Astronomy magazine editors share their unique insight from behind the scenes of the science, hobby, and magazine.
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Total solar eclipse in Gabon, plus a day in Casablanca

Posted 4 years ago by Liz Kruesi
After a crazy two days of traveling — followed by 10 hours of sleep — it’s finally hit me that I’m in Africa to see the November 3 total solar eclipse. I’m here with a group from MWT, Astronomy’s travel partner. We’re staying in the city of Libreville, Gabon, along the west coast of Africa. For eclipse day we’ll head to a site some 130 miles (200 kilometers) southeast, and we’re hoping for clear skies during totality. (This will be my first t...
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ESA releases a video of Mars Express' best images

Posted 4 years ago by Sarah Scoles
If Mars had a Division of Tourism, that organization would be plastering the European Space Agency’s new video all over the Internet. The film is a compilation of high-res images from the Mars Express mission — in orbit around the Red Planet — the quality of which should make the National Security Agency jealous. The four minutes of footage that make up “Mars Showcase” show a planet pocked by craters and smoothed by rivers and lava flows. The mission, launched in J...
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The Astronomy Legacy Project preserves photographic plates

Posted 4 years ago by Sarah Scoles
Terabyte hard drives were not always $75 and the size of Post-it notes. Storage devices have been cumbersome for most of history, but that does not mean people didn’t have data that needed storing. In modern, but not ultra-modern, astronomy — before CCD cameras but after the first big telescopes — scientists took observations on photographic plates. Hundreds of thousands of these exist, preserving the cosmos as it looked from the mid-19th to mid-20th centuries. More than 40 c...
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Watch Comet ISON move

Posted 4 years ago by Michael Bakich
Longtime Astronomy contributor Terry Hancock sent in a video he and fellow amateur astronomer Cliff Spohn created. Here’s Terry’s report.“We captured Comet ISON on Monday, October 21, 2013, from Cliff’s remote amateur observatory in Marion, Ohio. It was the first time in almost two weeks that we had a break in the clouds and rain, and we could not miss this rare opportunity to image the comet using Cliff’s QHYCCD QHY9 monochrome CCD camera hooked up to his...
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Making Nepal a dark-sky destination

Posted 4 years ago by Sarah Scoles
Kiran Adhikari, a young astronomer and astronomy popularizer in Nepal, has noticed (as one would expect) a few things about his country: It’s high, it’s dry, it’s dark, and it’s populated in some pockets and not in others. That all bodes well for natural beauty in general, but it’s especially helpful for the natural beauty that’s above our heads. He’s also noticed that high, dry, and dark aren’t the global norm. Ask anyone on the American East Coas...
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Distant Suns releases Comet Watch app

Posted 4 years ago by Sarah Scoles
Sometimes, it’s hard to remember where constellations are. After all, their positions in the sky change every season. It’s even harder to remember where a comet is — its location changes even faster, putting it in different constellations on different nights. How are you supposed to keep track? Luckily for you, this is the 21st century, and you don’t have to calculate your own ephemeris for every night-sky object of interest. You can look it up. There is, in fact, an app...
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How does Comet ISON look through the telescope?

Posted 4 years ago by Michael Bakich
We get a lot of images here at the magazine, but not as many observing reports as you might think. The following one (which describes three separate viewing sessions) came from Wayne Johnson, aka “Mr. Galaxy,” who lives near Benson, Arizona.I have not seen many decent visual observations of Comet ISON, so I thought I would share a few observations I made of the object a couple weeks ago when it was just becoming bright enough to see in a telescope.First observation from my backyard n...
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A visit to Yerkes Observatory

Posted 4 years ago by Sarah Scoles
Yerkes Observatory looks like it belongs in Rome (or at the very least, an era in which support of science was as strong as classical columns), though it is in fact located in Williams Bay, Wisconsin. It has three large telescopes — a 40-inch refractor, a 40-inch reflector, and a 24-inch reflector. The refractor lives under a dome on one side of the complex, while the reflectors live in separate domes on the opposite side. Some smaller telescopes are used for educational purposes. I was fo...
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Why the Higgs theorists won the Nobel Prize five decades later

Posted 4 years ago by Liz Kruesi
Sometimes it takes five decades to prove a theory as fact. That’s what happened in 2012 when the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) confirmed the discovery of the Higgs boson. And then this week, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences awarded the Nobel Prize in physics to Peter Higgs and François Englert “for the theoretical discovery of a mechanism that contributes to our understanding of the origin of mass of subatomic particl...
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The story of the (currently suspended) Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array

Posted 4 years ago by Karri Ferron
On Friday, October 4, the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) was forced to temporarily suspend all U.S. operations because of lack of funding due to the government shutdown. But before this organization (which is a facility of the National Science Foundation) shut its many doors throughout the country, it did release a new 24-minute film about its recently renovated Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array (VLA) radio telescope, located west of Socorro, New Mexico.Fittingly, Beyond the Visible, ...
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Join the Target Asteroids! team

Posted 4 years ago by Sarah Scoles
Perhaps you live in a city or a blindingly bright suburb. Perhaps you have a 4-inch telescope that’s great for looking at lunar craters but not so hot for more distant objects. Perhaps you have to send your kid to college instead of buying a full-on astroimaging setup. We understand. And so does a professional-amateur collaboration that provides would-be astronomers with top-notch images of asteroids and access to analysis software. Using the data and tools from the International Astronomi...
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What does the government shutdown mean for NASA?

