Astronomy magazine editors share their unique insight from behind the scenes of the science, hobby, and magazine.
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Extra! Extra! Hobbit solar system discovered!

Posted 10 years ago by Daniel Pendick
They've discovered Earth ... again.  The astronomy blogosphere is abuzz with news of "shrunken versions of our solar system" and "miniature worlds in the making," at least according to the press releases I've been reading. Nobody has called them "Hobbit solar systems" yet, but give them time. Alexander Scholz of the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, and Ray Jayawardhana from the University of Toronto reported discovery of 18 planet-mass objects (...
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Space: the vinyl frontier

Posted 10 years ago by Anonymous
In my spare time, I collect vinyl albums. My collection mostly includes 45s and LPs from rock's early days and formative years. In my digging through stacks, I've found a few gems, but never a rarity that would compel a collector to sign for a second mortgage. Although it isn't listed in most catalogs, I know where you can find the Holy Grail — or Grails — of record collectors. You'll have to go beyond eBay for these records. These gems are placed aboard Voyager 1 and 2. If yo...
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After the turkey is gone

Posted 10 years ago by Michael Bakich
Happy Thanksgiving! Many of us will take this holiday as an opportunity to reunite with family and friends. We'll cook, enjoy a variety of food, nap, and watch our favorite football teams. Ok, then what? I have a suggestion. If it's clear, pull out your telescope. Better yet, have it already set up and ready to go. If you're like me, you won't be helping out much in the kitchen. Not that I don't want to, mind you. My talent just happens to lie in other directions. If you ha...
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Happy birthday, William Herschel

Posted 10 years ago by Anonymous
Today marks the birth of 18th-century astronomer Frederick William Herschel. Born November 15, 1738, Herschel made many discoveries during his lifetime. Most notable among his contributions to astronomy include determining the shape of the Milky Way, determining the rotation period of Saturn's rings, and sketching changes in Jupiter's atmosphere. Discoveries Mars and Jupiter show axial rotation Planet Uranus (1781) Uranus's two largest moons, Titania and Oberon (1787) T...
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And the winner is ...

Posted 10 years ago by Daniel Pendick
I am devastated. Our blog didn't win the 2007 Weblog Award for best science blog! The competition was pretty fierce. And the other bloggers blog every day, and post lots and lots of pictures and hot links. Show offs! There were 4,000 nominations in 49 categories. Voting for the 2007 Weblog Awards began in October 2007. The winners received their awards at the Blogworld and New Media Expo in Las Vegas November 9. Of interest to sky fans, the winners for best science blog of 2007 ...
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Touring the Moon on DVD

Posted 10 years ago by Anonymous
It's amazing that Tom Hanks has evolved from Bosom Buddies' Kip to an Academy Award-winning actor and a leading proponent of World War II veterans and space exploration. Recently, Hanks reprised his role as a space ambassador by narrating the IMAX film Magnificent Desolation — Walking on the Moon. Unfortunately, you'll be hard-pressed to find the production on an IMAX screen now. Released on November 6, you can now view the movie from the comfort of your home. The film gives a ...
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The four greatest astronomy books

Posted 10 years ago by Michael Bakich
If you've followed my blogging, you know I love books. On Friday, November 2, I visited Linda Hall Library in Kansas City with Astronomy Editor David J. Eicher and contributing editor Raymond Shubinski. Linda Hall ranks as one of the world's finest science libraries, and it has a terrific collection of rare astronomy books. During the visit, we sat at a table and paged through a first edition of Isaac Newton's Principia — the book in which the great mathematician detailed the law of...
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Red Planet fast-track

Posted 10 years ago by Francis Reddy
It’s the year 2030, and humans are finally undertaking interplanetary travel with a historic mission to the Red Planet. This is the premise for Discovery Channel Canada’s 4-hour “Race to Mars” mini-series, which the network describes as its most ambitious project to date. (Watch the trailer.)  The show premiered in Canada September 23, but air dates for the U.S. are not yet available. However, the companion book to the series is. In Race to Mars, writer and artist Dana Berry chronicles the ...
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Brave new words

Posted 10 years ago by Francis Reddy
My recreational reading ebbs seasonally in a manner generally corresponding to the release of select DVD sets. While I prefer to keep my fanboy side from showing too prominently, my recent excuses for letting the books pile up include the second season of Battlestar Galactica and Season 3 of Stargate Atlantis.  For me, the best science fiction explores our relationship with and the limitations of technology, and both TV shows do so in different ways. Echoes of 9/11 add depth and spark to ...
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Easy pretty pictures

Posted 10 years ago by Michael Bakich
Many amateur astronomers enjoy visual observing. A growing number, however, want to take their hobby a bit further and venture into astroimaging. Currently, amateurs distinguish "astroimaging" from the old term, "astrophotography." It's all photography, of course, but the "-imaging" suffix refers to digital pictures and not film. Soon, perhaps within the next 5 years, the two terms will be interchangeable as imagers go 100 percent digital. If you're just ge...
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New book shows our world - and others - on fire

