Astronomy magazine editors share their unique insight from behind the scenes of the science, hobby, and magazine.
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Day 1 of the SouthWest Astrophotography Seminar

Posted 14 hours ago by Michael Bakich
It’s the first day of the SouthWest Astrophotography Seminar (SWAP) in Tucson, Arizona. Approximately 130 dedicated imagers have gathered at the Hotel Tucson City Center InnSuites to teach and learn techniques that will produce better celestial images. Promptly at 10 a.m., one of the conference’s organizers, Warren Keller, led off with introductory remarks. Next up was Dennis Conti. It was his idea that formed the basis for the first day’s activities. Called “Birds of a ...
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An astronomy convention in Arizona

Posted 2 days ago by Michael Bakich
Tucson, Arizona, once again will be the center of astronomy, only this time it will be focusing on the general public. On Saturday and Sunday, November 1 and 2, the Arizona Science and Astronomy Expo (ASAE) will occur at the Tucson Convention Center. The doors open Saturday at 8:30 a.m. and the event goes until 6 p.m. Hours Sunday are 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. Tickets (available at the door or through Ticketmaster) for each day are $10 and allow access to all exhibits and talks. Kids 12 and under ge...
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New film focuses on Stephen Hawking's life: A Q&A with director James Marsh

Posted 6 days ago by Eric Betz
Then 32-year-old Stephen Hawking’s debilitating motor neuron disease was already rapidly advancing when his wife, Jane, found him tangled in his pajamas one day unable to move. He told her that he’d had an idea. It would become Hawking radiation.Director James Marsh says he relied on Newton’s-apple-type moments like this to help humanize science in his new film, The Theory of Everything. Along the way, he had help from theoretical physicist consultants who double-checked the eq...
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Meteorite hunters chase fireball near Grand Canyon

Posted 23 days ago by Eric Betz
A small team of veteran meteorite hunters is combing the desert south of Grand Canyon National Park in hopes of finding the remains of a fireball that lit up the skies of Flagstaff, Arizona, on Saturday.The daytime fireball sent out a sonic boom and left a small trail of smoke hovering in the sky just before 9 a.m. local time. Many residents took to social media to post photos of the strange sighting. Other witnesses reported seeing material coming out of the meteor as it broke up reentering t...
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Milestone for once-kidnapped Iraqi amateur astronomer

Posted 28 days ago by Eric Betz
Ten years ago, masked gunmen rushed the Baghdad offices of a humanitarian group working to rebuild schools, hospitals, and water treatment plants in Iraq. The men would kidnap Iraqi engineer and amateur astronomer Raad Abdul Aziz, along with two Italian aid workers and another Iraqi.As we are now, Astronomy was headed to print on the December issue at the time, which contained an aptly titled story on the then 35-year-old Abdul Aziz called “Wartime astronomy.” It detailed t...
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The 10 most important eclipses in history

Posted one month ago by Michael Bakich
Before I begin, let me make one thing clear: Despite the all-encompassing title, these are my choices for the top 10 most significant eclipses in history. Your list may vary, but I’m pretty sure it would include some of the ones I list below.Also, I’m of a mindset these days to blog about the upcoming total solar eclipse that the United States will experience August 21, 2017. All 10 eclipses on this list, therefore, are solar eclipses, though not necessarily total.Ready? Here we go...
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Astronomy magazine subscribers get "beamed" to Mars

Posted one month ago by Karri Ferron
Last month, Uwingu, a company that connects the public with the sky in order to raise funds for space exploration and astronomy research, announced its "Beam Me to Mars" project. Astronomy magazine is already sending its logo to raise money for research grants, and now we're partnering with Uwingu to beam the names of our more than 80,000 subscribers as well.The focus of "Beam Me to Mars" is to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the beginning of our exploration of the Red Planet by sending messag...
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10 images from the August 1, 2008, total solar eclipse

Posted one month ago by Michael Bakich
Everyone loves images of total solar eclipses. The first set I posted, from the March 29, 2006 event, proved popular. So, again looking forward to the August 21, 2017 total solar eclipse that will cross the United States, here’s a gallery of images from a similar event that took place August 1, 2008. The total phase of the eclipse began in northern Canada, then the track spent a lot of time over open water until it contacted Russia. Finally, people living under clear skies in parts of Chi...
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Build a safe solar pinhole viewer

Posted one month ago by Michael Bakich
OK, you want to view the Sun, but you don’t have an approved solar filter for your telescope. Maybe you don’t even have a telescope. No problem. I’ll bet you have a cardboard box. That and a few common supplies will let you build a pinhole viewer that you can observe the Sun with. And while I admit that the image you’ll see won’t rival that through a properly filtered telescope, it will be the Sun, and you can watch it as long as you want without any safety concerns...
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Make plans for the 2017 eclipse with this great map

Posted 2 months ago by Michael Bakich
You want to make plans to see the total solar eclipse that will cross the United States on August 21, 2017, but you don’t know where the best locations will be. Or even how to find out. No problem! French eclipse-chaser and mapmaker Xavier M. Jubier has done the work for you using Google Maps, and he’s allowed us to reproduce his work. Just click here. When you access the map, you’ll be able to zoom in and out (use the bar at the left edge) or move back and forth (click, hold...
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Antarctic microbes have astrobiologists looking to Europa

