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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Did comets bring water to Earth?

Posted yesterday 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 7 days 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 8 days 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 11 days 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 11 days 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 19 days 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 20 days 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_c6d89110-ed91-44ab-8a94-495e5483cd24',''); ...
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A great new book on space art

Posted 21 days 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 22 days 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 27 days 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 28 days 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 28 days 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 one month 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 one month 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 one month 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 one month 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 one month 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 one month 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 one month 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 one month 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 one month 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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Starmus Astrophoto School, Day 2

Posted one month ago by David Eicher
Following the incredible Starmus Festival last week in Tenerife and La Palma, Canary Islands, an Astrophoto School put on by Starmus founder Garik Israelian has collected a small group of 18 enthusiastic attendees and speakers to delve into the mysteries of capturing great images of the sky. The school is taking place at the breathtaking Teide Observatory, on the summit of Tenerife, at an altitude of 7,841 feet (2,390 meters). The observatory, operated by the Institute for Astrophysics in Teneri...
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Starmus ends, Astrophoto School begins

Posted one month ago by David Eicher
Following the incredible Sonic Universe Concert with Rick Wakeman and Brian May on Friday night, the Starmus Festival in Tenerife, Canary Islands, entered its last hours over the weekend. On Saturday, September 27, the group traveled to the Auditorio de Tenerife for a special program honoring Alexei Leonov and Neil Armstrong. This Space Legends program featured a presentation by Leonov, the first human to walk in space, on the planned Soviet lunar program that never got off the ground, with thou...
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Starmus Day 5: Sonic Universe Concert featuring Rick Wakeman and Brian May

Posted one month ago by David Eicher
On the fifth day of Starmus, Friday, September 26, the speakers and other invited guests wrapped up our overnight stay on La Palma, at the Gran Telescopio Canarias, having participated in the GTC round-table discussion the night before. We explored the many telescopes on the mountain, with the summit unfortunately surrounded in some fog, and then proceded back to the airport to fly back to Tenerife.After arriving in mid-afternoon, we checked back into the Abama Resort, changed and readied oursel...
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Starmus Day 4: 108-minute round table at the world's largest telescope

Posted 2 months ago by David Eicher
On Thursday, September 25, attendees from the Starmus Festival in Tenerife, Canary Islands, boarded an aircraft at Tenerife North airport and set off on a 30-minute flight to another of the Canaries, La Palma, to trek to the world’s largest single aperture optical telescope, the 10.4-meter Gran Telescopio Canarias. Situated at the peak of La Palma at an altitude of 7,438 feet (2,267 meters), the telescope is, of course, the instrument of a large amount of cutting edge research in modern as...
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Starmus Day 3: Book signing, Duke, Kroto, Cunningham, Ellis

Posted 2 months ago by David Eicher
The wonderful Starmus Festival in the Canary Islands rolled along on Wednesday, September 24, with another full slate. In the morning, we had a “meet and greet” with the speakers — lots of signings and photos snapped with many dozens of the delegates among the invited guests and VIPs. Immediately following that session, the organizers held a massive book signing for the Starmus book, with Editors Garik Israelian, Brian May, and me, and all the current speakers, signing copies o...
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Starmus Day 2: Hawking, May, "51 Degrees North" film

Posted 2 months ago by David Eicher
Wow. It seems like we’ve been here a week — so much has gone on — but it has been merely two days. On Tuesday, September 23, the second day of the Starmus Festival, a celebration of astronomy, cosmology, science, music, and the arts being held in the Canary Islands, began with a bang. The group of 600 delegates and some additional 200 media and exhibitors traveled from our base at the Ritz-Carlton Abama Resort to the Magma Arte & Congresos, a large auditorium for several sp...
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Starmus begins with Wilson, Eicher, Dawkins, and Harvati

Posted 2 months ago by David Eicher
A very long trip from Milwaukee to Chicago to Madrid to Tenerife brought my wife, Lynda, and I to the second Starmus Festival in the Canary Islands by noon on Monday, September 22. This is a paradise, the African equivalent of Hawaii, exceptionally beautiful volcanic islands with one of the world’s greatest skies overhead. The only problem was that after the hourlong drive south from the airport to the Ritz-Carlton Abama resort, where the conference is being held, we had been going without...
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Heading to speak at Starmus

Posted 2 months ago by David Eicher
Ahh, crazy times. I am cranking away on Astronomy magazine and finishing a huge book project for Cambridge University Press called The New Cosmos: Answering Astronomy’s Big Questions. More on that later. But I’m also getting ready to leave the country on Sunday to travel to the Starmus Festival in the Canary Islands. Starmus will be an incredible treat, and if you’re going, I’ll look forward to seeing you there. The festival of astronomy, science, and music will stretch S...

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