Dave Eicher, editor of Astronomy magazine and science popularizer, brings you thoughts about astronomy, cosmology, nature, the hobby of astronomy, the sometimes disturbingly pseudoscientific culture we live in, and more.
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Amazing Comet Lovejoy photo from Damian Peach

Posted 3 days ago by David Eicher
The incredible astroimager Damian Peach, frequent contributor to Astronomy magazine, has done it again. Here is Damian’s just-taken image of Comet Lovejoy (C/2014 Q2), which is poised to be a nice binocular object in the southern sky as it climbs northward during the last days of December. Damian imaged the comet, now at around 7th magnitude, on December 16, 2014, using a 20-inch CDK with a FLI CCD camera and an LRGB composite exposure. The comet will climb northward through Eridanus, Taur...
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Book excerpt: Do stars knock comets from the Oort Cloud?

Posted 5 days ago by David Eicher
The following excerpt comes from my book Comets! Visitors from Deep Space, published last year by Cambridge University Press. Astronomers believe that in the solar system’s past, stars have sometimes passed through the Oort Cloud. They propose that when this happened, a star would in effect tunnel its way through the cloud. A star of the Sun’s mass, moving at 20 km per second, would excavate a tube about 150 billion km wide (a distance 20 times greater than that between the Sun and P...
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Front Page Science launches important 2017 eclipse site

Posted 12 days ago by David Eicher
The biggest observational event in astronomy, in the Americas, is approaching. On August 21, 2017, a total solar eclipse will sweep from northwest to southeast across the entire United States and promises to be the most observed eclipse in history. Astronomy magazine Senior Editor Michael Bakich has established a major event for eclipse viewers along the center line, in St. Joseph, Missouri, a perfectly placed spot that offers 2 minutes, 39 seconds of totality and the convenience of civilization...
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Asteroid Day announced in London and San Francisco

Posted 16 days ago by David Eicher
You may have heard yesterday, amid the bustle of news about the approaching test of the Orion launch vehicle, of the other major astronomical news event of the day. At separate, simultaneous events in London and San Francisco, a distinguished group of scientists announced Asteroid Day, which will take place June 30, 2015. This important event, and movement, is being run by AsteroidDay.org, an organization founded by London-based filmmaker Grig Richters and supported by a who’s-who of plane...
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Rob Pickman's "Not-So-Dark-Sky Observing Guide"

Posted 18 days ago by David Eicher
We’re all familiar with those night-sky observing dreams of a huge telescope under a pitch black, moonless sky. But what about those of us who are limited to a city sky or under moderate suburban light pollution? A Florida observer, Rob Pickman, has published a guide for all of us who do not have a perfect sky. The Not-So-Dark-Sky Observing Guide features practical advice and numerous renderings of eyepiece views of interesting stars and bright deep-sky objects, largely clusters, visible f...
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The absolute necessity of the 2015 Observer's Handbook

Posted 18 days ago by David Eicher
I’ve been an observer of the sky for about 38 years now, since I was 15 years old. Looking back on those days, compared with today, is astonishing. I used a 7x50 finder scope on my 17.5-inch Dobsonian reflector, and I knew the whole sky, in terms of star-hopping to deep-sky objects. Now computerized databases guide us with telescopes that know where to point. We used to think objects like the Veil Nebula were challenging; now we routinely gaze at distant galaxy clusters and quasars. So muc...
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A great new astrophoto book

Posted 19 days ago by David Eicher
Many of you who read Astronomy magazine know the name Rogelio Bernal Andreo quite well. A frequent astrophotography contributor to the magazine, Rogelio is an accomplished deep-sky shooter, and I had the great joy of spending time with him at the Starmus Astrophoto School on La Palma this past September. Now, Rogelo has created a beautiful new book from his astroimaging, Hawai’i Nights. This magnificent visual treasure presents the results of 27 nights Rogelio spent skyshooting in Hawaii, ...
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Astronauts, scientists, Nobel laureates, technologists, and artists to announce Asteroid Awareness Day

Posted 19 days ago by David Eicher
Leading experts in astronomy, cosmology, physics, and entertainment will hold a simultaneous press conference in London and San Francisco on December 3 to announce Asteroid Day — a global day of awareness to educate the world about asteroids: what they are, how frequently they impact Earth, and how we can protect our planet and humanity from potential disasters. Asteroid Day will be held June 30, 2015, with events around the world hosted by individuals and organizations, at schools, m...
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Did comets bring water to Earth?

