Astronomy magazine editors share their unique insight from behind the scenes of the science, hobby, and magazine.
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Zybek begins Kickstarter project for synthetic Moon dust

Posted 3 years ago by Sarah Scoles
I’m sorry to kill your dreams, but you will never go to the Moon. Here’s a bit of consolation, though: You can mess around with Moon dust. Or at least something that’s a lot like Moon dust. It’s called Lunar Simulant, and the company that makes it — Zybek — specializes in making materials that mimic the surfaces of celestial bodies. It may seem like a weird business to be in, or a dirty job, but somebody’s got to do it. To find out how our rovers and la...
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Visiting the Discovery Channel Telescope

Posted 3 years ago by Michael Bakich
On Sunday, February 2, my wife, Holley, and I enjoyed a behind-the-scenes look at the Discovery Channel Telescope (DCT). We were the guests of Commissioning Scientist Stephen Levine, whose office is at Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona.The DCT is about an hour’s drive from Flagstaff near the tiny town of Happy Jack. It sits atop a mountain approximately 7,800 feet (2,380 meters) above sea level. Needless to say, the view was fantastic. But the contents of the observatory and its anc...
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Help astronomers find dust disks with new Zooniverse project

Posted 3 years ago by Liz Kruesi
Zooniverse just launched its newest astronomy-related citizen science project: Disk Detective, which involves users scouring images to identify possible dust disks around stars. Such structures could signal a young star with a disk of material that will eventually turn into planets or a mature planetary system with its own Kuiper Belt or asteroid belt. As a participant, you’ll look at a series of images — a flipbook, really — that shows an object in a range of wavelengths: vis...
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The 2014 Tucson Public Star Party is just around the corner

Posted 3 years ago by Michael Bakich
If you plan on being anywhere near Tucson on Saturday, February 8, 2014, join Editor David Eicher and me as Astronomy magazine hosts its second annual all-day skywatching party at the East Campus Observatory of Pima Community College (PCC). Last year, everyone involved had a blast, and this year looks to be even better. Activities begin at 10 a.m. and continue all the way through 9 p.m. Members of the Tucson Amateur Astronomy Association (TAAA) will have telescopes set up day and night to allow...
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Stephen Hawking claims our picture of black holes needs a makeover

Posted 3 years ago by Sarah Scoles
If a group of astronauts falls into a black hole, they may be able to get out, according to a paper Stephen Hawking posted online January 22. You would not recognize the unfortunate space travelers, though, and you would not be able to piece their particles back together in a recognizable form. But information about who they were would not technically be destroyed. Hawking’s new theory, not yet through the peer-review process, proposes that black holes do not have event horizons and may no...
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"Hawking," an autobiographical documentary about the world's most famous Stephen

Posted 3 years ago by Sarah Scoles
You may know of Stephen Hawking because your mom gave you A Brief History of Time when you were a teenager and it blew your mind. Or perhaps you have nightmares about how black holes are in a constant state of evaporation because of Hawking Radiation. Maybe you’ve hummed along to “Symphony of Science” a time or two. Regardless of what you know about Hawking and his work, your perspective is a hole-filled outsider’s. Hawking, a new documentary about the world&rsq...
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An astronomy trip to remember

Posted 3 years ago by Ron Kovach
You probably remember the film The Bucket List, starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman as two terminally ill men who head off on a road trip with a list of things to do before they die. Now comes a to-do list with truly astronomical implications — the second edition of the Bucket List Astronomy Tour (BLAST Class), courtesy of Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas. The June 1–22 tour, coordinated by the school’s Office of International Programs and its Physics D...
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Black holes are flaring and stars are being kicked out of the galaxy at the American Astronomical Society conference

Posted 3 years ago by Sarah Scoles
The American Astronomical Society's (AAS) meeting is winding up, but the news continues apace as the conference's final hour approaches. Here are some reports from the field: Big galaxies have big black holes (supermassive ones, in fact) at their centers. But Amy Reines and colleagues at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory discovered that tiny galaxies have tiny black holes. And here, “tiny” is relative, in that the black holes are known as “massive” rather than &ld...
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Heading to the International CES

Posted 3 years ago by Michael Bakich
The world’s greatest consumer electronics and technology trade show is taking place right now. The 2014 International CES officially runs yesterday, January 7, through Friday. But other shows, previews, and media day actually will make it more than a weeklong affair. I’ll be there starting today, and I’ll report what I see that’s related to our terrific hobby. The International CES is the world’s gathering place for all who thrive on the business of consumer techno...
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Taking pictures of nearby planets and distant galaxies at the American Astronomical Society conference

Posted 3 years ago by Sarah Scoles
NASA's Kepler telescope may be good at finding planets, but it's not good at finding all planets. It's a bit blind to worlds far from their stars. If Kepler were an alien telescope, it would have a hard time seeing our Jupiter, for instance. And its data implies “Hey! There's a planet! It's X miles wide!” rather than “Hey! There's a planet that is Y times Earth's mass and contains A, B, C interesting molecules!” For that kind of analysis, astronomers need a different...
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Exoplanets in the spotlight at the American Astronomical Society conference

