Astronomy magazine editors share their unique insight from behind the scenes of the science, hobby, and magazine.
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Solar storm smacks Earth, puts on celestial show

Posted one year ago by Eric Betz
Our ship was slowly trudging north up the Norwegian Coast toward the Arctic Circle last night when the captain announced the celestial show we'd all been expecting --  the aurora borealis. Before the night was out, green clouds would blanket the sky from horizon to horizon. These great, green cumuli would linger overhead for a while and then collapse into long concentric arcs that gradually began to dance. The twisting bands grew serated edges that chattered and shook like some heavenly mus...
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Presidential star party

Posted one year ago by Korey Haynes
The White House is throwing a star party, and President Obama is hosting. In 2009, which was also the International Year of Astronomy, the White House held its first Astronomy Night, with special guests including legendary astronauts Buzz Aldrin, Sally Ride, Mae Jemison, and John Grunsfeld. But Obama reserved his warmest welcome for two astronomers who discovered a supernova and a pulsar before they had even graduated high school. The president used these young scientists to highlight the impo...
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Eclipsed

Posted one year ago by Michael Bakich
“It’s like a finger pointing the way to the Moon … Don’t concentrate on the finger, or you’ll miss all that heavenly glory.” — Bruce Lee, Enter the Dragon Indeed, our lunar eclipse soirée on the shore of Lake Michigan provided a bit of lunar glory plus a lifelong memory for all who were there. I had sent out an invitation a week ago to co-workers, family, and friends, inviting them to a “picnic under the shadow.” After the email went...
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A guide to Comet Catalina

Posted one year ago by Michael Bakich
Recently, I received this brief story about an object in the current night sky from Neil Norman of Ipswich, England. Because this comet will reach perihelion (closest approach to the Sun) in mid-November, it couldn’t appear in print because that deadline has passed. So, we thought it best to reproduce the story here. Thanks for sending this, Neil! There's always something exciting, or dare I say magical, about a bright comet well placed over the festive period near year’s end. In 20...
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Live tweeting against this week's apocalypse -- and next week's too

Posted one year ago by Eric Betz
Meet NASA’s woman in charge of fighting doomsday asteroids using less than 140 characters.Veronica McGregor is a patient person. Every day, she uses 140 characters or less to knock down doomsday rumors from worried souls convinced the world will end today, or next week, or sometime in 2022. This time, the hype surrounds an imaginary asteroid that will hit Earth any day now and may or may not be related to the September 27 lunar eclipse. The Chilean earthquake this week didn’t help c...
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A September Galaxy Ride

Posted one year ago by Korey Haynes
On September 18, a group of astronomers and educators will set off on bikes from their home base at Chicago’s Adler Planetarium, scant feet from the shore of Lake Michigan, and travel south for 300 miles (500 kilometers) on the historic Route 66 bike trail. They’ll end their trip in St. Louis, Missouri — or the Andromeda Galaxy, depending on how you reckon it. Along the way, they’ll make six stops, including the Moon (Joliet, Illinois), Kuiper Belt (Normal), and Alpha Cen...
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Telescopes and talks from Stellafane 2015

Posted one year ago by Michael Bakich
Recently, Contributing Editor Phil Harrington attended the 2015 Stellafane conference. Here is his account, arranged as a brief introduction and a series of captioned images. More than 1,000 people attended the 80th Stellafane convention in Springfield, Vermont, held August 13-16, 2015. “Stellafane,” a contraction from the Latin phrase Stellar Fane, meaning “Shrine to the Stars,” is the oldest amateur astronomy convention in the United States, if not the world. Stellafa...
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To the stars through Doctor Who

Posted one year ago by Karri Ferron
Guest blog by Lindsay Henderson, a senior medical student and M.D. candidate from All Saints University, Dominica, specializing in neurology. Having been inspired into the sciences by her geology professor grandfather Bob, she now spends her free time introducing and encouraging young children and students to explore the hard science fields. “Through crimson stars and silent stars and tumbling nebulas like oceans set on fire; through empires of glass and civilizations of pure thought, and...
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Milwaukee meteor fest

Posted one year ago by Michael Bakich
Yes, you can see meteors from Milwaukee. Well, at least from a site slightly north of Brew City. Last night (August 12 — the only night near the maximum of the Perseid meteor shower that promised clear skies), my wife, Holley, and I decided to pack some reclining chairs, blankets (it is the frozen north, after all), and snacks, and head to Harrington Beach State Park, near Belgium, Wisconsin, a location roughly 35 miles (56 kilometers) north of Milwaukee’s city center. A local astr...
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IAU day 5: Viewing the Sun with radar

Posted one year ago by Korey Haynes
Following my post from yesterday about radar, Monday at the International Astronomical Union (IAU) meeting revealed yet more radar tales. Miller Goss from the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) shared the story of how the first original records of solar radio astronomy were lost for decades and then found only last year. Joseph L. Pawsey (1908-1962) was not the first to detect the Sun in radio emission, but earlier records have also been lost. To Goss' knowledge, the newly discovered d...
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IAU day 4: Radar from WWII to the outer solar system

Posted one year ago by Korey Haynes
I'm still nominally at the International Astronomical Union meeting here in Honolulu. But most of the astronomers have taken a break for the weekend, leaving me to amuse myself for some of the time. This morning, I hopped a bus over to Pearl Harbor to view the memorial of the USS Arizona, one of the battleships struck and sunk on December 7, 1941, in the attack on Pearl Harbor that toppled the United States into World War II. Walking over the sunken battleship and the men entombed there to this...
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IAU day 2: What makes a brown dwarf?

