The Nightly News
An Astronomy blog by Joe Bauman, Salt Lake City
  1. Blog 15: Building the observatory
    07 May, 2017
    Blog 15: Building the observatory
    The previous blog began the story of Mike Clements’ huge telescope and the plans for its relocation to the Salt Lake Astronomical Society's observatory complex in Stansbury Park, Tooele County. The focus was on the Salt Lake County man’s inspiration, drive, genius and hard work to make his dream come true -- to build the world’s largest amateur telescope. This astonishing instrument has a 70-inch-diameter mirror that weighs 900 pounds; when stowed horizontally the mirror housing combined with
  2. Blog 14: An amazing telescope
    27 Apr, 2017
    Blog 14: An amazing telescope
    Sometime before the end of June, families, government officials, invited guests and astronomy geeks will gather in Stansbury Park, Tooele County, to celebrate the opening of a new feature of the Salt Lake Astronomical Society’s observatories. It will be the fourth big telescope stationed at the site, the Stansbury Park Observatory Complex (SPOC), and the largest of the group. In fact, the telescope built by Mike Clements dwarfs all other amateur telescopes in the world. The main mirror is a
  3. Blog 13: The Garden of Enceladus
    17 Apr, 2017
    Blog 13: The Garden of Enceladus
    The news last week from Saturn’s moon Enceladus was thrilling. The possibility of life elsewhere in the solar system suddenly seems highly plausible. Less than two years ago, scientists of the Cassini-Huygens project announced that the Cassini probe orbiting Saturn had found evidence that Enceladus has an ice-covered ocean that envelops the little moon. It was discovered through analyzing the moon’s wobble, which was different from what it would have been if Enceladus were solid. The motion
  4. Blog 12: Galaxies
    07 Apr, 2017
    Blog 12: Galaxies
    For my subspecies of astronomer -- amateur, galaxy-obsessed -- spring is the best time of the year. This is galaxy season in the northern hemisphere. Awe-inspiring groups of the great star conglomerations swing into the fields of our telescopes. Once again, the nearby Virgo Cluster of 1,000-plus members presents an amazing collection of spiral and elliptical galaxies, while the far more distant Coma Cluster and its 10,000, many of them dwarf ellipticals, pose nicely for photography. And if good
  5. Blog 11: The Home observatory-plus
    27 Mar, 2017
    Blog 11: The Home observatory-plus
    Tonight is cloudy and wet, here in the Salt Lake City area. Scanning the astronomy discussion site,, you come across an exciting announcement: a bright supernova has erupted in a galaxy that is well-placed in the night sky. You’re itching to photograph this cosmic catastrophe -- but the weather here is abominable. Checking the Utah charts section of the web site, you find that for this night alone, southern Utah has a nice clear break in the weather, but the
  6. Blog 10: New candidates for gravitational wave detections
    17 Mar, 2017
    Blog 10: New candidates for gravitational wave detections
    The world’s most advanced astrophysics observatory is continuing its search for colossal collisions and other strange occurrences throughout the universe -- events that it alone can detect -- and has found at least three new candidate events. This is the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory, whose two components detected the collision of a pair of black holes on Sept. 14, 2015, a few days after the upgraded instrument was switched on. The epochal announcement came on Feb. 11,
  7. Blog 9: Exploring Distant Worlds
    07 Mar, 2017
    Blog 9: Exploring Distant Worlds
    Imagine a manmade "Dragonfly" of a robotic laboratory churning through the orange atmosphere of Saturn’s moon Titan, alighting wherever scientists want it to land. It could skim over lakes, photograph rugged river valleys that cut through mountains, and settle onto the landscape to sample alien chemistry. Or think of a "Clipper" spacecraft repeatedly skimming over the icy surface of Europa, Jupiter’s large moon, sniffing out compounds that spew from cracks in the surface, and possibly detecting
  8. Blog 8: Exoplanet Fever
    27 Feb, 2017
    Blog 8: Exoplanet Fever
