Jimmy Westlake columns

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Jimmy Westlake: Friday’s full moon — blue or not?

You’ll have an opportunity to witness an unusual “blue moon” this month but don’t expect to go outside and literally see a blue-colored moon staring back at you. The term “blue moon” has an unusual and uncertain history, but it certainly does not refer to the actual spectrum of the moon.

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Jimmy Westlake: Our first look at Pluto

The date was July 14, 1965. The entire world held its collective breath as NASA’s Mariner 4 spacecraft sailed past the red planet Mars at close range. Human exploration of our solar system via robot emissary had begun.

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Celestial News: See the magnificent Milky Way

Contrary to what the ancient Romans believed, the Milky Way is not made from the milk of queen goddess Juno, but is the combined light of billions of distant suns unresolved by the human eye. If you look through a pair of binoculars and sweep slowly across the Milky Way, you will rediscover what Galileo did in 1610 — a multitude of faint stars.

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Jimmy Westlake: You’re invited to the "Stagecoach Star Party”

You are invited to join other astronomy enthusiasts from around the community for the Stagecoach Star Party at 9 p.m. Friday, July 10, at the Morrison Cove boat ramp on the southshore side of Stagecoach State Park, weather permitting.

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Jimmy Westlake: New Horizons spacecraft zooms closer to Pluto

On July 14, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft, after a nine and a half year journey, finally will fly through the Pluto system and reveal the mysteries of this misfit planet and its five moons to us at long last.

Jimmy Westlake: Yampa River Star Party this Saturday

Jimmy Westlake will be conducting a summer stargazing event out at the Yampa River State Park campground, three miles west of Hayden on U.S. Highway 40, beginning at 9 p.m. Saturday.

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Jimmy Westlake: Venus and Jupiter meet for spectacular conjunction

On the evening of Tuesday, June 30, starting about an hour after sunset, Venus and Jupiter will appear to pass so close to each other, about 1/3º, that you will be able to hide both planets behind the tip of your pinky finger held out at arm’s length.

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Celestial News: Libra, the misfit constellation

A closer look at the zodiac, or "the circle of animals," shows Libra the Scales is a misfit.

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Jimmy Westlake: Look east for heaven’s little harp

What’s that bright star rising in the northeastern sky as darkness falls this month? It’s the star Vega, and its arrival is a sure sign that summer is just around the bend.

Jimmy Westlake: The Centaur peeks in

You too can see Centaurus peeking in on us. Go outside around 10 p.m. in late May and look due south, underneath the bright blue star Spica.

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Jimmy Westlake: Here comes Saturn

On May 22, the ringed planet Saturn will be at its closest point to the Earth for the year, a point called opposition. You can spot the planet at around 9:30 p.m. this month.

Jimmy Westlake: Three leaps of the gazelle

I’d like to share with you a story about three pairs of stars that you can spot almost overhead as darkness falls in the late spring.

Jimmy Westlake: Planets cluster in evening sky

Several bright planets are converging on our early evening sky this week and should provide for some great sky watching in the nights ahead.

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Jimmy Westlake: Conquer the Hydra this spring

What has nine heads, deadly breath, poisonous blood and stretches nearly one-third of the way around the whole sky? It’s the dreaded sea serpent known as the Hydra.

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Jimmy Westlake: See Bootes — the heavenly cowboy

Locating Bootes and its bright star Arcturus is a snap. Just face the northeastern sky in the early evening and use the handle of the nearby Big Dipper as a pointer — follow the arc of the curved handle to find Arcturus.

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