Jimmy Westlake columns

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Jimmy Westlake: Partial solar eclipse coming Thursday

Thursday’s eclipse begins at about 3:20 p.m. when the moon will take the first little “bite” out of the solar disk. Maximum eclipse is at 4:35 p.m.

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Jimmy Westlake: New comet to buzz Mars on Sunday

Mars and Comet Siding Spring will be about 1.6 astronomical units from the Earth (about 150 million miles) at the time of closest approach, around midday Sunday. Amateur astronomers with telescopes 8 inches in diameter or larger might be able to view the very faint comet and Mars together, side by side, in their telescope that night and the night before closest approach.

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Jimmy Westlake: With a name like Uranus

I am writing today to inform you that now is the prime time to see Uranus up in the sky. Uranus, with its dingy rings and its entourage of 27 moons, will be closest to the Earth for this year on the night of Oct. 7, an event called opposition.

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Jimmy Westlake: Total lunar eclipse coming next week

The second total eclipse of the moon this year happens during the wee morning hours of Oct. 8 when the full Harvest Moon once again slips into the shadow of the Earth.

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Jimmy Westlake: Spot Aquila the Eagle this week

Stroll outside on any early fall evening, look straight up, and there, three very bright stars will catch your eye, forming a giant triangle. The three stars are named Vega, Deneb and Altair and their familiar pattern is nicknamed the Summer Triangle.

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Jimmy Westlake: Lyra is heaven’s little harp

Vega is the alpha star in the constellation named Lyra, the Harp, and lies a mere 25 light years from Earth.

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Jimmy Westlake: Cygnus takes center stage

Vega, Deneb, and Altair — these are the three bright stars marking the corners of the Summer Triangle, the most prominent star pattern of late summer.

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Jimmy Westlake: Take the Neptune challenge

If you know right where to look, catching a glimpse of Neptune is not all that tough. I hereby challenge you to do something that few people have accomplished: find the planet Neptune with your binoculars.

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Jimmy Westlake: Cassiopeia hosts Comet Jacques this week

Passing close to the "W" of Cassiopeia this week is the little green fuzz ball called Comet Jacques. Discovered last March 13, Comet Jacques is due to pass a safe 52.4 million miles from Earth on Thursday.

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Jimmy Westlake: The Scutum Star Cloud

Scutum is an obscure little constellation, to be sure, with no star brighter than fourth magnitude and ranking only fourth in size among all the constellations. Even so, it is an easy constellation to find in the summer sky.

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Jimmy Westlake: Venus meets Jupiter in the beehive

When Venus meets Jupiter Monday morning, they will appear a mere 1/3 degrees apart, less than the width of a single full moon.

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Jimmy Westlake: Super moon to stifle meteor shower

Instead of writing about the upcoming Perseid meteor shower, I'll tell you about that big, bright, full moon that will be drowning out the meteor shower. The second full moon of summer is sometimes called the Green Corn moon. It so happens that this year’s Green Corn moon will also be a so-called “super moon.”

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Jimmy Westlake: Two giants of summer

Rasalgethi (pronounced ras-al-geth’-ee) is a remarkable star. It is one of the reddest stars visible to the unaided eye and, with its faint emerald green companion star, makes for a wondrous sight through a telescope.

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Jimmy Westlake: The teapot at the end of the Milky Way

When the last rays of the summer sun fade from the evening sky, the misty star clouds of the Milky Way come into view, arching high overhead like a colorless rainbow.

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Jimmy Westlake: Dark clouds on the horizon

If the night sky is dark and clear, you also can detect a network of dark clouds and tendrils meandering through the bright star clouds of the Milky Way. These dark patches are vast interstellar dust clouds thousands of light years away that gather in the space between the stars and effectively obscure the light of the distant stars behind them.