Astronomy magazine editors share their unique insight from behind the scenes of the science, hobby, and magazine.
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Mars and why we’ll get there

Posted 10 years ago by Dick McNally
Recently a learned scientist called me to tell me why we’ll never make it to Mars. According to this fine gentleman, humans will not be able to stand up to the assault of solar radiation while traveling to the Red Planet or while on Mars’ surface, especially because of the extended length of time such a mission would take.His argument made sense.  It seems there is currently no way to adequately shield humans from the lethal radiation outside Earth’s magnetic field (Apollo...
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Previewing our trips and tours

Posted 10 years ago by David Eicher
Astronomy magazine is fortunate to have commenced a partnership with a world-class travel firm whose owner, Melita Wade Thorpe, is an active and enthusiastic amateur astronomer. Melita’s company, MWT Associates, is based in San Jose, California. Melita has more than 24 years’ experience in organizing and executing tours for amateur astronomers. Among the exotic locales from Melita’s previous trips are Egypt, Italy, Turkey, Botswana, and Tunisia.      &n...
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Turn left at M8

Posted 10 years ago by Anonymous
Firefly Books has published 300 Astronomical Objects (A Visual Reference to the Universe), a new road map for a tour of the universe. Designed for those getting into the science and hobby of astronomy, the book follows a logical path from the solar system, through the Milky Way, and out to other galaxies. Pictures make the book. Although the text gets to the point and admirably covers subjects in a compact format, kudos to the art team that selected the photos. The book pulls in the best so...
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More on meteorites

Posted 10 years ago by David Eicher
A few weeks ago the staff of Astronomy commenced what is a very popular feature on our web site — the podcasts. We’ve received a large response telling us how much they are enjoyed and appreciated. We’ll certainly keep them going once a week. The first podcast featured Senior Editor Michael Bakich and me sitting around, talking about meteorites. You know, one of those things we sometimes go into at lunchtime around here. Well, a number of you told us how much better it would be...
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Are scientists self-serving or public servants?

Posted 10 years ago by Anonymous
I heard it mentioned more than once at this week’s American Astronomical Society (AAS) Division of Planetary Sciences (DPS) meeting in Pasadena that scientists are a self-serving lot interested only in their own narrow research topics. Are they? The issue became front and center almost immediately during NASA night, a DPS evening event featuring a panel of three NASA members and the AAS’s executive director. Panelists included NASA Deputy Associate Administrator Colleen Hartman,...
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The big question

Posted 10 years ago by Francis Reddy
Is there life elsewhere in the galaxy? Science-fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke broke it down this way: “There are two possibilities, Maybe we’re alone. Maybe we’re not. Both are equally frightening.”Clarke’s summation concludes Bruce Jakosky’s new book, Science, Society, and the Search for Life in the Universe, (University of Arizona Press, 2006). The book is an accessible introduction to the burgeoning field of astrobiology, study of the origin, evolution, a...
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The American Astronomical Society Division of Planetary Sciences annual conference

Posted 10 years ago by Anonymous
The American Astronomical Society Division of Planetary Sciences (AAS DPS) held a full day of sessions October 9 at its annual conference in Pasadena, California. Monday’s sessions included talks on extrasolar planets, the origin of satellites, outer-planet atmospheres, and comet nuclei. Scientists gave mission highlights on Venus Express, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity, and asteroid 1 Ceres. A 90-minute session is composed of 9 speakers, with each...
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Neptune and William Lassell

Posted 10 years ago by Anonymous
Today marks the 160th anniversary of Neptune's discovery by English astronomer William Lassell. Lassell also discovered Ariel and Umbriel, satellites of Uranus;  Triton, a satellite of Neptune; and Hyperion, a satellite of Saturn. William Bond and George Bond also independently discovered Hyperion. William Lassell was a Liverpool businessman-turned-astronomer who had made his fortune in brewing. If you would like to take a look at Neptune, by midevening on October nights, bin...
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Space junk: faster than a speeding bullet, and more dangerous

Posted 10 years ago by Dick McNally
If you think litter is a problem here on Earth, consider the junk that orbits our planet. From nuts and bolts to gloves and other stuff left over from space missions, this trash is downright dangerous.    Add to that the natural debris (meteroids) that orbit our planet, and you can see we have to be careful with our spacecraft and crews. That was demonstrated when a radiator on space shuttle Atlantis was punctured by a tiny piece of space debris during its recent mission. The hole was...
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Our podcasts