Posted 26 days ago by David Eicher
A book excerpt from COMETS! Visitors from Deep Space, by David J. Eicher (Cambridge University Press, New York, 2013) . . . A years-long affair with the idea of comets delivering a huge amount of water to Earth seemed built of pure, simple logic. Made largely of water ice, and existing perhaps in the trillions, they were the leading suspects. They also presumably retained their isotopic properties from the earliest days of the solar system. But recent measurements of the deuterium to hydrogen ra...
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"The Theory of Everything" now in theaters

Posted one month ago by David Eicher
Several weeks ago, I had the chance to see The Theory of Everything, the new film about Stephen Hawking and Jane Hawking, at a screening. The film is now out in select theaters, and I heartily encourage you to go see it. It is a really enjoyable film. Of Eddie Redmayne’s performance as Stephen, Hawking himself last week said, “At times I thought he was me!”The film follows Stephen’s life from his days as a Ph.D. student to being honored by the Queen in 1989. It will be an...
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Book excerpt: COMETS! By David J. Eicher

Posted one month ago by David Eicher
Here’s a little about comets from my recent Cambridge University Press book: Come to think of it, that’s one of the things that struck me as a teenager, lying out in that field, gazing up at Comet West. Suddenly, after I learned a little about what comets are, it hit me. They hammer home the immensity of the cosmos. Yes, they are relatively nearby. But seeing them move from night to night — changing their place against the backdrop of the stars glistening behind them — is...
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Astronomy's Cosmic Origins app nominated for Folio Eddie Award

Posted one month ago by David Eicher
Released last spring, Cosmic Origins, a digital application from Astronomy magazine, has been nominated by Folio magazine for an editorial excellence award. The detailed, interactive digital app is nominated for one of Folio’s Eddie Awards, one of the highest awards for achievement in periodicals each year. Folio’s awards breakfast, at which the winners will be announced, will take place December 11, 2014, at the Yale Club in New York City. Produced by the editors of Astronomy magazi...
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Beyond a comet, Pluto looms

Posted one month ago by David Eicher
We’ve all marveled for the last day at the historic first landing on the surface of a comet as Philae, dispatched from the Rosetta spacecraft, has begun science operations on a slowly warming comet. Now further excitement awaits for solar system research: The New Horizons spacecraft, en route to Pluto and its system of moons since 2006, will reach a critical milestone December 6. On that day, the spacecraft, set to be the first to explore the distant planet — or dwarf planet, de...
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A great new book on brown dwarfs

Posted one month ago by David Eicher
Brown dwarfs often get lost in the gaze of astronomy enthusiasts toward larger objects — stars — or smaller ones — planets. Nonetheless, these substellar objects that are not massive enough to ignite fusion reactions reveal fascinating things about the cosmos. An important new book on brown dwarfs is just out from Springer: 50 Years of Brown Dwarfs: From Prediction to Discovery to Forefront of Research (Viki Joergens, Editor, 168 pp., hardcover, Springer, New York, 20...
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New Starmus film features Dawkins, May, Hawking, Eicher, others

Posted one month ago by David Eicher
Check out the following short film produced by the Starmus Festival folks from the great event that took place six weeks ago. It includes some nice clips of Stephen Hawking, Brian May, Richard Dawkins, and others, including a spot of my talk on whether the universe really cares about itself . . . and much more! Follow David J. Eicher on Twitter: www.twitter.com/deicherstar cs_setInnerHtml('video_e215629e-6f63-49fd-92b0-8336651083c1',''); ...
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A great new book on space art

