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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Your theory, my theory . . .

Posted 5 years ago by David Eicher
Today, I’m presenting a new video that addresses a point of scientific confusion — most people get the meanings of the words theory, hypothesis, and law, as they’re used in the world of science, completely wrong. Stop that! You should know what these words mean and how to use them, and so I’m presenting this video as a public service . . . In all seriousness, the word hypothesis comes from the Greek word for “to put under,” or “to suppose.&rdqu...
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On the road: ALCon 2012, Chicago, July 7, 2012

Posted 5 years ago by David Eicher
Well, the big day finally came. After practicing for six months and packing an enormous amount of gear, driving 120 to 200 miles, and preparing specially selected sets, the Astronomy Magazine Blues Band was ready for our debut. It would come on the last day of ALCon 2012 in Chicago, the annual meeting of the Astronomical League, which took place at the Marriott Lincolnshire Resort in northwest suburban Chicago, Illinois. Following three straight days of incredibly busy activities, Saturday turne...
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On the road, ALCon 2012, Chicago, July 6, 2012

Posted 5 years ago by David Eicher
A short blog today about yesterday, Friday, July 6, because this is going to be another monstrously busy day. Yesterday was too — the pace of this ALCon Chicago meeting is frenetic and filled with numerous, nonstop action! Yesterday, the talks started out with me delivering my talk on the latest advances in astronomy, planetary science, and cosmology, “Astronomy’s new frontier,” to a large crowd that had graciously arrived early after a short night of sleep the night befo...
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On the road: ALCon 2012, Chicago, July 5, 2012

Posted 5 years ago by David Eicher
The Longest Day was a great movie, a little dated now but a good WWII film. It was also the summary of yesterday at ALCon, which was all good and executed well but literally the longest day I’ve ever experienced at an amateur astronomy meeting. Our group of some 300 people here at ALCon, the annual meeting of the Astronomical League, began with talks at 8:30 a.m. and returned to our hotel at 1 a.m. I joked that the whole thing was a cover for a University of Chicago sleep deprivation ...
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On the road: ALCon 2012, Chicago, July 4, 2012

Posted 5 years ago by David Eicher
Very early in the morning of July 4, 2012, I replaced the usual routine of spending a fistful of cash on cheap fireworks and instead packed up my drums and left Milwaukee, Wisconsin, bound for Chicago, Illinois. The annual meeting of the Astronomical League, ALCon, kicked off at 8 a.m. that morning, despite the national holiday, and welcomed 330 amateur astronomers registered to attend from all over the country. I packed up my drums because in addition to covering this meeting for Astronomy maga...
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On the road: ALCon in Chicago

Posted 5 years ago by David Eicher
Tomorrow very early, I’ll be leaving for the Astronomical League meeting in Chicago, Illinois, ALCon 2012. Astronomy Senior Editor Michael Bakich will kick off the meeting with a talk about the last 150 years of amateur astronomy. I will participate as a speaker, too, and also the Astronomy Magazine Blues Band will be playing, bringing a rock and roll band to a national astronomy meeting for the first time. I’ll be blogging about the meeting each day from Chicago.Every year, the Astr...
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My talk "Astronomy's new frontier" — part 5

Posted 5 years ago by David Eicher
One of the talks I give these days is an overview of the many areas of current astronomical research. The field is very exciting right now because many of the “big questions” — the size, shape, age, and fate of the cosmos, for example — are either being answered or within reach. Quite a few of you who attended this talk of mine at the Northeast Astronomy Forum, in Hawaii, or in Pennsylvania asked about making a video of the talk so astronomy clubs around th...
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My talk “Astronomy’s new frontier” — part 4

Posted 5 years ago by David Eicher
One of the talks I give these days is an overview of the many areas of current astronomical research. The field is very exciting right now because many of the “big questions” — the size, shape, age, and fate of the cosmos, for example — are either being answered or within reach. Quite a few of you who attended this talk of mine at the Northeast Astronomy Forum, in Hawaii, or in Pennsylvania asked about making a video of the talk so astronomy clubs around th...
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My talk “Astronomy’s new frontier” — part 3

Posted 5 years ago by David Eicher
One of the talks I give these days is an overview of the many areas of current astronomical research. The field is very exciting right now because many of the “big questions” — the size, shape, age, and fate of the cosmos, for example — are either being answered or within reach. Quite a few of you who attended this talk of mine at the Northeast Astronomy Forum, in Hawaii, or in Pennsylvania asked about making a video of the talk so astronomy clubs around th...
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My talk "Astronomy's new frontier" — part 2

Posted 5 years ago by David Eicher
One of the talks I give these days is an overview of the many areas of current astronomical research. The field is very exciting right now because many of the “big questions” — the size, shape, age, and fate of the cosmos, for example — are either being answered or within reach. Quite a few of you who attended this talk of mine at the Northeast Astronomy Forum, in Hawaii, or in Pennsylvania asked about making a video of the talk so astronomy clubs around th...
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Robert Powell named Astronomy Foundation treasurer

