Hail and Farewell

HAIL to ATK’s Liberty Transportation System, under development by a U.S.-French team. Combining a first stage from the company’s Utah complex and a French second stage, Liberty may be the vehicle to get America back into the crewed rocket business. The 300-foot rocket will be capable of ferrying astronauts and supplies to the International Space Station –- and even to an inflatable orbiting habitat designed by Bigelow Aerospace … Continue reading»

Summer Dreams: Glowing Gas and Twisters

The Lagoon Nebula is one of the grandest deep-space objects. Never extending high above the horizon from our vantage point, this patch of nebulosity and stars lurks toward the center of our galaxy in the constellation Sagittarius, best seen in the summer. It’s so large and bright that in dark skies it can be seen by naked eye as a dim gray patch, if you’re not distracted by … Continue reading»

An Ornament

The planetary nebula NGC7048 floats in the midst of the star-swarm of the Milky Way, part of the summertime constellation Cygnus the Swan. From our vantage, it’s about 60 by 50 arc-seconds in size; its magnitude is 11.3.Announcing its discovery in the journal Publications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, astronomer Heber D. Curtis wrote in September, 1919, that NGC7048 is “a rather faint oval, with slight … Continue reading»

Long Ago In A Galaxy Far, Far Away

This is a good time to remember the joys of midsummer astronomy, if only to divert our minds momentarily from hurricane-force winds, wrecked fences, downed giant spruces and snow.I spent the balmy night of July 28-29 at the site in Tooele County that Utah astronomers call Lakeside, complaining to myself about the heat — with the air at 60 degrees, my camera’s temperature regulator could only get down … Continue reading»

Exciting Prospect for Extraterrestrial Life

The icy moon Europa may prove the most exciting destination in outer space that NASA could explore. [Europa, in a photo from the Galileo spacecraft. Image reprocessed by Prof. Ted Stryk of Roane State Community College, Oak Ridge, Tennessee.] One of Jupiter’s horde of at least 65 satellites, Europa is second out from the planet and its third-largest. Slightly smaller than our moon, it’s big enough that Galileo … Continue reading»

A Black Hole's Glowing Tornado

What would nights be like if Earth were located in the galaxy Messier 77? Say it’s not too far from the galaxy’s nucleus; close enough to see the fireworks.As we gaze toward the galactic center, the way we look to the beautiful star clouds of Sagittarius low in the south on a clear summer night, an incredible scene presents itself. A monstrous, thick, glowing structure reaches outwards, a … Continue reading»


Jupiter, king of the planets, rules the night sky during October. The gas giant rises in the east-northeast around 6:30 p.m., reaches its zenith around 60 degrees altitude by 1:30 a.m. and at dawn remains visible near the western horizon. The best Jupiter photos by a Utah amateur astronomer, that I’ve ever seen, were made by my friend David Rankin on the night of Oct. 22. He took … Continue reading»

Einstein and Cosmology

The University of Utah’s Adam S. Bolton is using an effect predicted by Albert Einstein to assess galaxies billions of light-years away. [Adam S. Bolton speaks at the October monthly meeting of the Salt Lake Astronomical Society, Oct. 18, 2011. Photo by Cory Bauman] An assistant professor in the Department of Physics & Astronomy, Bolton spoke Tuesday at the monthly meeting of the Salt Lake Astronomical Society, held … Continue reading»

She's Mine at Last!

For two years I’ve been wooing a real beauty, without success until now.It’s the lovely spiral galaxy NGC7331, a good target in the autumn, riding high in the constellation Pegasus.The first time I tried, in September 2009, I imaged it from our backyard. Salt Lake City’s heavy light pollution intruded and the galaxy’s portrait was hideous, a greenish-toned mess with multiple “dust doughnut” flaws that showed up all … Continue reading»

Splendor and the Dust

When I glanced through the rear-view mirror, the Jeep’s back window looked like it was in a car-wash, except that instead of water it was flooded with tawny dust, dust that shot upward in standing waves from the window’s bottom and fanned out, tumbled down, replaced instantly with more dust boiling up in a continuous opaque flow.Mat Hutchings, who had met me at I-80’s Tooele exit, waited until … Continue reading»