Posted 4 years ago by Sarah Scoles
What has 18 arms, all of which are broken? Knock, knock.Who’s there?NASA.NASA who?Psych, NASA is shut down. An astronaut, an astronomer, and rocket scientist walk into a bar. Because their place of employment is not functional. All joking aside, the government shutdown is a serious matter, leaving millions without work, without pay, and without the ability to update their employers’ social media sites. NASA is among the organizations that the standstill in Congress has brought to...
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Help students develop a National Astronomy Olympiad

Posted 4 years ago by Sarah Scoles
What were you doing with your free time in high school? Homework? Band practice? Listening to music loudly and telling people they just didn’t understand you? Forming a national network of science Olympians? Wait, what? Personally, I was doing a lot of the first three but not much of that last one. That makes me different from a group of American students who participated in the 2013 International Olympiad on Astronomy and Astrophysics (IOAA) — the first astro-reps of the Unit...
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Discover the Universe (and art) in Charlottetown

Posted 4 years ago by Sarah Scoles
Science and art mesh well together, contrary to what you may have heard, and astronomy and art are particularly well-matched. After all, what’s more aesthetically pleasing or philosophically provocative than a look light-years into the distance? With this in mind, the Sidewalk Astronomers of Charlottetown took their skills and scopes to the Art in the Open festival on Prince Edward Island last month. The event in this Canadian province brings together local artists, artisans, and — ...
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Map the Sun's course through the year

Posted 4 years ago by Sarah Scoles
Astronomy can feel a bit abstract. You can’t feel the heat of a supernova, hover inside a star cluster, or set foot on an exoplanet. You can collect photons with your eyes or a camera, measure positions, do calculations — and that’s all great. But there’s something satisfying about getting your hands a little dirtier. Tor Arne Holm, a teacher from Skjetten, Norway, wrote to us about an astronomy project that produces the kind of concrete results that give students the phy...
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Pack your scope and head to Kansas City

Posted 4 years ago by Michael Bakich
Actually, I should amend the title to “… 75 miles (121 kilometers) south of Kansas City.” That’s where the eighth annual Heart of America Star Party (HoASP) will occur October 3–6. And I’ll be speaking there. Twice. (Whether the second talk has an audience will, I guess, depend on how the first talk goes.) The host of HoASP is the Astronomical Society of Kansas City (ASKC), one of the most active astronomy clubs in North America. Early in 2005, the club acqu...
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The results of "Wave at Saturn"

Posted 4 years ago by Karri Ferron
On July 19, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft, which is currently exploring the Saturn system, was in a position to face Earth and capture an image of how our planet appeared from nearly 900 million miles (1.5 billion kilometers) away. The mission team hyped the event as “the first time that inhabitants of Earth knew in advance that their planet was being imaged” and decided to therefore encourage public participation. The result? The “Wave at Saturn” campaign, which ask...
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A "new star" appears in the sky

Posted 4 years ago by Michael Bakich
On August 14, Japanese amateur astronomer Koichi Itagaki discovered an exploding star within the boundaries of the constellation Delphinus the Dolphin. Now known as Nova Delphini 2013, the object has brightened since its discovery. At that time, it was a little fainter than the dimmest star the human eye can see. Now, however, it lies within range of naked eyes from a dark site. And even from suburban locations, observers using binoculars or small telescopes can see the star easily. The word no...
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Partying with the Perseids

Posted 4 years ago by Michael Bakich
This year, the peak of the Perseid meteor shower occurs August 12/13. Conditions will be ideal because the Moon won’t be a factor. As happened last year, my wife, Holley, and I received a nice invitation from our friends Jim and Tammy Rufener, who live north of Milwaukee in Slinger, Wisconsin. And once again we took them up on their hospitality. Did I mention they also offered breakfast? For both my eyes and my stomach, this is quickly becoming an annual event. Rather than head to their ...
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Curiosity celebrates one year on Mars

Posted 4 years ago by Sarah Scoles
Happy anniversary, Curiosity! As of today (Tuesday, August 6), the most recent Mars rover will have spent a full Earth year on Mars (though it has already adjusted to martian time and thinks counting in Earth years is provincial). In those 365 days, it has drilled more holes, snapped more photos, and shot more lasers than most of us will in our lifetimes. And because of its hard work — and the hard work of the earthling scientists who guide it across the surface of a foreign planet &mdash...
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An interview with Comet ISON's co-discoverer

