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

Sarah preps for flights on SOFIA

Posted 4 years ago by Sarah Scoles
Today, I arrived in Palmdale, California, for a week of staying up all night, sleeping all day (or trying to), and flying on the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) — actions that are mostly foreign to me at this point in my life. Two other Airborne Astronomy Ambassadors and I toured the hangar at Dryden Aircraft Operations Facility, out of which NASA flies five Earth- and space-science research planes, including SOFIA. We also received safet...
0

Sarah takes a trip on SOFIA, the flying infrared observatory

Posted 4 years ago by Sarah Scoles
If you’re going to decline an invitation, it’s best to have a good excuse. A few days ago, I was able to say, “You know what, I’d love to go see live music on Tuesday, but I’ll be on a plane in the stratosphere” — a response that I probably will never be able to top. Next week, I’ll be traveling to California to take flight on the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) as an Airborne Astronomy Ambassador. SOFIA is a modifi...
2

Visit MMT Observatory in new video

Posted 4 years ago by Liz Kruesi
Want to know what a night of observing at a major observatory is like? Jason Davis, a graduate student at the University of Arizona, has created a great video of a typical evening at the MMT Observatory, south of Tucson, Arizona. This 6.5-meter telescope sits 8,550 feet above sea level atop Mount Hopkins. If you don’t have the opportunity to spend a night observing at a major telescope facility, Davis’ great video gives you a sense of life as an astronomer and explains some of the r...
0

Results from a big sidewalk astronomy event in Philadelphia

Posted 4 years ago by Michael Bakich
Derrick Pitts, chief astronomer at the Franklin Institute Science Museum, recently sent us a report on a large public event his facility participated in Saturday, April 20. He said that he and his staff set up just outside the institute on the main street in front of their building as part of the Philadelphia Science Festival’s kickoff event, Science Carnival. Amateur astronomers had four telescopes observing the Sun or Jupiter on the sidewalk for the whole time. Thousands of people showe...
0

American Astronomical Society meeting: The last full day

Posted 4 years ago by Sarah Scoles
Today is the last full day of the American Astronomical Society's (AAS) 222nd conference. Before you cry about that, remember that the discoveries will continue to roll out, even if the astronomers aren't having mid-morning coffee breaks with 500 of their closest friends. Their probing questions and productive collaborations will continue after the hotels' mandatory 11 a.m. check-out times. The first speaker of the day was Steve Howell, an astronomer with a ponytail, who is the Deputy...
1

Tuesday at the American Astronomical Society conference

Posted 4 years ago by Sarah Scoles
When you bring people from many different time zones together for a conference, it's a good idea to begin the day with a presentation about "the largest energy-release events in the solar system." These events are, of course, solar eruptions, and today at the American Astronomical Society (AAS) meeting, Tibor Török of Predictive Science, Inc., updated us on the latest questions and the models attempting to answer them. These models are computer simulations (not Heidi Klum), and they s...
0

The American Astronomical Society and Indiana Astronomical Society co-sponsor a star party

Posted 4 years ago by Sarah Scoles
Last night, the American Astronomical Society (AAS) and the Indiana Astronomical Society co-hosted a public star party. The event was BYOT (Bring Your Own Telescope), and people did! Astronomers set up shop and showed visitors double stars and Saturn. Three of the ringed planet's moons were visible, even from downtown Indianapolis. The International Space Station passed overhead just after 10 p.m. We waved from the steps of Indy's banking buildings. I think the astronauts probably saw. Right? H...
0

The American Astronomical Society's 222nd conference: Dispatches from day 1

Posted 4 years ago by Sarah Scoles
You know it's going to be a good conference when someone changes the desktop background of the opening presenter's computer from an image of the Milky Way to a photo of race cars. You also know, then, that you're in Indianapolis at the American Astronomical Society's (AAS) 222nd meeting, which I am. Today was the first day of talks, poster sessions, limited free coffee, and scientific results. The day began with former AAS President David Helfand's welcoming address, a hopeful commentary on th...
0

"After Earth," the movie: Science meets science fiction in an interview with Joseph Levine

Posted 4 years ago by Sarah Scoles
The summer apocalyptic action movie that comes out today — After Earth — may be science fiction, but its premise leans toward the former rather than the latter of those two words. This film, directed by M. Night Shyamalan and starring cutlass-wielding Will and Jaden Smith, begins 1,000 years after humans rocketed off planet Earth because air, water, tectonic activity, and temperatures (you know, pretty much everything) became dangerous or toxic. Humans built ark-like spaceships...
4

A week to remember: The 2013 Texas Star Party

Posted 4 years ago by Michael Bakich
Guest blog by Astronomy columnist Erika Rix In West Texas near Fort Davis, the Texas Star Party (TSP) has been going strong since 1979. What began as a gathering of fewer than 100 astronomy enthusiasts has blossomed to between 400 and 800 attending during subsequent years. Having moved to the Lone Star State only a year ago, I was excited to make the scenic seven-hour journey to Prude Ranch to experience this star party firsthand. Sunday, May 5, kicked off the first night. After setting up our...
0