Posted 2 months ago by Eric Betz
There’s life half a mile beneath the icy surface of Antarctica. And that has astrobiologists talking about the possibilities for life on other planets. In a study published last week in the journal Nature, researchers say they’ve found what might be the first hints of a massive microbial ecosystem buried beneath as much as 5 million square miles (13 million square kilometers) of ice sheet.Scientists analyzed samples collected from the subglacial Lake Whillans and found a diverse comm...
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Prepping for 2017 with an eclipse workshop

Posted 2 months ago by Michael Bakich
On Thursday, August 21, I attended the first day of the second American Astronomical Society U.S. Solar Eclipse workshop. The first workshop took place at the American Center for Physics in College Park, Maryland, April 14 and 15, 2012. This one took place at the University of Missouri in Columbia. About 50 attendees listened to a number of presentations, including one that I gave, all related to the total solar eclipse that will sweep from Oregon to South Carolina on August 21, 2017. Some prog...
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8 reasons to view aurorae in Norway with Astronomy magazine

Posted 2 months ago by Michael Bakich
In association with TravelQuest International, Astronomy magazine is taking a group of up to 40 people to view the magnificent northern lights October 5–15, 2015. Here are eight reasons you should come along. 1. Location is everything The continental United States rarely experiences truly great aurorae. Norway often does. From such a location, the motion of the northern lights is more apparent, the duration is greater, and the colors are brighter and more varied. 2. You’re in the ...
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Images from the March 29, 2006, total solar eclipse

Posted 2 months ago by Michael Bakich
Astronomy magazine has a tier of top-notch image contributors who consistently send us their work. In addition, we receive sporadic (or even one-time) submissions from people who witness celestial events such as planetary lineups, meteor showers, and eclipses. In anticipation of the August 21, 2017, total solar eclipse, here’s a gallery of images from a similar event that took place March 29, 2006. The total phase of the eclipse was first visible in Brazil. The Moon’s dark inner sha...
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15 movies that feature eclipses

Posted 2 months ago by Michael Bakich
Not every blog you're going to read on this site is pure science. Some, like this one, are just for fun. It was a dark and stormy night. My wife, Holley, and I were watching a movie. All of a sudden, a total solar eclipse appeared. I asked her, “Can you think of any other movies that have eclipses in them?” She came up with a few, and I came up with a few, and in the couple of weeks that followed I fleshed out the following list of 15 flicks by chatting with a few movie-loving frien...
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A solar eclipse glossary

Posted 2 months ago by Michael Bakich
Here at Astronomy magazine, we definitely want you to be prepared for the total solar eclipse that will sweep across the United States on August 21, 2017. So that we’re all speaking the same language, we’ve prepared a brief glossary, which includes a few illustrations from past issues. altitude — the angular height of a point or celestial object above the horizon measured from 0° (on the horizon) to 90° (at the zenith).   angular diameter — the apparent si...
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Science Channel highlights a new space race in "Man vs. the Universe"

Posted 2 months ago by Karri Ferron
Space is the new final frontier, and with its latest three-part series, Science Channel drives that point. Premiering tonight at 10 p.m. EDT/PDT, Man vs. the Universe highlights the latest steps to claim neighboring solar system objects for exploration, resources, and survival. “For the first time ever, we’re taking proactive steps to protect ourselves from [space’s] perils and use its vast resources to ensure our survival,” Rita Mullin, general manager at Science Channe...
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Two dozen tips for the August 21, 2017, total solar eclipse

Posted 2 months ago by Michael Bakich
You know, I’ve served as a tour guide to 10 total solar eclipses. During my conversations and lectures, I’ve given people lots of advice. So, I thought why not repeat some of it here? I therefore present my top 25 tips related to the United States’ 2017 eclipse. 1. Take eclipse day off — now! You may think three years is a bit of a long lead time, and, unless you work for a magazine called Astronomy, it may be. The point I’m making is that August 21, 2017, may tur...
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25 facts you should know about the August 21, 2017, total solar eclipse

Posted 2 months ago by Michael Bakich
As I write this blog, I realize that the event is more than three years away. But it’s going to be so huge that I thought I’d list some of the important details for our readership, the general public, and the media. Hey, it’s never too early for knowledge, right? Anyway, these are the facts. 1. This will be the first total solar eclipse in the continental U.S. in 38 years. The last one occurred February 26, 1979. Unfortunately, not many people saw it because it clipped just fi...
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Science is everywhere (even Comic-Con)

Posted 3 months ago by Michael Bakich
Name a place you’d never expect to find a reference to science. (Note: I won’t accept “cable news” because that answer is too easy!) How about in stories written by the iconic author H. P. Lovecraft (1890-1937)? I’d have given you an A+ for that response. However, at 8 p.m. Saturday night at Comic-Con, I attended a panel called “Science in the Stories of H. P. Lovecraft.” And as fantastic, mythological, and bleak as his tales were, they did contain some ...
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7 misconceptions Comic-Con attendees have about Astronomy magazine

