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

Posted 5 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 ...
1

Curiosity celebrates one year on Mars

Posted 5 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 5 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 5 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 5 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 5 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 5 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 5 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 5 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 5 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 5 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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Sarah preps for flights on SOFIA

Posted 5 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...
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Sarah takes a trip on SOFIA, the flying infrared observatory

Posted 5 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...
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Visit MMT Observatory in new video

Posted 5 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...
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Results from a big sidewalk astronomy event in Philadelphia

Posted 5 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...
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American Astronomical Society meeting: The last full day

Posted 5 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...
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Tuesday at the American Astronomical Society conference

Posted 5 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...
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The American Astronomical Society and Indiana Astronomical Society co-sponsor a star party

Posted 5 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...
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The American Astronomical Society's 222nd conference: Dispatches from day 1

Posted 5 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...
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"After Earth," the movie: Science meets science fiction in an interview with Joseph Levine

Posted 5 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...
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A week to remember: The 2013 Texas Star Party

Posted 5 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...
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Discover the Universe in Ottawa

Posted 5 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&...
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An interview with the "Toy Hunter" at C2E2

Posted 5 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...
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Attend the American Astronomical Society conference and star party in Indianapolis

Posted 5 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 5 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 ...
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Astronomy Festival on the National Mall

Posted 5 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...
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Send your poems to Mars on MAVEN

Posted 5 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...
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Astronomy dreams at C2E2

Posted 5 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. ...
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Discover the Universe in Maryland and Delaware

Posted 5 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...

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