Astronomy magazine editors share their unique insight from behind the scenes of the science, hobby, and magazine.
0

Cool web-cam action

Posted 10 years ago by Anonymous
A historic telescope is now very modern: the 200-inch (5.1 meters) Hale Telescope on Palomar Mountain in California has a web cam.The Hale was the world's largest telescope for 45 years (1948–1993), and it still performs science. This morning, around 9 PST, engineers will lift off the top of the telescope and bring it down to the observing floor in order to aluminize the secondary mirror. Check it out. If you miss it, don't worry — the web cam will run 24/7, so you'll hav...
1

Space tourism: economy seats available

Posted 10 years ago by Daniel Pendick
In a recent blog, I told you about the contest for a free ride into suborbital space sponsored by Microsoft Corp. and chipmaker Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) Inc. Ticket prices for such adventures run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars and even the millions.  DreamSpace’s XF-1 is a one-person spaceship that will take off like a plane and soar into suborbital space using a liquid-fuel rocket engine. The prototype XF-1 could be ready for flight by the end of 2007 and will be launc...
0

Star party do’s and don’ts (Part 2)

Posted 10 years ago by Michael Bakich
Following up on last week's start, here are a few more suggestions I hope you'll consider before you attend a star party.With regard to viewing through someone else's telescope — focus! I have suggested this to thousands of people, young and old, beginning and advanced, and I repeat it here. Our eyes are not all the same. Even a minute amount of focusing can reveal details within Saturn's rings that were invisible before. It's that critical. If you're unfamiliar wit...
0

A revised future for astronomy at Mauna Kea

Posted 10 years ago by Daniel Pendick
Astronomers and native Hawaiians both worship Mauna Kea, but for very different reasons. The 13,796 foot (4,205 meter) peak of the volcano is the Mecca of ground-based astronomy. It hosts 12 observatories, including the Keck, Gemini North, and Subaru telescopes.  This aerial view shows sunrise on Mauna Kea. Part of the shadow of Mauna Kea can be seen in the background. The observatories seen here are (from right to left): Keck I and II (large twin white domes), NASA Infrared Telescope Facil...
0

Gouge me a crater

Posted 10 years ago by Rich Talcott
"Water on Mars!" Headlines like this almost write themselves. The media jump at the opportunity to trumpet such reports — and what the implications may be for life on other worlds. It happens with Mars (frequently), Jupiter's moon Europa (often), and even Saturn's moon Enceladus (the latest entry in the water/life sweepstakes).  Mars Global Surveyor imaged a fresh impact crater with a dark debris pattern (left image) March 13, 2006. The 65-foot-wide (19.8m) crater fo...
0

Big universe

Posted 10 years ago by Daniel Pendick
How many times have you looked up at the night sky — or at a stunning image in Astronomy magazine of a single galaxy containing billions of stars — and thought: "There has just got to be life out there"?The trick is finding it. The SETI program listens for radio-frequency whispers from the vastness of space. Rasmus Bjørk at the Niels Bohr Institute in Copenhagen, Denmark, reaches for his calculator.Bjørk 's paper, "Exploring the Galaxy using space pro...
0

The universe the way we see it

Posted 10 years ago by David Eicher
Humans now live in a world of complete oversaturation. You see it everywhere you go. Everyone wants to drive faster, get places, do things, see people, make deals, move on down the road. We can't go anywhere without the latest cell phone, need 24/7 access to CNN and iPods and SIRIUS Radio, and God help us if we can't find the BlackBerry. We've culturally turned up the volume in the movies, on TV, in print, and everywhere else so that we're a culture of watchers of over-hyped sens...
0

Back to Barsoom

Posted 10 years ago by Daniel Pendick
The entertainment media are abuzz today with reports that Disney is in final negotiations to create a new movie franchise — a la "Pirates of the Caribbean" — from the famous Edgar Rice Burroughs "John Carter of Mars" series of 11 novels. The muscular, steely-eyed Virginian was transported to Mars via astral projection. The planet, known as Barsoom to the locals, conveniently imparted heroic strength to Carter due to its weaker gravity. When Disney finally run...
0

Star party do's and don’ts (Part 1)

Posted 10 years ago by Michael Bakich
In my last blog, I talked about the many reasons to head out to a star party. I'm following up in this blog (and the next two) by outlining some tips that will keep you from incurring the wrath of fellow star-partiers.First, follow all posted instructions. Many star parties provide a sheet of general nighttime rules. If you've not been to that particular star party, read and memorize the list.Avoid using light. Please note I didn't say "avoid using white light." While it...
0

Amateurs go online to assist researchers

Posted 10 years ago by Anonymous
So you want to contribute to the science of astronomy, but you haven't yet gotten around to earning your Ph.D.? No problem. Amateur astronomers have more opportunities than ever to participate in professional research. If you have a computer and an Internet connection, you're there.Professional astronomers collect a multitude of data each year using some of the world's largest telescopes. The data are typically stored in online databases. Increasingly, many researchers are turning to...
0

