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Jimmy Westlake

Stories by Jimmy

Jimmy Westlake: It’s a shooting gallery out there

I have a recurring dream that a meteorite lands in my backyard and buries itself in a crater. I run out and sit on top of it, guarding it with a shotgun. Only in my dreams. For the good folks living in and near the town of Chelyabinsk, Russia, it was no dream.

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Jimmy Westlake: The face of a bull

“Beautiful” isn’t a word one usually uses to describe the face of a bull, but Taurus, the celestial bull, is an exception. The familiar V-shaped asterism of Taurus’ face hanging high in our winter sky is like no other group of stars visible from Earth.

Jimmy Westlake: Meet the Gemini twins

High overhead on February evenings you’ll find a close pair of bright stars, nearly equal in brightness. After seeing these stars, you probably would not be surprised to learn they always have been associated with the mythological Gemini twins.

Jimmy Westlake: A rodent’s input on a seasonal date

Groundhog Day is coming up this week, marking the midpoint of winter. The tradition of this unusual holiday can be traced back many centuries, though not in the same form that we celebrate it today.

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Jimmy Westlake: The full moons of 2013

This month’s Snow Moon provides a wonderful opportunity for a snowshoe hike after sunset — and it just might tell you when that next big snowstorm is coming.

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Jimmy Westlake: When the moon meets Jupiter

After the sun goes down Jan. 21, step outside and marvel at the 10-day-old waxing gibbous moon and the dazzling planet Jupiter sitting side by side. The two will be less than 1 degree apart for most of the early evening.

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Jimmy Westlake: Winter’s hexagon of stars

At about 8 p.m. on cold January evenings, you can spot the Winter Hexagon of stars. It spotlights eight of the 20 brightest stars in Earthly skies — and five of these are in the top 10: Sirius, Capella, Rigel, Procyon and Betelgeuse.

Jimmy Westlake's 2013 Cosmic Calendar of Celestial Events

Jimmy Westlake's 2013 Cosmic Calendar of Celestial Events

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Jimmy Westlake’s top 10 celestial events for 2013

2013 will be the Year of the Comet. If they live up to their potential, Comet PanSTARRS and Comet ISON will be the real headline grabbers in 2013, but there are plenty of bright planets and showers of shooting stars to keep us looking up all year long.

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Jimmy Westlake: Quadrantid meteors to light the sky

No need to fret if you missed the dazzling Geminid meteor showers earlier this month — January's Quadrantid meteor shower provides another great opportunity to watch so-called "shooting stars" light up the evening sky over Northwest Colorado.

Jimmy Westlake: Doomsday or just another solstice?

I’m a survivor. I must be, but I don’t know how or why. I have survived doomsday many times over and have lived to tell the tale.

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Jimmy Westlake: Here come the Geminids

Get ready, because here comes the best meteor shower of the year. It’s the annual Geminid meteor shower and, if the sky is clear, we could be treated to 120 shooting stars per hour on the night of the shower’s peak.

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Jimmy Westlake: The colors of Orion

Now that the full moon is out of the way for another month, it’s time to do some stargazing. At the top of your list should be the magnificent constellation of Orion the Hunter.

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Jimmy Westlake: Awaiting the big news from Mars

NASA’s intrepid robotic explorer Curiosity has made a significant discovery this month in the red sands of Mars, but NASA officials are being very tight-lipped about what that discovery is.

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Jimmy Westlake: Tale of 2 clusters

Stars are born in clusters — families of dozens to hundreds of stars that share the same age and chemical makeup — but they don’t remain in clusters their whole lives.

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Jimmy Westlake: Jupiter rules the night

Have you noticed the really bright “star” rising over the eastern mountains shortly after darkness falls? It’s not really a star at all — it’s the giant planet Jupiter, the largest planet in our solar system.

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Jimmy Westlake: Catch a view of Pisces the Fish this month

Tucked in just beneath the constellations of Pegasus and Andromeda, Pisces represents the mythological characters of Venus and her son Cupid.

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Jimmy Westlake: Sea monster fills eastern sky

Wedged in between the bright star Fomalhaut to the south and the glittering Pleiades star cluster to the east is the huge, lumbering constellation of Cetus the Whale.

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Jimmy Westlake: View Southern Fish this month

Shining brightly in the southern sky as darkness falls is one of autumn’s few bright stars, a blue gem named Fomalhaut (pronounced FOAM-a-low).

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Jimmy Westlake: Here come the Orionid meteors

Did you see Halley’s Comet when it sailed past Earth in 1985 and 1986? If not, you’ll have to wait until 2061 for another chance, because Halley’s Comet only comes around once every 76 years.

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Jimmy Westlake: Super comet coming next year?

This week I have some really exciting celestial news to share. Astronomers have announced the discovery of a new comet that might — and I emphasize might — become the brightest comet seen from the Northern Hemisphere in many decades, if not centuries.

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Jimmy Westlake: The harvest moon illusion

The first full moon of autumn traditionally is called the “harvest moon.” Watch for that big harvest moon to rise over the eastern mountains.

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Jimmy Westlake: See 3 galaxies this week

What’s the farthest thing you can see without a telescope? Would you believe 15,000,000,000,000,000,000 miles on a clear night? That’s 15 quintillion miles!

Jimmy Westlake: Thanks, Neil, for everything

I was going into the 11th grade when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first humans to set foot on another world. It was the hot summer of ’69 and I was visiting my Aunt Alice in Appleton City, Mo.