Discover the Universe in Ottawa

Posted 4 years ago by Sarah Scoles
In April, Canada's Ottawa Valley Astronomy and Observer’s Group (OAOG) participated in the Astronomical League-sponsored Astronomy Day. On a specified day (April 20 this year), astronomical societies, planetariums, museums, and observatories host events all over the world so that people across all latitudes and longitudes can experience the coolness what’s above our heads. This year, the OAOG also made its event part of Astronomy magazine’s Discover the Universe&...
0

An interview with the "Toy Hunter" at C2E2

Posted 4 years ago by Karri Ferron
A few weeks ago, I attended the Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo (C2E2). The 2013 version of C2E2 ran April 26–28, and the venue was the North Building of Chicago’s McCormick Place. Like most “comic” conventions these days, C2E2 also covers all aspects of pop culture. I managed to get press credentials again this year and started searching for potential interviews. When the Travel Channel contacted me about a possible interview with Jordan Hembrough of its Toy Hunt...
0

Attend the American Astronomical Society conference and star party in Indianapolis

Posted 4 years ago by Sarah Scoles
If you enjoy astronomy, convention centers, and knocking elbows with top-notch scientists, you’ll be thrilled to hear that the American Astronomical Society (AAS) is inviting you — yes, you  — to attend its 222nd meeting. The conference, which takes place June 2–6 in Indianapolis, will host more than 500 science-professional attendees, and the number of public guests is up to you and your friends and cousins and co-workers. For a discounted rate of $50 per day, you ...
1

Help discover gravitational lenses

Posted 4 years ago by Liz Kruesi
Zooniverse, which is home to 14 online citizen science projects and more than 830,000 users, just launched another program aimed at armchair astronomers: Space Warps. In this project, you’ll hunt for gravitational lenses. These are the optical illusions created as the light from distant galaxies is bent as it travels near a foreground galaxy or galaxy cluster. (The gravity of that foreground object warps space-time around it.) So you can end up seeing bright arcs, or even full circles, of ...
0

Astronomy Festival on the National Mall

Posted 4 years ago by Sarah Scoles
Have you ever looked through a telescope while the Washington Monument towered over you? If not (or if you have and would like to do so again), you’ll have your chance in just over a month. On June 14 (or June 15 if the sky is not cooperating), the astronomy outreach arm of Hofstra University will host the Astronomy Festival on the National Mall. The event, whose title describes it quite accurately, will run from 5–11 p.m.  That evening, museums, universities, observatories, a...
5

Send your poems to Mars on MAVEN

Posted 4 years ago by Sarah Scoles
NASA’s newest venture around Mars, the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution mission (MAVEN), will launch in November. It will carry the usual spectrometers and magnetometers, but it also will have cargo of a more literary sort: poetry, stored on a DVD and authored by you (if you’re lucky). The Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics at the University of Colorado Boulder, which coordinates the “Going to Mars” campaign for MAVEN, and NASA are inviting the pub...
0

Astronomy dreams at C2E2

Posted 4 years ago by Michael Bakich
The Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo (C2E2) starts Friday, April 26, and for the second straight year I’ll be there. I guess the convention organizers liked what I did last year because they’ve issued me press credentials again. The 2013 C2E2 runs April 26–28. The convention, which, in addition to comics, also spans the latest and greatest in the worlds of movies, television, toys, and video games, is being held in the North Building of Chicago’s McCormick Place. ...
0

Discover the Universe in Maryland and Delaware

Posted 4 years ago by Sarah Scoles
During the month of March, the Sussex County Astronomy Society and the Delmarva Space Sciences Foundation held three events — one at the seashore, one at a rocket launch complex, and one on a boardwalk — as part of Astronomy magazine’s Discover the Universe program to bring sidewalk astronomy to everyone. Gerry Lyons, the Sussex Society’s outreach coordinator, reports on their success: Assateague Island National SeashoreOn March 9, we held our fi...
0

An "unofficial" name for Alpha Centauri Bb

Posted 4 years ago by Karri Ferron
Last week, I wrote about the Uwingu "People's Choice" contest that invites people to vote on a popular name for the nearest known exoplanet. Today, I have two updates: 1) Uwingu has extended the contest by one week, and the winning name now won't be decided until Monday, April 22, at midnight EDT. You can continue to vote at www.uwingu.com. 2) In response to Uwingu's efforts, which ultimately raise money for space education and research, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) issued a pres...
0

The Sun lets loose the biggest coronal mass ejection of the year

Posted 4 years ago by Sarah Scoles
Yesterday at 3:36 A.M., the Sun launched billions of tons of plasma into space at 600 miles per second (966 kilometers/second) — 37 times as fast as our fastest spacecraft. This event, called a coronal mass ejection (CME), sent charged particles and radiation hurtling toward Earth. The radiation, traveling at the speed of light, reached Earth in the usual 8.5 minutes, but the particles, slowed down by their pesky mass, will take 1−3 days to get here. The radiation caused a brief rad...
1

Uwingu wants you to name Alpha Centauri Bb!