Posted one month ago by David Eicher
At long last, we now have copies of a wonderful new book on space art, titled The Art of Space, by frequent Astronomy magazine contributor Ron Miller. Published this month by Zenith Press (Minneapolis, 224 pp., hardcover, $35, ISBN 9780760346563), the book offers 350 color photos of some of the most amazing astronomical illustrations in the history of space art. There are also great forewords by Cassini planetary scientist Carolyn Porco and by scientist and space artist Dan Durda. At first blush...
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Astronomy Foundation gets new website

Posted one month ago by David Eicher
The Astronomy Foundation (AF) is rocking again. With its newly acquired 501(c)(3) nonprofit status and a very energetic new executive director, Steve Cullen, the organization is poised to make a big splash in astronomy outreach and education. Steve has assembled a new and impressive website for the foundation, and I encourage you to check it out at www.astronomyfoundation.com.It is just the start — there will be much more content to come. And thanks to all of you who visited the AF bo...
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Liz Kruesi named contributing editor of Astronomy magazine

Posted one month ago by David Eicher
I am very pleased today to announce that Liz Kruesi has been made a contributing editor of Astronomy magazine. Liz left the magazine staff a few weeks ago to move to Austin, Texas, where her husband took a job in the medical profession. Liz had been an associate editor of Astronomy, and before that an assistant editor, for several years, over stints of 2005–2006 and 2008 until just a few weeks ago. I know that you’ve enjoyed Liz’s great science writing and reporting in the maga...
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Erika Rix named contributing editor of Astronomy magazine

Posted one month ago by David Eicher
I am so pleased today to report that columnist and writer Erika Rix is now a contributing editor of Astronomy. As you probably know, Erika, who lives with her husband, Paul, in Liberty Hill, Texas, has written a column in the magazine about astronomical sketching since the January 2013 issue. She also has contributed some feature stories to the magazine. Erika is an accomplished observer and is well-known for her meticulous eyepiece renderings of a wide variety of solar system and deep-sky objec...
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UFOs: Book excerpt from "The New Cosmos"

Posted one month ago by David Eicher
From my forthcoming Cambridge University Press book, The New Cosmos . . .The multiple efforts now underway to search for extraterrestrial civilizations invariably raises the favorite question of many TV shows: Has alien life visited Earth in the form of UFOs? After all, half of the American public believes alien beings have visited our planet. The claims of UFO proponents, when actually subjected to the principles of scientific analysis, are not very good. Moreover, anyone who spends a few hours...
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Dave Eicher to speak at New York/New Jersey Mineral Show 2015

Posted one month ago by David Eicher
I’m delighted to say that I’ve been invited to come and deliver my first talk at a mineral and gem show — the 2015 New York/New Jersey Mineral, Fossil, Gem, and Jewelry Show. It will be held April 10–12, 2015, at the New Jersey Convention and Expo Center in Edison, just outside New York City, and will offer up 400 dealer booths, 14,000 visitors, and spectacular exhibits of minerals and gems. The show is the second largest in the United States, after the annual Tucson...
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Writing a book

Posted 2 months ago by David Eicher
Writing a book is a little like being imprisoned. There’s you, your laptop, your bedroom, a whole lotta time, and maybe an occasional football game. I’m pleased to report that I’m a few writing sessions away from finishing a very large book project I’ve been working on for a year. Titled The New Cosmos: Answering Astronomy’s Big Questions, the book will be published by Cambridge University Press in late 2015. The book covers a variety of big topics in astronomy, cos...
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Watch Avi Loeb speak on life in the universe

