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Jimmy Westlake

Stories by Jimmy

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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.

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Jimmy Westlake: Auriga, the Charioteer

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

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Jimmy Westlake: Looking down on the universe

Our Milky Way is flat, like a pancake made of star batter. It’s a spinning disk of stars about 100,000 light-years across but only 3,000 light-years thick. During the early evenings of late spring, we are positioned so that we can look straight up out of the top of our Milky Way pancake and into the intergalactic space that forms the rooftop of the sky.

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Jimmy Westlake: First comet landing expected Wednesday

If all goes according to plan, a little space probe named Philae will separate from the European Space Agency’s Rosetta spacecraft late Tuesday and make the first controlled landing on the surface of a comet Wednesday morning.

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Jimmy Westlake: See autumn’s trio of triangles

Nestled in between the constellations of Andromeda, Perseus and Pisces is a delightful little trio of stellar triangles, visible on crisp November evenings. Each triangle has an interesting history, all its own.

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Jimmy Westlake: Watch for Halloween fireballs

Don’t be surprised if you see a blazing fireball or two streaking across the heavens while you are out trick-or-treating this Halloween season. There’s no reason for alarm. It’s just the annual Taurid meteor showers reaching their peak of activity.

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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.

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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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