Everything old is wonderful again

Posted 10 years ago by Daniel Pendick
The other day, I was interviewing Harvey Richer, a professor of astronomy at the University of British Columbia. He and one of his former Ph.D. students, Jason Kalirai, recently discovered the most distant star clusters ever observed. The press material included a lovely image of the clusters, so I jumped on the story. After all, one of the things that drives the popularization of astronomy — and, at least in part, subscriptions to Astronomy magazine — are the pretty pictures.But it&...
0

Soccer-ball space science

Posted 10 years ago by Francis Reddy
With its exciting operations at asteroid Itokawa in late 2005, Japan's Hayabusa showed the time has come for on-site exploration of near-Earth asteroids and comets. Dennis Ebbets and his colleagues at Ball Aerospace and Technologies Corp. in Boulder, Colorado, presented a novel design concept for such missions at this week's American Astronomical Society meeting in Seattle.   A spherical lander opens its petals and sets to work on an asteroid in this illustration. In the distance, a...
0

Winter deep-sky challenges

Posted 10 years ago by David Eicher
The next time you're out observing and you find yourself checking out the same objects one too many times, consider branching out into some new territory. Find a level of object that pushes your equipment and your observational skill, and draw up a list of new things to see. Try sketching the objects carefully with a pad of paper, a dim red flashlight, and a soft pencil (an Eberhard Faber Ebony pencil works best for smudging the faint light of nebulae and galaxies). Many years ago, an old ob...
0

Fly me to the Moon

Posted 10 years ago by Daniel Pendick
You're a Silicon Valley god. You developed the most killer "killer app" in history. You just sold it to Google for a few billion dollars and change. You can have anything you want. What will it be? Diamond-encrusted cell phone? Nightly caviar bath? Health insurance with no deductibles or co-pays?How about a thrill ride into suborbital space?A surprisingly large number of the conspicuously wealthy have already paid their fares to a variety of companies offering "space tourism&q...
0

Dusk and dawn delights

Posted 10 years ago by Rich Talcott
The big news in the observing world this past week has been the remarkable brightness of Comet C/2006 P1 (McNaught). It has now reached magnitude -2 — as bright as the planet Jupiter — and makes an impressive sight shortly after sunset.  Comet C/2006 P1 (McNaught) hangs low in evening twilight, just above some encroaching clouds, from Astronomy’s headquarters in Waukesha, Wisconsin. Ernie Mastroianni The comet took most astronomers by surprise. It was a 17th-magnitude obje...
0

Drat! Plutoed again!

Posted 10 years ago by Daniel Pendick
I love words. Or as I sometimes say after firing off a particularly groan-inducing pun or double entendre, "I'm a word guy." So imagine my excitement, as both a lifelong word guy and a member of the Astronomy staff, when I heard the news that the American Dialect Society (ADS) had declared plutoed its word of the year. Plutoed means "to be demoted or devalued." As in, "One day you're a planet, the next you're not." Rodney Dangerfield would understand. So...
1

Google me up, Scotty

Posted 10 years ago by Daniel Pendick
After it begins operation in 2013, the 27.5-foot (8.4 meter) Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) will image an area of the sky roughly 50 times that of the Full Moon every 15 seconds. Its 3,000-megapixel digital camera will pour out 7,000 DVD's worth of bits and bytes every night, causing astronomers to reel drunkenly with data. But who in the world is going to organize and analyze such a vast amount of information? Who ya gonna call?Google, that's who. This side view of the 8.4-meter...
0

Party like it's 2007

Posted 10 years ago by Michael Bakich
If you've never been to a star party, what are you waiting for? Star parties are ideal settings for amateur astronomers, especially beginners. Such gatherings offer several advantages.First, attending a star party places you in a group of like-minded individuals who either can answer your questions or help you figure out where to get them answered. Astronomy clubs host most star parties, and club members generally love to share information about their chosen hobby.Another advantage to a star...
0

Where astronomy meets medicine

Posted 10 years ago by Francis Reddy
The star-forming region IC 348 is rendered as 3-Dcontours, together with slicing planes, in 3D Slicer. IIC/CfA"Astronomical medicine" isn't a word combination I ever expected to come across. Yet, today, while scoping out papers presented at the American Astronomical Society's Seattle meeting, I caught sight of a report on something called the Astronomical Medicine Project.  Color me intrigued.Known less formally as AstroMed, the project is part of Harvard University's...
0

Deep sky dilemma

Posted 10 years ago by Michael Bakich
About half of our readers observe regularly. I hope you're one of them, because those of us who scan the sky find observing both fun and rewarding. Plus, this blog will mean more to you.Here's a question for observers: Are you in a rut? Now, I'm not here to poo-poo anyone's observing, but if you find yourself looking at the same objects every time you head out under the night sky, your observing lacks diversity. Let me give you an example. Years ago, I had a friend who owned a gr...
0