Posted 3 years ago by Sarah Scoles
“Welcome to the American Astronomical Society conference, one of the largest gatherings of astronomers in the history of the planet. Although there are so many planets, it's no longer impressive,” said David Helfand, the president of the society, greeting the more than 3,000 astronomers attending the conference, which is taking place from January 5-9 in Washington, D.C. Because there's so much information at this conference, I'm providing recaps of the major stories in 140 or fewer ...
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Join us in Tucson for a day of Sun and stars

Posted 3 years ago by Michael Bakich
On Saturday, February 8, 2014, Astronomy magazine will host its second annual all-day skywatching party at the East Campus Observatory of Pima Community College (PCC). The event also will feature illustrated talks on a variety of subjects. Activities begin at 10 a.m. and continue all the way through 9 p.m.Some of the speakers include Keith Schlottman, past-president of the Tucson Amateur Astronomy Association (TAAA); Scott Kardel, president of the International Dark Sky Association; Mike Reynold...
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Discover the Universe in Kabul

Posted 3 years ago by Sarah Scoles
Doug Kaupa is a U.S. soldier currently deployed to Kabul, Afghanistan, with a passion for sharing the night sky. As part of the Discover the Universe program, he distributed star charts and images to local schoolchildren. On top of that, he and his colleagues pooled their resources to purchase inexpensive binoculars so the students would be able to put their new astronomical knowledge to use. He wrote about the experience at Anna’s Educational Center, where students continue to learn about...
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One month left to win $2,500 for your astronomy outreach efforts!

Posted 3 years ago by Michael Bakich
With just a month to go before the closing date for Astronomy magazine’s 2013 Out-of-this-world Award, I wanted to post a reminder about this great opportunity. If you’re part of a nonprofit group anywhere in the world that presents the wonders of astronomy to the public, you’re eligible for this $2,500 award. Based on when proposals arrived in the past few years, I’m sure there are still organizations out there that are eligible for this prize but simply haven’t a...
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Astronomy wins national award for editorial excellence

Posted 3 years ago by Ron Kovach
We are pleased to announce that Astronomy magazine has won a top award for editorial excellence in FOLIO: magazine’s prestigious annual competition. The results were announced this week for FOLIO:’s Eddie and Ozzie Awards competition, the largest of its kind for magazine publishers. A panel of media executives and FOLIO: staff judge the entries, evaluating them based on creativity, innovation, and “proven success in aligning [a magazine] brand’s mission with the end prod...
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World Egg: Jonathan Feldschuh's artistic interpretation of Planck satellite data

Posted 3 years ago by Sarah Scoles
Some artists create images based on bowls of fruit, some on groups of people picnicking, and some on images that only exist in their heads. And then there are others, like Jonathan Feldschuh, who create art from scientific data. Feldschuh’s current exhibition, called The World Egg, takes the Planck telescope’s observations — which show the universe as it was in its earliest epoch — and turns the cosmic microwave background into a source not just of knowledge but also of i...
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Comet ISON comes into solar observatory's view

Posted 3 years ago by Karri Ferron
As promised, as Comet ISON nears its closest approach to the Sun (called perihelion) on November 28, it is gaining the attention of NASA's solar observatories. First up is the Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory (STEREO), which captured ISON and periodic comet 2P/Encke in its HI-1 camera November 21. In the time-lapse video below, dark ripples coming from the right side are more dense areas in the solar wind, causing ripples in Comet Encke's tail. The most intriguing solar observatory image...
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A spicy island

Posted 3 years ago by Rich Talcott
After leaving the Masai Mara on November 6, our MWT Associates, Inc. group split into two. Eight people decided to extend their game viewing with a trip to Tanzania to see Ngorongoro Crater and the Serengeti; the rest of us opted for rest and relaxation on Zanzibar, an island in the Indian Ocean not far off the African mainland. Friday, November 7, promised to be our first day of rest and relaxation on the whole trip. Unfortunately, the skies opened up in the early afternoon, putting a damper o...
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Animals for as far as the eye can see

Posted 3 years ago by Rich Talcott
On the morning of November 4, our eclipse group took a short flight from Nairobi to the Masai Mara — a vast expanse on Kenya’s southern border famous for its rich variety of wildlife. Located just north of Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park, the Masai Mara features the same abundance of wildlife as its better-known southern neighbor. The 30 or so members of our MWT Associates, Inc. tour took three long game rides on Monday and Tuesday and saw sights none of us would soon forget...
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Sand, Sun, and storms — but no totality

Posted 3 years ago by Rich Talcott
For fans of odd weather or anti-crepuscular rays, it would be hard to beat the sky’s performance November 3. For fans of total solar eclipses, however, the day proved less charming. The day started with promise at the Mt. Kenya Safari Club, where partly cloudy skies ruled and the forecast looked good for our eclipse site. After breakfast, the 30-odd members of our MWT Associates, Inc. tour group traveled to a small airstrip and boarded three chartered planes for a nearly two-hour flight t...
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Into Africa

