Those bright lights in the sky (Mars, Saturn & Jupiter)
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Those bright lights in the sky (Mars, Saturn & Jupiter)

Jupiter and Saturn will appear to merge in the sky, with the naked eye … Of course, it is an illusion due to our line of sight … Saturn in actuality will be about a half a billion miles beyond Jupiter.) The two haven’t appeared this close together since the year 1623 …

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Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice! (astronomy)

According to the 1988 film Beetlejuice, the incantation in this article’s headline will summon the unpredictable entity Betelgeuse to explosive life–and a lot of folks, including this author, are hoping it will work.
ast week, we promised we would talk more about the very bright red star Betelgeuse that marks the right armpit of the constellation of Orion. The occasion is this: The star actually isn’t very bright anymore. What was once the 11th brightest star in the sky has now dwindled to number 28, and it keeps on falling.

Living on the Edge (astronomy)
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Living on the Edge (astronomy)

Folks in and around Lyons are accustomed to living on the edge. We’re not quite out on the flats, but not fully into the mountains either. We have one foot in the urban corridor, and the other in the wilderness. We’re right on the edge of the dome of night light that hangs over the Denver metropolitan area.

Late this past summer, I set out to investigate the impact of that glow on both visual stargazing and astrophotography. I ran tests from my rural home in X Bar 7, Sandstone Park in downtown Lyons, and the parking lot at Village at the Peaks (formerly Twin Peaks Mall) in Longmont.

Night skies above Lyons (astronomy)
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Night skies above Lyons (astronomy)

Humanity seems to have an insatiable desire to assign numerical scales to just about anything relating to size, quality, beauty, distance–anything that can be measured. But at times we seem to have trouble knowing whether we’re going forward or backward. A first-degree murder is considered more heinous than a second-degree one, but a third-degree burn is considerably worse than a second-degree burn. You would not want to be around for a magnitude 8 earthquake, while you likely would not even feel a magnitude 3 tremor. With beauty, a rating of 10 is considered absolute perfection, whereas it is the worst you can imagine when it comes to pain.
Against this setting of numerical confusion, we have the system of “stellar magnitudes,” which assigns a number to how bright a star appears in the sky.