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Jimmy Westlake: The Eyes of the Dragon

Peering at us on late-summer evenings are the twinkling eyes of Draco the Dragon. This constellation represents Ladon, the dragon that guarded the golden apples of the Hesperides in Greek mythology.

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Jimmy Westlake: Blue moon due Friday

Have you ever seen a blue moon hanging up in the sky? Well, this month you can, but you might be surprised to learn that a “blue moon” has nothing at all to do with the moon’s color.

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Jimmy Westlake: The 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.

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

Legend has it that a pot of gold awaits you at the end of the rainbow, if you are lucky enough to find it. No luck at all is required, however, to find the pot of tea at the end of the Milky Way.

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Jimmy Westlake: Catch a falling star this weekend

The annual Perseid meteor shower, which dependably produces 60 or more "falling stars" per hour at its peak, is under way and is expected to peak before dawn Sunday.

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Jimmy Westlake: Curiosity prepares for Mars landing

NASA’s roving vehicle named Curiosity is scheduled to land Monday on Mars and begin searching for hints of ancient Martian life.

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Jimmy Westlake: Summer meteor showers

If you’ve noticed an increase in the number of shooting stars in recent nights, there’s a good reason. This month’s annual Delta Aquarid meteor shower is increasing in activity as we get closer to its peak on the morning of July 29.

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Jimmy Westlake: Magnificent summer Milky Way

When the bright moon is not in the sky, the dark summer night reveals one of its most spectacular treasures, the soft, misty glow of the Via Lactea, or the Milky Way.

Jimmy Westlake: Bright planets light morning sky

It seems like something is missing from our evening sky. For the first several months of 2012, the dazzling “evening star” Venus dominated our evening sky as soon as the sun went down.

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Jimmy Westlake: Star party not near Hollywood

Come join other astronomy enthusiasts at what is being billed as the first annual “Stagecoach Star Party” at 9 p.m. Friday at the Morrison Cove boat ramp on the south shore of Stagecoach Reservoir.

Jimmy Westlake: Summer begins this week

The summer solstice, marking the official end of spring and the beginning of summer in the northern hemisphere, occurs this year at 5:08 p.m. local time Wednesday.

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Jimmy Westlake: The Summer Triangle

When the sun goes down and the summer stars come out, three of the first ones you see, high in the northeastern sky, will be the trio of bright stars that forms the corners of the Summer Triangle.

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Jimmy Westlake: Chasing the moon’s shadow

To date, I’ve spent 31 minutes and 23 seconds in the shadow of the moon, watching and photographing eclipses of the sun. Because the moon’s shadow rarely comes to me, I have to chase it around the world, wherever it might fall.

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Jimmy Westlake: Don’t miss rare transit of Venus

“By far the noblest (sight) astronomy affords.” That’s how Sir Edmund Halley of Halley’s Comet fame described a transit of the planet Venus across the face of the sun.

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Jimmy Westlake: Partial lunar eclipse on horizon

In an eerie re-creation of last December’s sunrise lunar eclipse, the full moon once again will slip into the Earth’s dark shadow by the dawn’s early light on the morning of June 4.

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Jimmy Westlake: The Centaur peeks in

Centaurs figured heavily in the mythology of the ancient Greeks — so much so that two of them are immortalized in the stars as our constellations of Sagittarius the Archer and Centaurus the Centaur.

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Jimmy Westlake: ‘Super moon’ or super hype?

I can’t help but chuckle a little when the news media pick up on a rather mundane celestial event and blow it way out of proportion. Such was the case with this past weekend’s so-called “super moon.”

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Jimmy Westlake: May’s magnificent ring eclipse

Not since May 10, 1994, has a central eclipse of the sun been seen from the 48 contiguous United States. It has been a long eclipse drought, but come May 20, folks living in the southwestern U.S. will have a ringside seat for an annular eclipse of the sun.

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Jimmy Westlake: The Crow and the Cup

Winging his way across our springtime sky is a delightful little constellation named Corvus the Crow. In most constellations, the designation Alpha is bestowed upon the brightest star, but Corvus is a notable exception.

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Jimmy Westlake: Saturn and a shower of meteors

April not only brings snow and rain showers to the mountains of Northwest Colorado, it also brings the annual Lyrid meteor shower.

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Jimmy Westlake: Bootes, the Bear Watcher

There are 88 constellations in our sky, and only one of them begins with the letter B: Bootes the Herdsman, and it could be the most ancient of our constellations.

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Jimmy Westlake: Look into infinity and beyond

In space, there is no up or down, no top or bottom. On Earth, gravity defines our “down” as toward the center of the Earth and our “up” as the direction opposite that, but these have no meaning once you are away from the Earth’s influence.

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Jimmy Westlake: My favorite stars: Mizar, Alcor

One of the sure signs that spring has arrived is the return of the Big Dipper to our early evening sky. Look toward the northeastern sky at about 9 p.m. to find the seven bright stars of the Big Dipper, propped up on its handle.

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Jimmy Westlake: Easter and Equinoxes

Ah, springtime. The early signs are all here: the mud, the blackbirds, the return of the Big Dipper to our early evening sky, more mud and the gradual lengthening of our daylight hours.

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Jimmy Westlake: My Favorite Stars: La Superba

Have you ever seen a red star? No, I mean a really red star. Tucked in under the handle of the Big Dipper is one of the reddest stars in the sky, named La Superba.

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Jimmy Westlake: Venus and Jupiter light up the night

During the first two weeks of March our evening sky is swarming with bright planets — Mars in the east and Jupiter and Venus in the west. You might even catch a glimpse of the elusive Mercury.