Jimmy Westlake columns


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Jimmy Westlake: Plenty to see in July’s skies

Warm summer nights are the perfect time to wander out under the starry sky and enjoy the other half of nature up over our heads.

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Jimmy Westlake: How far is the sun?

Earth is farthest from the sun in early July each year, as the northern hemisphere is sweltering in the summer heat. This point in Earth’s orbit is called aphelion and literally means “farthest from the sun.”

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Jimmy Westlake: Yampa River Star Party this Saturday

If you wanted to attend the Stagecoach Star Party but were unable to for whatever reason, I have some good news. This coming Saturday evening, I will be conducting a second summer stargazing event out at the Yampa River State Park campground

Jimmy Westlake: Stagecoach Star Party this Friday

You are invited to join other astronomy enthusiasts from around the community for the “Stagecoach Star Party” this Friday at the Morrison Cove Boat Ramp on the Southshore side of Stagecoach State Park beginning at 9:30 p.m., weather permitting.

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Jimmy Westlake: Northern crown adorns summer sky

To locate Corona Borealis, look high up in the eastern sky after darkness falls for a small half-circle of stars, like a letter ”C.” It’s about a third of the way from the bright star Arcturus toward the comparably bright star Vega to the east.

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Jimmy Westlake: Are you an Ophiuchan?

You can spot the gigantic house-shaped outline of the constellation of Ophiuchus high in the southeastern sky around 11 p.m. in early June. Look for him holding onto his pet serpent just above the fishhook-shaped pattern of Scorpius the Scorpion.

Jimmy Westlake: Spot the 'Horse and Rider'

If you have good vision, you can make out an eighth star in the Big Dipper, right beside Mizar, the star at the crook in the Dipper’s handle. This little star is Alcor. Mizar and Alcor have been known since antiquity as the “Horse and Rider.”

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Jimmy Westlake: New meteor shower due Friday night

This coming Friday night and Saturday morning, if astronomers’ calculations are correct, we might be treated to a brand-new meteor shower, possibly even a meteor storm.

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Jimmy Westlake: Catch Mercury at its best

Mercury and Venus each spend a brief time in our sky as an “evening star,” followed by a brief engagement as a “morning star.”

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Jimmy Westlake: Saturn joins the planet parade

Four bright planets will march across our early evening sky this month. Jupiter and Mars have already been in place for weeks, but Saturn will join the planet parade next week.

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Jimmy Westlake: The pivot of the sky

Just by coincidence, the Earth’s axis points almost directly at Polaris so that, as Earth spins, Polaris remains nearly motionless throughout the night – the pivot point for the whole sky.

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Jimmy Westlake: Spot Corvus and Crater in our spring sky

The four main stars of Corvus form an unmistakable kite-shaped pattern located one-third of the way up in our southern sky about 10 p.m. in late April. The distinctive pattern makes Corvus easy to spot.

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Jimmy Westlake: A late Easter this year

Have you ever wondered why the date of Easter Sunday hops around from year to year? Sometimes it falls in March and sometimes, in April. In fact, Easter Sunday can come as early as March 22 or as late as April 25.

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Jimmy Westlake: Total lunar eclipse due here Monday

Total eclipses of the moon are unusual, but not rare. On April 14 and 15, we will be treated to the first total lunar eclipse of the upcoming tetrad.

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Jimmy Westlake: Red planet, red moon

Move over, Jupiter. There’s another bright planet poised to enter our evening sky in early April. You might already have noticed it, hovering over the eastern mountains about 10 p.m. It’s the planet Mars, and the Earth is rapidly approaching Mars for the closest approach we’ve had in six years.