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Jimmy Westlake

Stories by Jimmy

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Jimmy Westlake: A tale of 2 star clusters

On cold, crisp December evenings, you can spot two glittering star clusters in the constellation of Taurus the Bull, high up in the eastern sky around 8 p.m. They are the Hyades and the Pleiades star clusters.

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Jimmy Westlake: Auriga, the Charioteer

What’s that flashy, golden star hovering over the northeastern mountains as darkness falls in mid-November? It’s Capella, the third brightest star visible in Colorado skies and the brightest star in our constellation of Auriga, the Charioteer.

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Jimmy Westlake: Go fishing for Pisces this month

The patch of the sky that appears overhead about 8 p.m. in early November is informally known as the “Celestial Sea.” That’s because it is home to all sorts of watery constellations, including the Dolphin, the Sea Goat, the Whale, the River, the Water Carrier and the Southern Fish, just to name a few.

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Jimmy Westlake: Watch for Taurid fireballs this week

Don’t be surprised if you see a blazing fireball or two streaking across the heavens during the early evening this week.

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Jimmy Westlake: A guided tour of the Halloween sky

This Halloween, while you are out trick-or-treating, take a moment to look up at the stars overhead.

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Jimmy Westlake: Welcome to Milkdromeda

Located at the staggering distance of two-million light years, Andromeda’s galaxy is the most distant object easily visible to the unaided human eye.

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Jimmy Westlake: Planets parade in morning sky

If you are an early riser, you might have noticed several bright objects in the pre-dawn sky and wondered what they are.

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Jimmy Westlake: Three defunct star patterns of fall

In 1929, the International Astronomical Union, or the IAU, sat down to weed through the hundreds of constellations that had been invented over the centuries, and when the smoke cleared, 88 star patterns remained.

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Jimmy Westlake: Total eclipse to darken the moon Sunday

The student members of the Colorado Mountain College SKY Club and I, along with Steamboat Today, would like to invite you and your family out to the CMC campus next Sunday evening for a special “Eclipse Watch” program.

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Jimmy Westlake: The Equinox and the Harvest Moon

Watch for that big ol’ Harvest Moon rising over the eastern mountains just as the sun sinks below the western mountains on Sept. 27.

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Jimmy Westlake: Baseball tonight at Pegasus Park

Hello sports fans. Did you know that there’s a baseball game tonight up in the stars? It’s true.

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Jimmy Westlake: The Eyes of the Dragon

Peering at us from out of the darkness on late summer evenings are the twinkling eyes of Draco, the Dragon.

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Jimmy Westlake: Cassiopeia ushers in autumn

One of the first star patterns to catch your eye in the late summer and early fall is a distinctive group of 5 bright stars in the northeastern sky that forms the shape of a letter “W.”

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Jimmy Westlake: Spot the two giants of summer

Two very large constellations, Ophiuchus, the Serpent Bearer, and Hercules, the Strong Man, take up a large chunk of our late summer sky. We see them standing head to head, high up in the southern sky as darkness falls.

Jimmy Westlake: Exploring the constellation Perseus

With the annual Perseid meteor shower rising to its peak activity this week, it’s a good time to introduce you to the constellation that gives this delightful shower of shooting stars its name.

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Jimmy Westlake: Don’t miss the Perseid meteor shower

The annual Perseid meteor shower is cranking up and is expected to peak around 2 a.m. MDT Thursday, Aug. 13.

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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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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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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Jimmy Westlake: April’s shower of meteors

This year, on Tuesday night, April 21 into Wednesday morning, April 22, the Earth will pass through the Lyrid dust swarm, creating 20 or more beautiful falling stars per hour.

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Jimmy Westlake: Nova Sagittarii bounces back

If you missed the “new star” in Sagittarius last month, like I did, when it was at its peak brightness, I have some good news.

Jimmy Westlake: Egg moon to be eclipsed Saturday

Early next Saturday morning, Coloradans will experience the third total lunar eclipse of the current tetrad of lunar eclipses.