Posted 3 years ago by Rich Talcott
Darkness had fallen by the time we touched down in Nairobi on October 30 following a nine-hour plane flight from London. Along with about 30 other eclipse enthusiasts, I had traveled to Kenya with MWT Associates, Inc. to witness the November 3 total eclipse of the Sun at a site that, climatologically speaking, had the best chances for clear skies of any land-based observing site. Although we would be in the Moon’s umbral shadow for just 14 seconds, we all thought it was worth traveling nea...
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Wicked weather and northern lights in Norway

Posted 3 years ago by Karri Ferron
Between spouts of crazy weather during the night, the passengers aboard the MS Midnatsol traveling along the coast of Norway, some of us with the group hosted by Astronomy magazine's travel partner, MWT Associates, had the chance to seem some beautiful displays of northern lights. Friday night saw a combination of music and lights. After some sporadic activity above us, the ship made her way into Tromsø, the "capital" of Arctic Norway. A large group of us headed to the Arctic Cathedral f...
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Searching for fossils in Morocco

Posted 3 years ago by Liz Kruesi
My travel companions and I spent yesterday and today exploring the fossil-rich region of Morocco. The now-arid land was covered by a sea millions of years ago, and the preserved remains of the animals that lived within it are embedded in rock formations near the Saharan desert. The 30 of us on the MWT Associates Gabon & Morocco tour traveled from Ouarzazate to Erfoud yesterday, and on the way we stopped at an ancient rock formation. After we exited the bus to walk around the rocks, our guide...
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Urban Starfest in Central Park draws hundreds of stargazers

Posted 3 years ago by Sarah Scoles
Despite the unseasonable chill, the clouds, and the thousands of other worthy events going on in New York City, hundreds of people filed into Sheep's Meadow in Central Park last night for the Urban Starfest. They were greeted by Susan Andreoli, a member of the Manhattan-based Amateur Astronomers Association (AAA) board, who handed each start party-goer a bag of astro-swag and sent them down the hill toward a line of impressive telescopes and telescope operators. The Urban Starfest takes place o...
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The desert and oasis of Morocco

Posted 3 years ago by Liz Kruesi
During the past couple days, I’ve explored some of the desert oasis area in Morocco. I’m traveling with a group from Astronomy’s travel partner, MWT Associates. Yesterday we drove to the Todra Gorge, a canyon carved by the Todra and Dades rivers. The walls on either side of the gorge are some 500 feet (150 meters) tall, but the opening itself is closer to one-tenth that. We saw beautiful vegetation in the region, due to the generous amount of water (which is hard to come by el...
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A peek at aurorae from northern Norway

Posted 3 years ago by Karri Ferron
The aurora-hunting group I'm traveling with thanks to Astronomy magazine's tour partner, MWT Associates, had a bit of success on our first night looking for the northern lights aboard the MS Midnatsol off the shores of far northern Norway. We've been battling lots of clouds but received a break a few hours before dinner after our stop in ‪Vardø‬. I unfortunately missed the first spectacle, as I had foolishly gone inside to warm up, but my travel companions graciously shared pictures and d...
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Exploring the Moroccan west and southwest

Posted 3 years ago by Liz Kruesi
Since the eclipse, our group has traveled out of Gabon and back to Morocco — a welcome change of pace from the adventure in Gabon. We spent about 36 hours in Marrakech and drove across the High Atlas Mountains into the northern Sahara desert. While in Marrakech we toured La Bahia Palace, the Saadien tombs, the main market (called a “souk”), an apothecary, and other sites. Although touristy, the city’s sites gave the 30 of us on the Gabon & Morocco tour insight into th...
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A quest for aurorae in Norway

Posted 3 years ago by Karri Ferron
After four flights in 24 hours, I'm finally in Oslo, Norway, along with 17 other astronomy enthusiasts, to start a northern lights adventure with Astronomy's tour partner, MWT Associates. Of course, my travel isn't over — we still have one more flight early tomorrow morning to Kirkenes — but it's finally hit me that I'm on a trip I've been waiting for basically since I started at the magazine. You see, the last (and only) time I've ever seen an aurora was when I was in grade school ...
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A tribute to comet hunters

Posted 3 years ago by Michael Bakich
Recently, Amar A. Sharma, who works at the Nikaya Observatory in Bangalore, India, sent in some material we thought would be perfect for a guest blog — especially with the perihelion of Comet ISON (C/2012 S1) right around the corner. The author describes himself as someone who has long possessed an unquenched aspiration to discover comets, and he envisions someday narrating his own discovery stories. He prepared this blog using excerpts from his upcoming large compilation — a biogra...
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Clear skies in Gabon to view the total solar eclipse

Posted 3 years ago by Liz Kruesi
I’m thrilled to report that luck was on our sides today. Even though the day began with dense gray clouds, about one-third through the partial eclipse blue skies started to peek through. And it remained clear for us to see the total eclipse! Screams of excitement and amazement echoed through our observing location. As for my father and I — this was our first eclipse, and all we could say was how amazing the site was. After totality, I couldn't wipe the smile off my face. Just before...

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