Posted one year ago by Korey Haynes
[Updated August 10] My second day at the International Astronomical Union's (IAU) general assembly meeting featured one of my favorite parts about attending science conferences: watching scientists fight! OK, astronomers are a pretty friendly bunch, so by "fight," I mean "spirited but polite debate." Nonetheless, this kind of dialog is why conferences are important, so I'm always excited to see it in action. In this particular case, I was enjoying a talk about the boundary between planets ...
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Aloha from the IAU

Posted one year ago by Korey Haynes
The International Astronomical Union (IAU) holds its general assembly meeting only once every three years, for two full weeks. This is the meeting that infamously stripped Pluto of its planethood in 2006. This year, the resolutions up for vote cover technical points about mathematical conversion factors, but also crucial protection of the airwaves that radio astronomers use to study the cosmos. Voting by the IAU members won't occur until the conference's end. So until then, the attendees will fo...
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Only 750 days until the eclipse

Posted one year ago by Michael Bakich
Saturday, August 1, marks another milestone in the countdown toward the biggest public science event in history — 750 days until the total solar eclipse August 21, 2017. Rather than write a long blog about the importance of it, I’ll direct you to the one I wrote at the 800-day-out mark. If you’re just learning about this event, or want a refresher course on the facts, head here. And if you’re wondering where to go for the eclipse, you can zero in on the best locations w...
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Humans cling to their primal fear of the dark

Posted one year ago by Eric Betz
Your chances of being attacked, robbed, or struck by a car are no worse on a dimly lit street. And yet, like cavemen huddled around a campfire, humans are still comforted by light. Most of the 7 billion people on planet Earth have never seen the Milky Way. And within a decade, studies suggest that the spread of artificial light will wipe out the night sky’s most distinct feature in all but a few remote places within the United States.Until relatively recently, human history was record...
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Mike Reynolds reports from ALCon 2015

Posted one year ago by Michael Bakich
The Astronomical League (AL) and Association of Lunar and Planetary Observers (ALPO) held their annual meeting (the Astronomical League Convention, or ALCon) jointly July 6-11 in Las Cruces, New Mexico. The hosts were members of the Astronomical Society of Las Cruces (ASLC). The first two days were for field trips to local sites of interest; the last three were for papers, the Star-B-Que, and the closing Awards Banquet. Clyde Tombaugh, discoverer of Pluto, and Walter Haas, founder of the ALPO, t...
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Science rocks Comic-Con

Posted one year ago by Michael Bakich
San Diego Comic-Con 2015 is now over. This major pop-culture event ran from July 9 through the 12th, not counting the preview night July 8. Quick summary: It rocked! NASA held two major events, panels concerned with education abounded, and it seemed like every sci-fi and fantasy author was obsessed with “getting the science right.” Let’s get the big news out of the way first. NASA was back at Comic-Con. The space agency first attended just last year, and the reaction was so ov...
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I'm off to see the wizards

Posted one year ago by Michael Bakich
Yep, wizards — plural. And dragons. And time lords. And Jedi. And every other kind of creature ever imagined in an environment I can describe only as the world’s greatest pop-culture convention. The 46th incarnation of San Diego Comic-Con International starts Thursday, July 9, and runs through Sunday the 12th, with a preview night Wednesday, July 8, for professionals, exhibitors, and press. This will be my third visit to Comic-Con, and I’m really looking forward to it. Comic-...
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SpaceX supply mission fails minutes after launch

Posted one year ago by Korey Haynes
On Sunday morning, SpaceX attempted what was to be the company's seventh resupply mission to the International Space Station (ISS), only to have the unmanned vehicle break up just over two minutes after launch. The first six missions were successes for the private space firm, and Sunday was to be their third — so far unsuccessful — attempt to land their Falcon 9 rocket on a drone barge after launching the Dragon supply ship into orbit. While the rocket hit its target accurately on bo...
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Uwingu offers out-of-this-world Father's Day gift idea

Posted 2 years ago by Karri Ferron
Posted on behalf of the Uwingu team; Astronomy magazine is a proud partner of this effort to raise funding for space scienceNeed a last-minute present for dad? Space company Uwingu offers a great gift for Father’s Day with place names on its Mars map. Uwingu’s Mars Map will be carried to Mars aboard the first Mars One robotic lander.Through Father’s Day — Sunday, June 21 — Uwingu is offering special decorative Father’s Day certificates for anyone choosing to h...
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A closer look at PixInsight