Posted 5 years ago by David Eicher
Today, the board of directors of the Astronomy Foundation appointed Robert Powell, of Mequon, Wisconsin, treasurer, effective immediately. Rob is an active amateur astronomer and corporate fundraiser who graduated from Connecticut College in 1978 with a B.A. in zoology. In 1996, he earned his M.B.A., graduating magna cum laude from Concordia University in Wisconsin.In 2002, Rob joined the Northern Cross Science Foundation (NCSF), an amateur astronomy club in southeastern Wisconsin.  He serv...
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My talk "Astronomy's new frontier" — part 1

Posted 5 years ago by David Eicher
One of the talks I give these days is an overview of the many areas of current astronomical research. The field is very exciting right now because many of the “big questions” — the size, shape, age, and fate of the cosmos, for example — are either being answered or within reach. Quite a few of you who attended this talk of mine at the Northeast Astronomy Forum, in Hawaii, or in Pennsylvania asked about making a video of the talk so astronomy clubs around th...
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Sunset in Hawaii on Venus transit day

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
Yesterday, I shared with you the fourth of a number of videos I shot on our Hawaiian transit of Venus trip two weeks ago. Among other activities, our group of about 100 travelers trekked up to the summit of Mauna Kea to see the 10-meter Keck I Telescope. We had as our guide a well-known user of the Kecks, Alex Filippenko from the University of California, Berkeley, and he gave us an insider’s tour. You saw those videos over the past few days. Now, I present the third and final of a few vid...
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Major new astronomy exhibition opens at National Museum of African Art

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
On Wednesday of this week a unique exhibition about astronomy opened in Washington, D.C. that should not be missed by anyone near the capital city who loves the stars. “African Cosmos: Stellar Arts” will run through early December and features an incredible collection of art and artifacts like nothing that has ever been shown before. I present below the press release from the Smithsonian Institution, and I thank Edward Burke and Christine Mullen Kreamer of the National Museum of Afri...
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Sheldon Reynolds to perform at SETICon II

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
This is really very cool — our good friend Sheldon Reynolds to perform at the gala honoring SETI scientist Jill Tarter on her retirement at SETICon II. What a fantastic event, this Saturday, June 23, 2012, and I only wish I could attend. That will be an historic party!...
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Our Hawaii transit of Venus video — Part II

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
Yesterday, I shared with you the third of a number of videos I shot on our Hawaiian transit of Venus trip two weeks ago. Among other activities, our group of about 100 travelers trekked up to the summit of Mauna Kea to see the 10-meter Keck I Telescope. We had as our guide a well-known user of the Kecks, Alex Filippenko from the University of California, Berkeley, and he gave us an insider’s tour. You saw those videos over the past couple days. Now, I present the second of a few videos sho...
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Our Hawaii transit of Venus video — Part I

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
Yesterday, I shared with you the second of a number of videos I shot on our Hawaiian transit of Venus trip two weeks ago. Among other activities, our group of about 100 travelers trekked up to the summit of Mauna Kea to see the 10-meter Keck I Telescope. We had as our guide a well-known user of the Kecks, Alex Filippenko from the University of California, Berkeley, and he gave us an insider’s tour. You saw those videos over the past couple days. Now, I present the first of a few videos sho...
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Behind the scenes at Keck I — Part Two!

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
Yesterday, I shared with you the first of a number of videos I shot on our Hawaiian transit of Venus trip two weeks ago. Among other activities, our group of about 100 travelers trekked up to the summit of Mauna Kea to see the 10-meter Keck I Telescope. We had as our guide a well-known user of the Kecks, Alex Filippenko from the University of California, Berkeley, and he gave us an insider’s tour. The file sizes for movies are so huge they must be carried back home and processed rather tha...
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Guest blog: Cherry Springs Star Party 2012, by Chuck Jennings

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
As I mentioned earlier today, I just returned from the 2012 Cherry Springs Star Party near Coudersport, Pennsylvania. I was privileged to speak there and spend some time observing with a variety of friends, including the Jennings family of Townsend, Delaware — Chuck, Karen, Gabe, and Nate. They are an amazing astronomy outreach family: Chuck is an accomplished observer and telescope builder, Karen is the vice president of the Astronomy Foundation, and the boys were full of fun. I&rsqu...
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Behind the scenes at Keck I

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
OK, this morning I feel like I’m caught in a time warp — I just got back from one trip, and I’m still talking about another. (I’ll be reporting on the Cherry Springs Star Party in northern Pennsylvania, which just took place this weekend, a little later today.) Two weeks ago, I was in Hawaii for the transit of Venus, and, among other things, our group of about 100 travelers trekked up to the summit of Mauna Kea to see the 10-meter Keck I Telescope. We had as our guide a w...
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Celebrate ALCon 2012 in Chicago

