 25, 2018
by oksmith; A public domain image uploaded to https://commons.wikimedia.org 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: Miss Beehiven

Jun 18, 2018
Copyright: Jimmy Westlake (Colorado Mountain College) / nasa.gov

This week on Looking Up Venus entertains the Beehive Cluster in a celestial gathering of lovely and luminous objects.

Have you been wondering what that really bright star-like thing is in the western sky after sundown? Well, it’s the planet Venus, the third brightest thing in our sky, after the Sun and the Moon.

NASA/Penn State University / wikipedia / public domain

This week on Looking Up we are introduced to Barnard's Star.

There is a lovely constellation in the Southern Colorado sky right now, with the awkward name of Ophiuchus. And in Ophiuchus is a remarkable star with the unusually possessive name of Barnard’s Star.

Looking Up: Will Work For Helium

Jun 4, 2018
Till Credner, AlltheSky.com / wikipedia

This week on Looking Up we comb through Leo the Lion's mane and discover a star by the name of Algenubi. 

We’ve talked before about constellations that really don’t look like what they’re named after, and some that do. The constellation Leo falls into that second group, as the bright star Regulus anchors the neck, so to speak, of the lion, with five stars above making what looks like a backwards question mark, or more correctly, the head and mane of the lion. And the very last star in that mane, out at the end, is the very cool star with a very long name, Al Ras Al Asad Al Janubiyyah, known today simply as Algenubi.

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”.

Looking Up: Big Little Ceres

May 21, 2018
Gregory H. Revera, NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA / wikimedia commons

This week on Looking Up we check in on one of our solar system neighbors... Ceres.

Can we talk Ceres for a minute? Or, more precisely, 90 seconds? You see, Ceres, the largest asteroid in the Solar System, is particularly well positioned to observe this week, and you should take a look – Ceres-ously!

Looking Up: In The Court Of The Planet King

May 14, 2018
NASA, ESA, and J. Nichols (University of Leicester) / nasa.gov

This week on Looking Up we learn about the second biggest object in our solar system - Jupiter.

May is a great month in the southern Colorado sky if you like things that are really big. What's the biggest thing in our neck of the woods? I'll give you a hint, it's the Sun, which contains 99.98% of all the mass of the entire Solar System - planets, asteroids, comets, dust, the works.

Looking Up: Zub A Dub Dub, 3 Stars In A...

May 7, 2018
Francois du Toit / nasa.gov

This week on Looking Up we learn about an interesting star system, and also how to pronounce Zubenelgenubi.

There is a very interesting star to see in the southern Colorado sky right now, and it’s pretty easy to find this month. Why? Because it has a giant ball of gas nearby as a marker. That’s right, the massive planet Jupiter, the brightest thing in our sky after the Moon and Venus is just below the difficult to pronounce star that is in the constellation of Libra.

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: Hey Hey, It's Better To Burn Out...

Apr 23, 2018
JA Galán Baho / commons.wikimedia.org

Movie stars have been known to lead secret lives. This week on Looking Up Hal divulges the secret of a star called Izar.

There is an interesting star, or rather two stars, up in the Colorado night sky that is, or are, very cool, and by that, I mean hot, the nifty star Izar, in the constellation of Bootes.

Looking Up: Constellations 101

Apr 16, 2018
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center/Axel Mellinger / nasa.gov

This week on Looking Up guest host Chloe Brooks-Kistler helps us all learn something about constellations. 

So, I’ve kicked Hal out of the studio for this week’s episode. He drones on and on about admittedly cool things in the sky, but he’s never answered a question I have, as a non-astronomer about the Colorado night sky.

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