The sky is falling

Posted 10 years ago by Daniel Pendick
Everyone carries around a kit bag of pet jokes or wisecracks. One of my favorites gets pulled out at every "just in case" moment in life, as in, "just in case something happens to me." Only in my case, it's "just in case a meteorite hits me in the head." It always gets at least an amused smirk.Until the other day, when a Reuters news report popped up on my computer monitor about a suspected meteorite strike on a house in New Jersey. The metallic-looking object, ...
0

Gerald Ford

Posted 10 years ago by Anonymous
Gerald Ford, the United States' 38th president, passed away yesterday at age 93. Most citizens, regardless of how they feel about his political affiliation, give him credit for mending a nation rocked by the Watergate scandal created by his predecessor. As many reflect on Ford's legacy, his support of U.S. efforts in space should not be overlooked.As a member of the House, he was instrumental in passing legislation that developed NASA. President Ford championed the space agency's ef...
0

In the dark

Posted 10 years ago by Anonymous
I haven't seen many dark skies. I guess I'm just a city girl. It's easy to forget to look up when there's not much to see except Orion and the Moon. I've seen them before. But I've been to Kitt Peak in Arizona, where I marveled at the number of stars. And I spent a summer living in the Greek countryside, where the Milky Way was bright overhead. The "Online extra" for February's "Simple steps to save the night sky," lists the United States' dark...
0

A weather eye turns 40

Posted 10 years ago by Francis Reddy
Satellite images have become such a staple of nightly TV weather segments, it's difficult to imagine a time when they didn't exist. Yet, the first full-disk images of a cloudy Earth turned 40 earlier this month. It's not much to look at by modern standards. But images like this from ATS-1's spin-scan cloud camera revolutionized meteorology. NASAAn innovative device called a spin-scan camera made these first images possible. The first one roared into a 22,200-mile-high (35,800 kil...
0

A short history of the birth and death of stars

Posted 10 years ago by Michael Bakich
You can cram a lot of data in a 156-page book. For example, we just received Steve Coe's Nebulae and How to Observe Them (Springer, London, 2006). If you're a beginning or intermediate observer, and if you're interested in observing nebulae, this is a book you should check out. I like the book for many reasons. Coe writes in a conversational tone. You can sample many of Coe's stories in the pages of Astronomy. As I write this blog, his most recent story ("Explore winter'...
0

Back to the future

Posted 10 years ago by Rich Talcott
Time travel has always intrigued me. Sometimes, I like to imagine what it would have been like to witness an historic event. Say, to be on the balcony with Galileo when he first saw the moons of Jupiter or the phases of Venus, and started us down the long road to understanding our place in the universe. Other times, I think about what the future may hold.So, it should come as no surprise that I perked up when I read the latest update from the Jet Propulsion Lab on the Cassini spacecraft's mi...
0

See some great sights close to home

Posted 11 years ago by Michael Bakich
At the start of the classic film Enter the Dragon, Bruce Lee's character tells one of his students to consider a finger pointed at the Moon. As the student closely examines Lee's finger, Lee slaps him on the head and says, "Don't concentrate on the finger, or you'll miss all that heavenly glory."For this installment, let me turn Lee's statement around: Don't concentrate on the heavenly glory or you'll miss some beautiful atmospheric sights. In other words, w...
0

A night under the stars — and haze

Posted 11 years ago by Rich Talcott
Mathematicians like me find numbers in almost everything we do. Last night, the key number was 11 — a simple count of the number of Geminid meteors I saw while observing for 1 hour centered around the shower's predicted peak at 2:45 A.M. CST.At first glance, that doesn't sound like many. Meteor expert Peter Jenniskens of the SETI Institute predicted the Geminid shower would peak at a zenithal hourly rate (ZHR) of 130 +/- 20 meteors per hour. But bear with me — you'll see ...
0

Lunar anniversary

Posted 11 years ago by Anonymous
Today marks 34 years since Apollo 17's Eugene Cernan became the last astronaut to tread on the Moon's surface. He and Harrison H. Schmitt, the first scientist on the Moon, landed on the lunar surface December 11, 1972. The lunar module took off from the Moon December 14, 2006, and the astronauts returned to Earth on the 19th.Besides lunar strolls, Neil Armstrong and Cernan — the first and last person to do so respectively — have something else in common: both are graduates of...
0

The Planetary Society offers $$$

Posted 11 years ago by David Eicher
On Wednesday afternoon at the American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco, the Planetary Society announced a major award for "asteroid tagging." The $50,000 prize will be awarded to the winner of the Society's Apophis Mission Design Competition, which asks participants to submit designs for a mission that could rendezvous with and "tag" a near-Earth asteroid (NEO) that could collide with Earth. According to the Society, tagging could be required to track an astero...

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