Astro Bob's Backyard Astronomy

After a little break (of 25 years or so) Bob King is celebrating his retirement with a return to KUMD's airwaves!

After almost 40 years with the Duluth News Tribune, Bob is now retired. But scratch a print guy and you'll find a radio guy; King and then-UMD Planetarium Director Glen Langhorst hosted Startalk on KUMD for several years in the early '90s.

Listen for Astro Bob every other Tuesday at 8am on Northland Morning.

Full Moon over Lake Superior
Bob King

The only good thing about nights where the air temperature is -20 and the wind chill is worse is that you can be pretty sure the skies will be clear for star-gazing.

Venus, Mars and the "precious" nature of night vision this week on Astro Bob's Backyard Astronomy.

Smiling man next to a large home telescope
Courtesy of Bob King

It's Beargrease week, so of couse we asked Bob to talk about Sirius, the dog star on this week's show.


You can worry about the planet Jupiter throwing "comets and asteroids toward Earth like a sniper," or you can worry about comets ("essentially asteroids that are heavy on the ice").

Or you can just kick back, appreciate the additional 27 minutes of daylight we've picked up since the solstice, and contemplate the "molecular and atomic filters that each block a certain range of wavelengths of light" and help us create such beautiful sunrise and sunset photographs.

J. Skowron / OGLE / Astronomical Observatory, University of Warsaw

Betelgeuse will show up tonight, and unlike the similarly-named poltergeist, you don't even have to say its name three times.

AstroBob will have some helpful tips for red-giant-spotting on his blog, and you can read about scientists' concerns that "Betelgeuse is acting strange" here.

©Bob King. Used with permission.

The sun is pretty low in the skies these days, the first day of winter will be here before you know it, Venus is easy to see with Saturn alongside it (inspiring Astro Bob to write this love note to the planet!), and even though Bob says it's "no big deal," the Ursid meteor shower will peak over the weekend.

Robson Hatsukami Morgan/Unsplash

Next week, a conjunction* of Venus and Saturn ... and on Friday the 13th, consider a moonlight ski and a peek at the Geminid meteor shower!

You can read about more unearthly goings-on at Bob King's blog here.


Bob King/Stellarium

We've got the chance of northern lights tomorrow (Wednesday, November 20) but that will pale in comparison to Thursday night's meteor outburst!

This morning on StarDate, we discovered that, over the years, comets have gotten some seriously bad press.

In fact, in 1910, folks were so concerned about the gases they feared were emitted by the tail of Halley's Comet, they were buying up pills alleged to combat the toxins (Apparently for those too poor to afford the rental of a "submarine boat").

James Peacock/Unsplash

The clouds and rain may make themselves scarce later this week, just in time to give us good looks at two fun events in the sky.

More astro-news, resources for aurora forecasts and more goodies are available here.

©Bob King. Used wth permission.

The moon's going through an awkward phase.

It's gibbous right now, something Italian speakers know means convex on both edges, and fans of Stephen King know means scary and something awful is going to happen.

Bob King. Used with permission.

We hate the way dust makes things look at home, but it turns out dust makes sunsets look spectacular.

Volcanic eruptions in Russia's Kuril Islands are making our sunsets here in the Northland purple.

How does THAT work?  Astro Bob explains.

And in more astro-news, Bob reports there is a decent chance of auroras for the region this Friday and Saturday nights (September 27 and 28) and you can read more about that here.

©Bob King. Used with permission.

Skywatchers all over the northland will be celebrating the night skies beginning Sunday, September 15 ...

It's a week of classes and star parties; you can check out Starry Skies Lake Superior's web site for more details.

©Bob King. Used with permission.

As if having a  lovely long weekend to camp under the stars - and clear skies to enjoy them - wasn't enough,  we have northern lights to look forward to, possibly Saturday night!

Bob King's got the space weather forecast (with links for the three-day and the 27-day version) plus tips on how to photograph the aurora for yourself!