Posted 10 years ago by David Eicher
I want to draw your attention to our weekly podcasts, coordinated and hosted by Assistant Editor Jeremy McGovern. Available under the “perspectives” section on our home page, the podcasts have commenced to rave reviews from listeners. Thus far, we have featured such diverse topics as Pluto’s demotion (addressed by Mike Brown of Caltech, Alan Stern of the Southwest Research Institute, and discoverer Clyde Tombaugh’s widow Patsy); the latest on exoplanets from Senior Editor...
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Close call for an Iraqi friend

Posted 10 years ago by David Eicher
In the December 2004 Astronomy, then-Assistant Editor Matt Quandt profiled Raad Ali Abdulaziz, an Iraqi amateur astronomer, engineer, and humanitarian. Just as the story was getting ready to go to press, our whole staff experienced a chilling morning when we learned that Raad, along with three other aid workers, was kidnapped in Baghdad by Islamic extremists. Just before the issue went to press, we suddenly learned the drama concluded well, with the group, Raad included, being released unharmed....
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Out-of-this-World Award

Posted 10 years ago by David Eicher
Congratulations to Celestial North, Inc., an astronomy club based in Freeland, Washington! Last September, Celestial North became the recipient of Astronomy magazine’s first annual Out-of-this-World Award, which recognizes ongoing astronomy club outreach efforts. The $2,500 prize rewards Celestial North’s sustained efforts to involve the Puget Sound community in the science and hobby of astronomy. Astronomy magazine editors chose Celestial North from 32 clubs throughout the United S...
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Don’t worry, OnStar should still work

Posted 10 years ago by Anonymous
Scientists at Cornell University have found strong solar flares can cause Global Positioning System (GPS) receivers to fail. These generally unpredictable and abnormal solar belches could be devastating for “safety-of-life” GPS operations, such as navigating passenger jets, stabilizing floating oil rigs, and locating mobile-phone distress calls. “Soon the FAA [Federal Aviation Administration] will require that every plane have a GPS receiver transmitting its position to air tra...
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It's a man holding a snake. No, really

Posted 10 years ago by Anonymous
Eighty-eight constellations cover the sky. No gaps exist between them, and there's no overlap. It's a logical system where every object — star, planet, or galaxy — resides within one constellation's boundaries. This arrangement resembles a map of the United States. Everything in the country belongs to one state (or the District of Columbia). A few quirks exist. For example, you can find a small Kansas City in Kansas and a huge Kansas City in Missouri. Don't ask.The co...
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Satire from the Prophet of Science

Posted 10 years ago by Anonymous
Bison Books has published the first-ever English translation of The Meteor Hunt by Jules Verne. The French writer left the novel to us when he passed away in 1905. In this novel, a meteor of pure gold heads toward Earth, setting off excitement and chaos. The Meteor Hunt provides Verne’s view of turn-of-the-century science. Of particular interest to the investigative reader are notes from editors and translators Frederick Paul Walker and Walter James Miller following the translated text. S...
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A close-up of the “Face of Mars”

Posted 10 years ago by Anonymous
The European Space Agency’s Mars Express orbiter recently captured a view of the Cydonia region, site of the famous “Face on Mars.” NASA’s Viking I revealed this ruddy mug to us back in July 1976. This region isn’t only of interest to sci-fi fans and alien life-form speculators, but to planetary geologists. In areas adjacent to Cydonia, gently sloping areas surrounding hills or reliefs, formations known as “debris aprons,” are frequently found. The...
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The sofa vs. the sky

Posted 10 years ago by Michael Bakich
Statistics show Astronomy's loyal followers divide along two paths: "Armchair astronomers," who read about astronomy, and hobbyists, who observe. Of course, we want everyone to read about our favorite subject — we're learning so much about the universe that's new and wonderful — but armchair astronomers only read. I find this behavior puzzling.You don't need expensive equipment to observe. Heck, you don't need any equipment at all. Let me give you an exa...
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ALConEXPO 2006

Posted 10 years ago by David Eicher
The stars at night were big and bright when the Astronomical League gathered this month in Arlington, Texas. The meeting, dubbed ALConEXPO 2006, was held August 4–5, 2006, and attracted about 150 amateur astronomers who came to hear speakers, talk about the Astronomical League’s activities, enjoy star parties, and marvel at the nearby Oscar Monnig Meteorite Gallery at Texas Christian University. Although it was a small meeting by past standards, the event was packed with energy. The...
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Welcome

Posted 10 years ago by Anonymous
Thank you for visiting our new blog.Here, the staff of Astronomy magazine will share our stories, views, reviews, and anything cool we see in the news. We also will report from star parties and science conferences we attend.Check back as we update this blog....

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