Posted 2 months ago by David Eicher
Avi Loeb is one of the most knowledgeable and entertaining astronomers on the planet, and he also happens to be the chairman of the Astronomy Department at Harvard University. He is the Frank B. Baird, Jr. Professor of Science and director of the university’s Institute for Theory and Computation. I am always amazed at his knowledge. Now you can watch a recent lecture he gave on life in the universe, a very entertaining topic, and soak in the words of one of our most brilliant scientists. ...
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Damian Peach's Milky Way selfie

Posted 2 months ago by David Eicher
During the Astrophoto School portion of Starmus, at Teide Observatory on the summit of Tenerife, I had the good fortune to finally meet and spend some time with a longtime contributor to Astronomy, Damian Peach. Damian is well-known as one of the greatest planetary and comets photographers on the planet, as you may know. Before leaving the main Starmus event, on September 27, 2014, Damian took this incredibly cool selfie with the Milky Way. Check it out! Follow David J. Eicher on Twitter...
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Guest blog: Neil Norman on Comet C/2014 Q2

Posted 2 months ago by David Eicher
English amateur astronomer Neil Norman shares his thoughts and experience with the discovery of Comet Lovejoy (C/2014 Q2) this past August. Enjoy!The discovery of a new comet is always an exciting time for those of us who specialize in these icy wanderers of the solar system. It is even more exciting when the discoverer is an amateur astronomer, and this is exactly what happened August 19, 2014.We live in an age now where social media governs a large proportion of our lives. In days past, the an...
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Two astro art shows in Tucson!

Posted 2 months ago by David Eicher
Simon Kregar of the International Association of Astronomical Artists (IAAA) writes about not one, but two, astronomical art shows looming in Tucson over the next few weeks. Here is Simon’s message:I am writing to you today on behalf of the International Association of Astronomical Artists to cordially invite you to not one, but two world-class space art shows in Tucson, Arizona, within a month of each other. As you know, Tucson is home to the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory (LPL) as well a...
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Celestron a Gold Sponsor at Starmus

Posted 2 months ago by David Eicher
The Starmus Festival in the Canary Islands, held September 22–27, flew past in a flurry. There were so many talks, informal sessions chatting with some of the 800 people in attendance, major lectures by Stephen Hawking and others, and rock and roll from Brian May and Rick Wakeman. What an incredible experience it was. Astronomy magazine was the exclusive media sponsor of the conference, and we look forward to the next Starmus, perhaps a couple years from now. You should also know that Cele...
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Max Alexander's great Herschel Telescope shot!

Posted 2 months ago by David Eicher
One of the many people I had the chance to meet at the recent Starmus Festival in the Canary Islands was New Zealand-born photographer Max Alexander, a highly skilled professional long based in London. Max has photographed a huge range of subjects from astronomy to rock and roll and lots of other things in between. Following Starmus, Max sent me a sensational star trail image he shot a few years ago at the William Herschel Telescope on La Palma, where this year we had toured the observatories. I...
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Dave Eicher interviewed at Starmus

Posted 2 months ago by David Eicher
A delightful journalist named Johnny Bliss, who contributes to a German website called FM 4 — Radio Live, interviewed me following my talk at Starmus a couple weeks ago. He was assisted by another delightful guy, Ilya Baykin.You can listen to the interview and read Johnny’s lively and entertaining account of the Starmus events here. Enjoy!For more on Starmus, see www.starmus.com.Follow David J. Eicher on Twitter: www.twitter.com/deicherstar...
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Wrapping up Starmus

Posted 2 months ago by David Eicher
Well, the last day of the magnificent Starmus Festival in the Canary Islands wrapped up Tuesday, September 30, at the Teide Observatory on Tenerife. There we held the third and final day of the Starmus Astrophoto School, in which Damian Peach and I gave talks on image processing (Damian) and photorgaphic treasures from Astronomy magazine’s vault (me). It marked the end of 10 days of incredible adventure, of talks, a spectacular concert, a great film, lots of talking over dinners and lunche...

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