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Jimmy Westlake: Exploding star visible before dawn

About 10,000 years ago, in a star system far, far away, a layer of superheated hydrogen gas on the surface of a dead star called a white dwarf erupted in a thermonuclear inferno. The light flash from that explosion finally arrived at Earth last week producing the brightest “nova stella” in our skies since at least August 2013.

Jimmy Westlake: Spring arrives Friday

The season of spring officially arrives in the Northern Hemisphere Friday at 3:45 pm, Colorado time. That’s the moment when the sun crosses the equator on its way north — what we call the vernal equinox.

Celestial News: The dippers of spring

The seven bright stars that form the Big Dipper shine prominently above the northeastern horizon as darkness falls in March. It looks as if the Big Dipper is balancing precariously on its bent handle.

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Jimmy Westlake: Dawn arrives at Ceres this week

Images taken of Ceres by NASA's Dawn spacecraft as it approaches the dwarf planet have far exceeded Hubble’s best shots. We now can see craters large and small pocking Ceres’ surface.

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Jimmy Westlake: Leo ushers in spring

The arrival of Leo into our early evening sky is a sure sign that springtime is not far behind.

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Jimmy Westlake: Spot the zodiacal light this week

This “zodiacal light” is visible as a pyramid-shaped glow that extends upward from the sunrise and sunset points on the horizon.

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Jimmy Westlake: Eridanus - a river of stars

Little star above Orion is the first star in a stream of stars that create a river in the sky.

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Jimmy Westlake: Jupiter closest to Earth this week

This Friday,Feb. 6, Jupiter will reach its closest point to the Earth this year and will remain the dominate star-like object in the nighttime sky through spring and summer.

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Jimmy Westlake: Pluto: The dot becomes a world

NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft, after a nine-year, 3 billion-mile journey, is poised to fly past Pluto this summer and reveal to us, at long last, the mysteries of this misfit planet and its five known moons.

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Jimmy Westlake: Explore the Pleiades and Comet Lovejoy this week

High overhead as darkness falls on cold January evenings is a tiny cluster of stars that is often mistaken for the Little Dipper. Although it does have a dipper shape, with a tiny little bowl and a tiny little handle, its real name is the Pleiades star cluster.

Jimmy Westlake: The Evening Star returns

Have you seen it yet? The planet Venus has come out of hiding from behind the sun and has entered our evening sky for a seven-month run as our lovely Evening Star.

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2015: A year of meteors, eclipses and dwarf planets

There is something exciting happening in the sky almost every night of the year if you know when and where to look. Jimmy Westlake has sifted through all of the 2015 celestial events and selected the 10 he is most excited about.

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Jimmy Westlake: A new Comet Lovejoy for the new year

It has been one year since Comet Lovejoy 2013 R1 glided across our winter sky and upstaged a much overrated and underperforming Comet ISON. Now, Australian comet-hunter Terry Lovejoy’s newest discovery, Comet Lovejoy 2014 Q2, is delighting sky gazers in the Northern Hemisphere.

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Jimmy Westlake: Quadrantid meteors due this weekend

Early risers on the morning of Sunday, Jan. 4 might see as many as 60 meteors per hour before dawn brightens the sky.

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Jimmy Westlake: Stargazing? Start with the Winter Hexagon

The Winter Hexagon spotlights eight of the 20 brightest stars in earthly skies and makes a superb starting point for backyard astronomers trying to learn their way around the winter sky.

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Jimmy Westlake: Canis Major — the Great Overdog

Sirius rises at about 8 p.m. Christmas Eve and about 30 minutes earlier, or 7:30 p.m., on New Year's Eve. Why not step outside with your family this holiday season and bark with “the Great Overdog that romps through the dark?”

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Jimmy Westlake: Get ready for the Geminid meteor shower

Get ready for the best meteor shower of the year. It’s the Geminid meteor shower, and it could bring as many as 120 shooting stars per hour to our sky.

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Jimmy Westlake: Orion returns

When you see Orion rising in the early evening, you can be certain that the winter snows are not far behind. Welcome back, old friend.