Posted 2 years ago by Michael Bakich
Image contributor Ron Brecher, whose great shots have appeared on this website as well as in Astronomy magazine, has sent in a guest blog that’s a review of a product he’s quite fond of. We don’t publish software reviews in the magazine, so this virtual space is the perfect forum for such an article. Brecher’s review (with some of his images) follows: PixInsight (PI) is a powerful tool for deep-sky image processing, but it can be tough to learn. Documentation is incomple...
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Arsonist sets 9 spot fires near historic Lowell Observatory

Posted 2 years ago by Eric Betz
An unknown arsonist set nine spot fires within sight of Lowell Observatory on Wednesday and sent staff scrambling to put the blazes out with garden equipment, according to the Arizona Daily Sun in Flagstaff.The paper reports that the observatory’s sole trustee, Lowell Putnam, great-grandnephew of Percival Lowell, was having family over at his home on Mars Hill when a staff member smelled smoke and sounded the alarm.More than a dozen family members and staff armed themselves with garden too...
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T minus 800 days until the eclipse

Posted 2 years ago by Michael Bakich
A few days ago I realized that today — June 12, 2015 — is a milestone of sorts: 800 days until the big event. Are you excited yet? Probably. What I mean by that is that you’re reading a blog dedicated to the August 21, 2017, total solar eclipse, so it’s not a stretch to imagine where your interests lie. Here’s the thing, though. I’m not seeing that level of excitement in many other places. So far, most media stories about the 2017 event fall into the “...
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Making exoplanet news right here at Astronomy

Posted 2 years ago by Korey Haynes
Most days, I get to report about other scientists’ discoveries. But today, I’ll toot my own horn a bit. I’ve been here at Astronomy for six months now. But before that, I was a graduate student researching exoplanets, worlds beyond our solar system. And not just any worlds, but the massive planets called hot Jupiters, orbiting extremely close to their stars and heated to thousands of degrees. Specifically, I looked at their atmospheres, hoping to see water in enough detail tha...
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Dark matters by Adam Block

Posted 2 years ago by Michael Bakich
We are happy to present another guest blog by astroimager Adam Block. Each of his blogs features a great image and something special about it. This one links Block with cutting-edge research into galaxy formation. We live in a universe in which we see only highlights. Most of the matter is cold, dark, and clumpy stuff that neither absorbs nor emits light. Its existence is inferred from gravitational influence by how it, like the stuff we are made of, warps space-time. Clumpy is the key. Ac...
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A great resource for the upcoming eclipse

Posted 2 years ago by Michael Bakich
This review comes from Mike Reynolds, professor of astronomy at Florida State College at Jacksonville. A veteran of 18 total solar eclipses as well as an author of a book about eclipses, Reynolds knows the subject cold. As interest builds toward the "great American eclipse," resources will be paramount for successful eclipse chasers. Many will want — even require — detailed information. For those of us who have been chasing total solar eclipses for some while, we fondly re...
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Tomorrowland is a film every future scientist should see

Posted 2 years ago by Eric Betz
NASA’s man in Hollywood says the latest rash of sci-fi films show the agency still holds sway with young minds more than half a century after the launch of the Space Age.   “The future can be scary,” Frank Walker (played by George Clooney) tells audiences at the beginning of Disney’s latest film, Tomorrowland. He continues, “When I was a kid, the future was different.” As I watched the film premiere in Milwaukee this week, I paid close attention to a lit...
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Tales from a budding night sky photographer

Posted 2 years ago by Korey Haynes
Please welcome guest blogger Josh Thum. I had the pleasure of meeting Josh at a Yerkes Observatory star party a few weeks ago and was hugely impressed by the night sky photos he showed me, especially for someone still in high school. I thought you might like to hear his story and enjoy his work as well: My fascination with science began around fifth grade. At first, I took particular interest in marine biology and meteorology. As I matured, I strayed from these topics and eventually ...
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A short time ago in a state far, far away ...

Posted 2 years ago by Karri Ferron
Happy Star Wars Day! Yes, Astronomy magazine is a brand based in science, not science fiction, but we like to embrace the sci-fi side of things every once in a while in our offices, especially as science fiction has inspired many of us and our contributors to study the stars in the first place. And what better way to celebrate May the Fourth than with our resident Stars Wars expert, Senior Graphic Designer Chuck Braasch, who found inspiration for his career from the saga many years ago and recen...
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Uwingu announces an out-of-this-world Mother's Day celebration

Posted 2 years ago by Karri Ferron
Posted on behalf of the Uwingu team; Astronomy magazine is a proud partner of this effort to raise funding for space science.Space company Uwingu announced today a special campaign to honor moms for Mother’s Day with place names on its Mars map. Through Mother’s Day, Sunday, May 10, Uwingu is offering decorative Mother’s Day certificates for anyone choosing to honor a mom this celestial way. Two certificate options are available: either an electronic downloadable version or a b...

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