Posted 4 years ago by Michael Bakich
A few weeks ago, our friends at Levenhuk Telescopes conducted an interview with Artyom Novichonok, who, along with his colleague Vitaly Nevsky, discovered Comet ISON (C/2012 S1) in 2012. Levenhuk has graciously allowed us to reproduce the interview here.LT: Artyom, stargazers the world over are looking forward to the arrival of Comet ISON. However, we hardly know anything about the person behind this discovery, apart from the fact that, following your discovery, the University of Cambridge besto...
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Hubble captures Comet ISON with stars and galaxies

Posted 4 years ago by Liz Kruesi
Comet ISON (C/2012 S1) is making its way toward the inner solar system before its closest approach to the Sun on November 28. During this trek, professional observatories are occasionally photographing it. Researchers with the Hubble Space Telescope released a new image of Comet ISON on July 25. This composite includes photographs taken through two filters: three exposures through Hubble’s V-band filter (which transmits yellow/green light and was captured April 30 as Comet ISON was 363 mi...
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Look to the skies at Lake Tahoe

Posted 4 years ago by Michael Bakich
If you're looking for a place to observe in Utah, Tahoe Star Tours provides memorable stargazing experiences in the western United States. Operating out of the Ritz Carlton Lake Tahoe Resort, star guide Tony Berendsen’s Star Tours include a science talk, a quiz (with prizes), and poetry around the fire pits of the Lodge at Big Springs. Following this, Ryan Berendsen takes guests on a laser tour of the sky and provides views through Celestron telescopes. During “Space Jam Star Tours,...
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ComSciCon guest blog: Bringing distance education to the lab

Posted 4 years ago by Karri Ferron
Provided by Nathan Sanders, co-chair of the organizing committee for the 2013 Communicating Science Workshop The Communicating Science (ComSciCon) 2013 workshop brought together 50 graduate students in science and engineering from across the country, along with experts in communicating science from fields including journalism, education, and even theater. For three days, the students and professionals shared effective techniques for communicating complex technical concepts to diverse audiences....
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Get ready for “our” eclipse

Posted 4 years ago by Michael Bakich
Mark your calendars. The total solar eclipse that people already are talking about — the one that will cross the United States on August 21, 2017 — is 1,500 days away. The media hype has begun. Or, rather, it begins with this blog. I say “hype,” but there’s no way any description can over-hype a total solar eclipse. It’s nature’s grandest spectacle, and anyone who has ever witnessed one comes away mesmerized. Appreciative. Changed. Already, I’ve ...
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Greg Scheiderer plants cosmic seed to interest young people in astronomy

Posted 4 years ago by Sarah Scoles
Greg Scheiderer is the author of the blog Seattle Astronomy and a member of the Seattle Astronomical Society. But he didn’t always lead such a cosmically active life. While he was always interested in astronomy, he only became action-oriented and committed to it in his mid-40s. When he was younger, he had several separate experiences — seeds — that made him think, “Astronomy is rad,” (to paraphrase). He retained that sentiment throughout his early adult years, and o...
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Hubble keeps an eye on Comet ISON

Posted 4 years ago by Karri Ferron
As Comet ISON (C/2012 S1) continues its trek toward the inner solar system, NASA and various professional observatories having been periodically observing it. The most recent images come from the Hubble Space Telescope, which captured Comet ISON on May 8 as the solar system interloper was 403 million miles (649 million kilometers) from Earth, between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. Scientists made a time-lapse movie of the images, which are false-color, visible light photos taken with Hubble&rs...
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An editor’s life — the dark side

Posted 4 years ago by Michael Bakich
Recently, I took two Advil, which polished off the bottle I had kept in my desk since I opened it 631 days (451 weekdays) ago. That’s how long it took me to go through 100 tablets — two at a time — each containing 200 milligrams of painkiller. At first, I viewed my rate of consumption of a pair of pills each 12.62 days as pretty good. That is, until I looked at the previous bottle. I had purchased that one, which was identical to the one I just depleted, April 9, 2009, and it ...
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Sarah experiences science on SOFIA

Posted 4 years ago by Sarah Scoles
My previous blog post was an incomplete record of the evening (or, more accurately, the morning). I wrote it just before my Tuesday/Wednesday flight on the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) ended — just before I was allowed to sit in the 747's cockpit, where I had a headset but kept my mouth shut and learned exactly how much back and forth happens between an aircraft and ground control. Seeing sunrise — and rapidly approaching mountaintops — through the p...
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Sarah experiences a SOFIA calibration flight

Posted 5 years ago by Sarah Scoles
Between 8:30 p.m. and 5:30 a.m. PDT last night (this morning), SOFIA, scientists, engineers, educators, and I took a trip over the Pacific and into both Canadian and Mexican airspace — no passport required, as if I had taken a step back in time. Hopping aboard SOFIA is also like jumping back in time, as the cut-open Pan Am jet that houses the telescope is from the 1970s and still has ashtrays in the lavatories. But as soon as the astronomical equipment is on, it becomes clear that this is...

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