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
Every year, the Astronomical League holds an annual meeting that is loads of fun. The league is the world’s oldest federation of astronomical societies, an umbrella organization that promotes interest in astronomy and backyard skygazing and has more than 200 local astronomy clubs as members. The 2012 meeting, called ALCon, will take place near Chicago July 4–7 at the Lincolnshire Marriott in Lincolnshire, Illinois, about 32 miles northwest of the city center. Although the meeting is...
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Don Parker's amazing Mars

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
Oooh! Life is too busy. Since returning from Hawaii and preparing to go to Pennsylvania, things are crazy and good but amazingly hectic at Astronomy magazine. There’s no time today but to share an incredible image of Mars taken by Florida astroimaging legend Don Parker. Don‘s image, taken June 12, 2012, shows the Red Planet with incredible details: bright clouds over Tharsis and Candor, and clouds scattered over Tempe, Arcadia, and Chryse. Check out these incredible details. This is ...
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On the road: Party in Pennsylvania

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
Now that I’m back in the office from a wonderful trip to Hawaii to see the transit of Venus, I’m leaving again on Friday. This time for a short duration, though, having been invited to speak at the Cherry Springs Star Party (CSSP) in northern Pennsylvania. The annual event is put on by the Astronomical Society of Harrisburg and takes place at Cherry Springs State Park, near Coudersport, south of Buffalo and Rochester, New York. Each year, several hundred people get together there for...
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On the road: Hawaii Venus Transit, June 8, 2012

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
On Friday, June 8, 2012, Astronomy magazine’s second travel group of Hawaiian tourists enjoyed our last day in paradise. We commenced by listening to Alex Filippenko of the University of California, Berkeley, describe the procedure of going to the summit of Mauna Kea, the largest complex of telescopes in the Northern Hemisphere. Our group then traveled to the summit, first stopping at the 9,000-foot visitor center for an hour to allow our bodies to adjust to the low levels of oxygen we wou...
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On the road: Hawaii Venus Transit, June 7, 2012

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
On Thursday, our first of two overlapping Astronomy tour groups departed for their homes. Now, our second group of just under 50 intrepid travelers experienced what the first had a few days before, a series of talks by University of California, Berkeley, astronomer Alex Filippenko and me on several topics. I spoke first about astronomy’s new frontier — new and unusual research results in astronomy, planetary science, and cosmology. I then spoke about meteorites and meteorite collecti...
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Venus transit report from Hermosa Beach, California

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
It’s obvious that our group here in Hawaii weren’t the only ones to have a great time watching the transit of Venus, the last such event until 2117. Here’s a transit report by Imelda Joson and Edwin Aguirre, two good friends and expert astroimagers. They made last-minute plans to see Venus passing in front of the Sun from Southern California. Enjoy! Success from the Pacific coast!We were able to capture the rare, last-in-a-lifetime transit of Venus across the sun from Hermosa...
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On the road: Hawaii Venus Transit, June 6, 2012

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
On Wednesday, June 6 (D Day!), Astronomy’s Hawaiian travel groups took a bit of a detour from astronomy to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, to understand and absorb some volcanology. This is really planetary science, as Earth is a planet, too, and it gives us good perspective on volcanoes in the solar system, which include such favorite places as Mars and Io, as well as our home planet. Our travelers made the long trek of a couple hours’ bus ride from Kona over to the park, which stan...
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On the road: Hawaii Venus Transit, June 5, 2012

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
Finally, after all this waiting, our big day had come. For those who had seen the first transit of Venus in the current pair, back in 2004, it was the re-creation of another memorable event, a bookend that completes a pattern in our lives. I was fortunate enough to be in Luxor, Egypt, in 2004, and enjoyed that transit greatly. This time around, our Astronomy tour group, which now had both halves and consisted of 100 strong, set off to see the last time Venus would cross the face of the Sun withi...
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On the road: Hawaii Venus Transit, June 4, 2012

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
What a terrific day our travel group of Astronomy readers had yesterday. Our original group of 54 listened to a great lecture on the Keck Telescopes on Mauna Kea by Alex Filippenko of the University of California, Berkeley, that morning. Alex described dark energy and all manner of other research subjects he has been intricately involved with, and also what it’s like to observe with the Kecks, how they work, and so on. And then he gave our travelers the lowdown on visiting the mountain&rsq...
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On the road: Hawaii Venus Transit, June 3, 2012

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
After long flights to Hawaii from a variety of localities, Astronomy’s first tour group of 54 assembled yesterday morning at the Royal Kona Resort on the northwestern edge of the Big Island. It was a day for getting acquainted, getting over the long travel, and enjoying the island’s pleasures. I am joined on this trip by Alex Filippenko of the University of California, Berkeley, a famous astronomer with many accomplishments, just one of which is his major role in the supernova search...

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