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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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.


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

 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

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. 

Betelgeuse... best by 01/18/102016

Jan 18, 2016
ESA/Herschel/PACS/L. Decin et al / NASA.gov

This week Hal informs us about the future plans of a red supergiant star.

This is “Looking UP! in southern Colorado,” from the Colorado Springs Astronomical Society. I’m Hal Bidlack, and there are lots of reasons to look up!

Warning – there’s a giant bomb in the sky, it’s going to go off soon! And by soon, I mean in the next hundred thousand years or so. And by giant bomb, I mean the wonderful and amazing star Betelgeuse!

Little Brocyon

Jan 11, 2016
Wally Pacholka -AstroPics.com / nasa.gov

This week Hal enlightens us about the sixth brightest star visible in the northern hemisphere. 

As the fourth of four children, I’m very sympathetic to the burden of being someone’s little brother. With that in mind, imagine being one of the brightest stars in the sky, and one of the most beautiful stars visible this time of year to southern Colorado and northern New Mexico listeners, and still being named someone’s little brother. Thus is the fate of the wonderful star Procyon. 


Jan 5, 2016



This week Hal tells us about Castor & Pollux, the Gemini Twins. 

If you been around the Sun enough times to reach middle age, you may well remember the Gemini space program. Following the one-man missions of the Mercury program, and before the three-man missions to the moon in the Apollo program, there was the Gemini program, launching two astronauts into orbit to test rendezvous and other vital components needed for a moon landing. But did you ever wonder why they named the program Gemini? 


Dec 28, 2015
Jerry Lodriguss / NASA.gov

This week Hal tells us about one of the brightest stars in the sky, a red giant by the name of Aldebaran.

I’ll warn you up front, this episode has a lot of bull. Because this week, we’re talking about the remarkable star Aldebaran, which forms the red eye in the constellation Taurus the Bull. Aldebaran rises in the East shortly after Sunset and is visible all night long. It’s easy to find. Draw a line through the belt in the constellation Orion, up and to the right and you will hit Aldebaran.

Ye Olde Comet Tails

Dec 21, 2015
Ian Sharp / NASA.gov

This week Hal sheds light on the origin and orbit of Comet Catalina.

Have you been feeling any sense of doom lately? Have you been worried about Kings falling from their thrones? If so, it might be related to a brand-new celestial visitor to our skies, a comet! And it might also mean you think we are still in the Middle Ages, because that’s when people thought that comets were harbingers of ill fortune, rather than amazing visitors from the great beyond. 

3200 Phaethon Trail

Dec 14, 2015
M. Procell


This week Hal tells us about a natural holiday light show.

The Geminid Meteor Shower is one of the best of the year, and tonight is about the best night for viewing this amazing celestial show. The Geminid’s are so great for observing because it’s a fairly intense meteor shower, with 1 to 2 meteors per minute if you’re away from the brightest of the city’s lights, and because the best time to see the highest number of meteors is around 11 PM. 

Occultation Culmination

Dec 7, 2015
Peter Heinzen / NASA.gov

 This week Hal tells us about an eclipse of the planet Venus that you can see in broad daylight.

You’ve seen the Moon every now and then during the daytime, visible against a bright blue sky. During the week or so leading up to a full Moon, you may have noticed the Moon visible before Sunset. And during the week or so after a full Moon, you may have noticed the Moon in the Western sky in the morning as you drove to work. But did you know you can also see the brighter planets, Venus, Jupiter, and even Saturn, during the daytime if you know just where to look?

Ahh! Capella

Nov 30, 2015
Babak Tafreshi/Nasa.gov

This week Hal gives a preview of some of the wonders of the winter night sky.

Some of the most beautiful things in the night sky appear during the winter months. And they’re worth bundling up for, so southern Colorado and northern New Mexico listeners, grab a scarf and head outside, because beauty awaits.  

Blue Woman Group

Nov 23, 2015
Lorenzi / NASA.gov


This week Hal talks about M45 (The Pleiades Cluster, AKA The Seven Sisters).   

The Pleiades is an open star cluster that is one of the most beautiful objects in the night sky. And, every year in the month of November the Pleiades rise around sunset and set around dawn, so they are visible all night long. You can see this bright little cluster of stars, often called the seven sisters, though most people only see six, by looking to the northeast after sunset. It’s the fuzzy patch above and to the right of the bright red star Aldebaran, which in turn is above and to the right of the constellation Orion.