Posted 4 years ago by Karri Ferron
Astronomers aren’t normally known for being the most creative bunch when naming celestial objects. They stick to catalog/mission designations that involve an oftentimes convoluted or boring mixture of letters and numerals. That’s why many common names for our favorite deep-sky targets get their monikers from the non-Ph.D.s who enjoy them. Recognizing the public’s creativity, scientists with Uwingu, a company dedicated to raising funds for scientific projects through crowdfundi...
0

NASA publishes its proposed 2014 budget

Posted 4 years ago by Sarah Scoles
On April 10, NASA unveiled the budget it is requesting from the federal government in fiscal year 2014. The final number — $17.7 billion — is much higher than the average household income but is less than half a percent of the federal money-spending total in 2013. NASA has big plans for these billions and billions. The big news is that the agency, under direction from President Obama, plans to acquire an asteroid, bring it closer to Earth, send astronauts to it by 2025, and have the...
0

High-energy astrophysics meeting: Future articles and the “Fermi bubbles”

Posted 4 years ago by Liz Kruesi
Sitting in all these science talks and speaking with the researchers at the meeting of the High Energy Astrophysics Division of the American Astronomical Society is giving me some great ideas for future articles. High-energy astrophysics is a field that doesn’t always get a lot of media (and public) attention. I can certainly understand the reason: It’s difficult stuff and doesn’t always seem as accessible to people as extrasolar planets and solar system science — mostly ...
0

High-energy astrophysics meeting: X-rays and more X-rays

Posted 4 years ago by Liz Kruesi
I’m at the 13th meeting of the High Energy Astrophysics Division of the American Astronomical Society for a few days. Some 400 astronomers have been updating one another on the state of their studies, and I’m here to listen in and learn about the current projects (plus I’ll receive the award for the David N. Schramm science journalism award at tomorrow’s banquet). Yesterday and today I heard a lot about X-rays — specifically the highest-energy X-rays that the Nucle...
0

Explore the new Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array

Posted 4 years ago by Sarah Scoles
What has 65 siblings, lives 3.1 miles (5 kilometers) above sea level, and sees the invisible? As far as I know, the only thing that fits that description is an antenna in the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), a 66-element telescope in Chile that was just inaugurated March 13. Currently, 55 antennas are operational and on site, but the missing 11 are due to arrive shortly. The antennas’ combined data give the telescope a resolution of 10 milliarcseconds — 10 times...
2

The 2013 International Earth and Sky Photo Contest is underway

Posted 4 years ago by Michael Bakich
April is Global Astronomy Month, and that means the fourth International Earth and Sky Photo Contest is underway. Organized by The World at Night (TWAN), the Global Astronomy Month project (an effort by Astronomers Without Borders), and the National Optical Astronomy Observatory, the contest is open to anyone of any age from now through Earth Day, April 22. The contest was founded by TWAN and the Dark Skies Awareness project in 2008 as a regional program. It expanded to worldwide scope in 2009 ...
0

The Messier marathon meets March Madness

Posted 4 years ago by Karri Ferron
I’ll admit it: March is one of my favorite months. I love March Madness, even if I never win any pool because I always pick the wrong upsets. I enjoy the competition, the great story lines, and an excuse to watch college basketball all day. And after the first round, I tend to root for the Cinderella just to see an underdog win it all. But March isn’t just about college basketball. It’s also a big month for amateur astronomy — the month for Messier marathons. Messier&rsq...
1

Iceland 2013: Waterfalls, culture, and aurorae

Posted 4 years ago by Liz Kruesi
I wrote in yesterday’s blog that I’d describe a bit more about the daytime activities of the past few days. On Saturday, we made our way back to Reykjavik from the southern coast. Along the way, the tour stopped at a couple of waterfalls — one of which (the 200-feet-tall [60 meters] Skogáfoss) we could hike up 350 steps to see from above, and that we did. We also visited a folk museum in Skógar; it included an open-air portion (with old houses, a church, and othe...
0

Iceland 2013: More aurorae!

Posted 4 years ago by Liz Kruesi
Both last night and tonight we were fortunate enough to see more northern lights. Saturday gave an incredible show and Sunday’s was a nice going-away gift — tomorrow is the day we leave beautiful Iceland. On Saturday, we had made our way along the southwest of the island and back to Reykjavik (after spending the previous three days near Iceland's southern coast). Following a dinner about 45 minutes outside Reykjavik, the bus drove to a nearby park for us to watch the hole ...
1

Iceland 2013: Lava fields and glaciers

Posted 4 years ago by Liz Kruesi
Yesterday morning I gave my astronomical lecture about “The active Sun.” That went quite well — even though many in our travel group had been awake for a late night of aurora sightings. With that out of the way, the group drove to a nearby lava field. This solidified rock came from the volcanic eruption of the Lakagígar fissure in the southern part of Iceland, which lasted from 1783 to 1784. It spewed some 3.4 cubic miles (14 cubic kilometers) of roiling lava, and ...

Join our Community!

Our community is FREE to join. To participate you must either login or register for an account.

ADVERTISEMENT

FREE EMAIL NEWSLETTER

Receive news, sky-event information, observing tips, and more from Astronomy's weekly email newsletter.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
Find us on Facebook