Posted 10 years ago by Anonymous
Astronomy readers are familiar with Stephen James O'Meara through his column in our magazine and his books. O'Meara's observations convey the brilliance of our universe with amazing detail and keen recognition. Besides being an astronomer, Steve studies volcanos with his wife Donna. Together, the couple founded a research organization, Volcano Watch International, to uncover volcanic mysteries that might someday save lives. Through Cassell Illustrated, Donna has released a new book...
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How time flies (part 2)

Posted 10 years ago by Michael Bakich
Last week, I blogged about my one-year anniversary. In that article, I began listing my favorite celestial objects in several categories. Following are the categories I didn't get to. Planetary nebula — The Ghost of Jupiter (NGC 3242) in Hydra. This bright planetary shows lots of detail through 8-inch telescopes, but in large instruments it's amazing. My wife first saw the Ghost through a 20-inch Newtonian reflector at 650x. She turned to me and said, "When can we get a scope like ...
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The Dutch Youth Association for Astronomy celebrates 40 years of service

Posted 10 years ago by Anonymous
Amateur astronomers in the United States are familiar with organizations like the Astronomical League and Astronomical Society of the Pacific. These groups help educate the public about the sky and decipher the universe's mysteries. Several groups like this exist around the world, including the Netherlands' Dutch Youth Association for Astronomy (JWG, in Dutch). This organization is celebrating its 40th year of serving skywatchers. Some of the JWG's activities include introductory cl...
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Women in space

Posted 10 years ago by Daniel Pendick
The commanders of both space shuttle Discovery (STS-120) and the International Space Station (ISS), the two crewed spacecraft now in orbit, are women. So, this week in the interstellar media, headlines gush with a milestone in the annals of gender. "Women set to take charge of space," said IEEE Spectum Online. "A great leap for womankind," notes Yahoo! News. You get the idea. This raises a complicated question. Is this kind of media coverage harmful or helpful to women? O...
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How time flies (part 1)

Posted 10 years ago by Michael Bakich
This blog marks my one-year anniversary yakking about any astronomical subject that caught my fancy. Blogs were new at Astronomy in 2006, but blogging seemed like a great vehicle for covering lots of topics in a somewhat random manner. Now, many of our editors blog on a weekly basis. I will use this momentous occasion to give you an insight into who I am as an observer. Through the years, many of you have shared with me your favorite objects, observing sites, and more. Here are some of my favor...
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A golden anniversary

Posted 10 years ago by Rich Talcott
This month brings the 50th anniversary of two events that changed the world. The first, of course, needs little explanation: On October 4, 1957, the Space Age began with the Soviet Union's launch of the Sputnik 1 spacecraft. I want to talk about the event you probably aren't aware of. The October 1957 issue of Reviews of Modern Physics contains the article "Synthesis of the Elements in Stars" by Margaret Burbidge, Geoffrey Burbidge, William Fowler, and Fred Hoyle. The authors,...
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So long, Far Ultraviolet Spectroscopic Explorer. Don't forget to turn out the lights.

Posted 10 years ago by Daniel Pendick
At the veterinarian, they do it with an injection. When astronomers want to "put to sleep" one of their pets, they use a mouse click. Yesterday, astronomers at Johns Hopkins University shut down the Far Ultraviolet Spectroscopic Explorer (FUSE) satellite after 8 years of service. The craft operated 5 years past its planned mission, but repeated and worsening malfunctions in its pointing system rendered FUSE inoperable. In several decades, its orbit will decay and send the 3,000-pound ...
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Going once, going twice ...

Posted 10 years ago by Anonymous
The other week I wrote about an auction for those with celestial tastes. I've come across another space-themed auction. On October 28, Boston auctioneer Skinner will host a sale that includes several lots of NASA memorabilia. This auction features a Mercury 7 astronaut's test glove with pen inscriptions "Glenn" and "Schirra," a Project Gemini spaceflight capsule flotation ball referred to as "Unsinkable Molly Brown," and a NASA final Apollo 11 flight plan s...
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Use your scope (almost) forever

Posted 10 years ago by Michael Bakich
For the past 2 days, I've been rearranging the storage areas here at Astronomy magazine. It was lots of work and lots of fun at the same time. And, it got me thinking. Why do some telescopes last 5 years while others last 50? The answer, it turns out, boils down to one word: dust. If you can protect your telescope from dust, it will last a lifetime. Now, I'm not considering killing forces like water damage and blunt-force trauma. Those can end the useful lives of any type of equipment. ...
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Shout outs

Posted 10 years ago by Francis Reddy
Some blogs are fun, some blogs are intellectual, and some provide a handy way to find links. (Okay, mine's an exception.) But here, in no particular order, are a few blogs I try to read regularly.Cosmic Log: Since 2002, MSNBC science editor Alan Boyle has provided his take on a veritable smorgasbord of research news.Cosmic Variance: Five physicists and astrophysicists co-write this weblog. Come for the fun, such as this instructive post outlining how to choose your archnemesis; stay for live...
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Mars: How wet and warm?