Posted 3 months ago by Michael Bakich
Here’s my thing. I’m at the 2014 San Diego Comic-Con with 160,000 crazed people. So, when I get into line, to start a bit of conversation I say, “Hi. I’m trying to meet everyone at this year’s Comic-Con. I have only 159,900 people to go. Where are you from?” After a few chuckles, I’ve had some great conversations with people from Oregon, England, Georgia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida, California, and more. And when they find out what I do, the comments s...
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NASA's a hit at Comic-Con

Posted 3 months ago by Michael Bakich
Who knew that our government space agency was so beloved in the ranks of geekdom? Well, now lots of people do. On Thursday, July 24, NASA presented its first panel ever at San Diego Comic-Con. Dr. Jim Green, the agency’s division director for planetary science, astronaut Mike Fincke, and the “Mohawk Guy,” Bobak Ferdowski (who actually works on projects like the Curiosity and Europa missions) appeared in a panel called “NASA’s Next Giant Leap,” where they disc...
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10 reasons I'm looking forward to Comic-Con

Posted 3 months ago by Michael Bakich
Once again, the world’s greatest pop-culture convention is happening. San Diego Comic-Con International 2014 officially starts Thursday, July 24, and runs through Sunday the 27th, with a preview night Wednesday, July 23, for professionals, exhibitors, and press. And for the second time, I’ll be attending as press to blog about what I see. Comic-Con started in 1970 as a three-day gathering called the Golden State Comic-Con. The event drew 300 people. Last year, the attendance swelled...
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Guest blog: Seagrave Memorial Observatory centennial (1914-2014)

Posted 3 months ago by Michael Bakich
Recently, David A. Huestis, Historian of Skyscrapers, Inc., sent in a blog about a century-old observatory. It’s a fascinating story we want to share with you. Skyscrapers, Inc., the Amateur Astronomical Society of Rhode Island, is proud to announce the celebration of the 100th anniversary of Seagrave Memorial Observatory on Peeptoad Road in North Scituate during our annual AstroAssembly convention, September 26 and 27. The former observatory of Frank Evans Seagrave (1860–1934), a f...
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Lincoln and the cosmos

Posted 3 months ago by Rich Talcott
Guest blog provided by Kirk R. Benson, a retired Naval Officer who works for the U.S. Navy as the Precise Time and Astrometry Program Manager. Every American owes a debt of gratitude to Abraham Lincoln, the man who rose from the humblest of beginnings to the presidency of a country whose soul was being tested, tortured, and redefined. By the summer of 1863, recurring casualty lists were a ghastly reality, and the fate of untold generations of Americans hung in the balance. Lincoln’s burde...
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Guest blog: The case for planet Pluto

Posted 3 months ago by Michael Bakich
This guest blog comes from Laurel Kornfeld, a freelance writer and enthusiastic amateur astronomer from Highland Park, New Jersey. The discovery that our solar system does not end with Pluto does not mandate that we accept the controversial IAU planet definition and artificially keep the number of solar system planets small. It is time to recognize a new paradigm, one in which planets are abundant and include spherical moons of gas giants and dwarf planets. Astronomers and educators should take...
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10 reasons Missouri should make August 21, 2017, a state holiday

Posted 3 months ago by Michael Bakich
A while back, I had what I thought was a radical idea. But as I began to write about it, I realized that it makes perfect sense for a number of reasons — well, at least 10. Three years from now, on August 21, 2017, the United States will experience the biggest astronomical event in its history — a total eclipse of the Sun. You think I’m kidding about that “biggest” proclamation? Then tell me something that topped it. Halley’s Comet? Not even close. In fact, i...
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10 awesome pieces of astronomy-inspired music

Posted 4 months ago by Michael Bakich
I almost titled this blog “The 10 most awesome …” but I realized — as capable as our Web server is — it probably couldn’t handle the stupendous number of comments, criticisms, and rants that I’d get. That said, I’m looking forward to hearing from you regarding which songs I should have included in this list and why. C’mon. Make your case. #10: Barenaked Ladies, “The History of Everything” from Hits from Yesterday and the Day Bef...
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The 10 lamest deep-sky object names

Posted 4 months ago by Michael Bakich
All deep-sky objects (any celestial object outside the solar system) are cool. Either they’re colorful, detailed, or just plain huge — astronomically huge. But, oh, man, some of the names that people have come up with to describe them! Let’s just say it might have been better to keep referring to them by their numbers in whatever sky catalog they’re in, notable or obscure. So, here’s my list of the 10 lamest monikers for awe-inspiring objects. And I’m pretty ...
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Get to know the night sky with Astronomy magazine's new app!

Posted 4 months ago by Karri Ferron
Our universe is filled with countless wonders: planets, double stars, nebulae, galaxies, and much more. And as a hobby, astronomy provides so much to explore. But a dark sky with seemingly countless stars can appear overwhelming to many just getting into astronomy (I know it was for me). Just where does a newbie begin?With that question in mind, our staff has created a new tablet app to guide novice observers: Discover Astronomy. For decades, the insightful editors of Astronomy magazine have bee...

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