    It would be hard to overestimate the importance of NASA’s latest exoplanet discovery, but I did. On Feb. 20, a news release from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, notified the world that a major announcement about planets around other stars was imminent: "NASA will hold a news conference at 10 a.m. PST (1 p.m. EST) Wednesday, Feb. 22, to present new findings on planets that orbit stars other than our sun, known as exoplanets. The event will air live on NASA Television and the agency's
  9. Blog 7: Sketching the Heavens
    17 Feb, 2017
    Blog 7: Sketching the Heavens
    Most astronomers admire our celestial neighborhood through their telescopes using one or more of these methods: eyeing, writing notes, or photographing. But a handful among every thousand or so has found a more artistic way: drawing. Jay Eads, curriculum technology specialist for the Jordan School District, is one of the rare amateurs who hone their visual acuity and artistic skills to reproduce the views seen in a telescope. This is far more difficult than peering through one and goggling at
  10. Blog 6: Stars
    07 Feb, 2017
    Blog 6: Stars
    During a long night of astronomy, I simply look up at the stars. Unattended, the telescope tracks and the camera continues to record ancient light. I am overwhelmed by the striking views, amazed by the beauty of a myriad stars, and at the same time I feel alone and small among the vast, cold regions of space. Take a walk and gawk at the stars. In the still, moonless hours after dusk – really the only period when deep-space objects are fit to photograph – starlight is bright enough to light your
  11. Blog 5: The Beautiful Horsehead
    27 Jan, 2017
    Blog 5: The Beautiful Horsehead
    Nothing in astronomy captures the imagination like the Horsehead Nebula. It takes the form of the head and neck of a mighty phantom horse, a dark ghostly beast with a roiling mane, seen against a glowing pinkish curtain that is streaked with vertical folds and mysterious horizontal waves – all of it spattered with random white spheres. The spheres are stars, gigantic nuclear furnaces like our sun.                 [The Horsehead Nebula, photographed by Joe Bauman, Oct. 29-30, 2014. See the
  12. Blog 4: New Critter in the Cosmic Zoo
    17 Jan, 2017
    Blog 4: New Critter in the Cosmic Zoo
    Scientific progress often creeps along incrementally – a deeper understanding of a gene function here, better dating of a geological feature there. Rare is the discovery of a whole category, such as the new lemur-like mammal that the World Wildlife Fund recently photographed in Borneo. Add a new species to the cosmic zoo, thanks to the work of Dr. Anil Chandra Seth, an astrophysicist at the University of Utah, who along with his team have now identified and proven four examples of a previously
  13. Blog 3: A Cosmic Display Eclipsing All Others
    07 Jan, 2017
    Blog 3: A Cosmic Display Eclipsing All Others
    2017 is the year of what’s justly dubbed “the Great American Eclipse,” with the total solar eclipse of Aug. 21 swooping across the contiguous 48 states. The last time a complete sun power failure darkened any part of the mainland United States was in 1979 and the next will be in 2024. This will be the “first to sweep across the entire country since 1918!” proclaims the Internet site Having witnessed five of them, I am certain a total solar eclipse is the most spectacular
  14. The Orion Nebula (M42) and its neighbor (M43)
    27 Dec, 2016
    Blog 2: The Orion Nebula
    Some crisp, clear winter night, duck outside and gawk at the sky. It’s not the best season to fire up a telescope, with the triple threat of frost, snow and cold-weather damage to equipment, but binoculars and even the unaided human eyes can deliver beautiful celestial treats. One of my favorite wintertime deep-space objects is the only nebula that I have seen with the naked eye (well, naked except for gasses), the Great Orion Nebula. It’s a centerpiece of the constellation Orion, a figure of
  15. Blog 1: About the Star of Bethlehem
    17 Dec, 2016
    Blog 1: About the Star of Bethlehem
    Astronomical images occasionally pop up on coins, from a comet on a Roman issue marking the ascension of Julius Caesar’s soul, to the Star of David on Moroccan money of the twelfth or thirteenth centuries, to the moon landing commemorated on the reverse of Eisenhower and Anthony dollars. You might imagine the silver piece shown here is a Medieval European coin displaying one of the Three Wise Men following the Star of Bethlehem – but that’s not exactly right. The Bible’s sole mention of the

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