Posted 10 years ago by Rich Talcott
  Sinuous valley networks like these imaged by Viking 1 led many planetary scientists to think Mars’ climate once was warm and wet, but some researchers aren’t so sure.   NASA/JPL Today marked the 114th consecutive day in Orlando in which the temperature never dipped below 70°. I'm currently sweating in Orlando, attending the annual meeting of the American Astronomical Society's Division for Planetary Sciences (DPS). Florida's warm, humid weather serves as a per...
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NASA Night at the DPS

Posted 10 years ago by Rich Talcott
I'm in Orlando, Florida, attending the annual meeting of the American Astronomical Society's Division for Planetary Sciences. This is where the world's planetary scientists report their latest findings. One of the meeting's traditions is "NASA Night," where the space agency's top planetary science administrators answer questions from the assembled scientists. Occasionally, you don't feel a lot of love at these exchanges - not surprising when you consider the vas...
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Arecibo Telescope fights for the right to hunt killer asteroids

Posted 10 years ago by Daniel Pendick
  The Arecibo Telescope uses radio and radar energy to explore the universe. Its massive dish, built in a natural depression in the jungles of Puerto Rico, measures 1,000 feet (305 meters) across and 167 feet (51m) deep. Its 40,000 perforated aluminum panels cover some 20 acres. Suspended 450 feet (137m) above the reflector is the 900-ton receiver platform.   NAIC/NSF/Arecibo Observatory/David Parker/Science Photo LibraryWhat do radio astronomy, Medicare, and Voice of America radi...
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Does physics matter to you?

Posted 10 years ago by Francis Reddy
It does if you like smaller, higher-capacity hard drives. But the road from landmark paper to an iPod often is longer than we like to think. Such is the case of Albert Fert (Université Paris-Sud, Orsay, France) and Peter Grünberg (Forschungszentrum Jülich, Germany), who just won the 2007 Nobel Prize in physics for a discovery that makes micro hard drives possible. In 1988 — when 60,000 computers comprised the Internet, and the World Wide Web lay 7 years away — the ...
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Of baseballs and meteors

Posted 10 years ago by Michael Bakich
I love baseball, and I love observing. Unfortunately, you won't find any constellations honoring the boys of summer; at least, no traditional constellations. During October, as the fall classic decides baseball's champion, go out one clear night and find the Baseball Diamond in the sky. To form the Baseball Diamond, find the Great Square of Pegasus, which lies high in the sky during mid-fall. The Great Square's northwestern star (Beta [β] Pegasi) is the Baseball Diamond's home p...
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Astrologer hits a homer ... sort of

Posted 10 years ago by Anonymous
Before last night, I always thought astrological predictions were made of the stinky stuff you use to fertilize flower beds. I suppose I've been naïve, thinking one's actions and fate have more to do with conscious choices and free will, rather than celestial bodies' positions at particular times. However, thanks to his soothsaying ability, Chicagoland astrologer Grant Wylie may have converted me to the dark side.In a Chicago Sun-Times article, Wylie went out on a limb, predicti...
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Asteroid named for George Takei

Posted 10 years ago by Anonymous
George Takei, Star Trek's Hikaru Sulu and Heroes' Kaito Nakamura, has the honor of having a star named for him, albeit on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Now the actor and civil rights activist has a real celestial object named for him: 7307 Takei. Discovered by two Japanese astronomers in 1994, the asteroid is located between Mars and Jupiter. Many noteworthy people have asteroids named for them, from physicist Isaac Newton to painter Jackson Pollock to novelist Kurt Vonnegut. Astronomy...
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Waiting for Chang'e-1 to launch. And waiting. And waiting.

Posted 10 years ago by Daniel Pendick
  The Chang’e-1 lunar probe will explore the Moon from orbit. The mission includes mapping lunar topography, surveying the distribution of chemical elements, and gathering high-resolution photos of the lunar surface in preparation for future surface exploration. China National Space Administration I don't know about you, but I just can't wait for China to launch its lunar orbiter, Chang'e-1. Not because I'm a big fan of the Chinese space program, although I ho...
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One of my favorite subjects

Posted 10 years ago by Michael Bakich
  Springer If you've followed my blogging, you know I love the constellations. It follows, therefore, that I also love star maps — old, new, it doesn't matter. And along with the maps themselves, I like their stories and those of the men who created them. Lucky me. I just received Star Maps: History, Artistry, and Cartography by Nick Kanas (Springer, 2007). This is one thorough and highly illustrated book! Kanas begins with a short chapter about constellation and cosmological m...
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The War comes to America

Posted 10 years ago by Rich Talcott
  The Andromeda Galaxy, like all spirals, shows a population of older, redder stars near its center (lower right) and younger, bluer stars in its surrounding spiral arms. Walter Baade discovered the different populations through observations made during World War II. NOAO/AURA/NSFIf you've been watching Ken Burns' World War II documentary, The War, this week, you've seen the key role science played during that global conflagration. But there was more science involved in the effo...

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