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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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 5 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 5 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 5 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 5 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 5 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 5 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 5 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 5 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 5 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 5 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 5 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 5 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 5 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 5 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 5 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 5 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 5 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 5 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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New video: Truth and science

Posted 5 years ago by David Eicher
How do you determine what is true and what’s false about the universe? How do you know what really happened in the past? How many galaxies are out there? Why your cat suddenly seems dull and listless? What gave you that tremendous stomachache after eating at the low-end sushi joint? Humans have always used a variety of methods of choosing their beliefs about the universe around them — of deciding on, in squishy humanistic language, their “world view.” You know, what to be...
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On the road: Hawaii and the transit of Venus

Posted 5 years ago by David Eicher
I leave on an adventure with Astronomy readers this Saturday, bound for Hawaii and the transit of Venus. Joining me will be Alex Filippenko of the University of California, Berkeley, and Melita Thorpe of MWT Associates for a great week of adventure and viewing of the last transit of Venus any of us will see in our lives. I’ll be reporting by blogs from the road and will keep you abreast of the activities we have planned, which include viewing the transit itself, talks by me and by Alex, an...
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Jason Ware nails Omega Centauri

Posted 5 years ago by David Eicher
I can recall many times standing at a big Dob at the Texas Star Party peering at Omega Centauri (NGC 5139), thinking, “God, I’m glad I don’t have to count the stars.” The same could be said of this extraordinary image sent by skyshooter Jason Ware, showing the great globular cluster in Centaurus. Jason made the image a few days ago and humbly says, “This won’t be the best image of Omega Centauri you’ve ever seen.”Well, it’s a stunning image. ...
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Shattering the old cosmos

Posted 5 years ago by David Eicher
“When you make the finding yourself — even if you’re the last person on Earth to see the light — you never forget it.” — Carl SaganWhen I was 14, I fell in love with the universe. The discovery came with a one-time view of the planet Saturn through a telescope at a local “star party.” There was something so calm and comforting about gazing skyward at the twinkling dots spread across an inky black cosmos. Somewhere amid all the apparent serenity out...
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STScI's Frank Summers on galaxy animations

Posted 5 years ago by David Eicher
OK, we’ve reached the last film I shot at the Northeast Astronomy Forum (NEAF) and Northeast Astro Imaging Conference (NEAIC) last month. There were 16 in all, and I hope you enjoyed each of them, from manufacturers like Celestron and Meade to amateur astronomers talking about their experiences, to conference snippets like this one. In my last film, Frank Summers of the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) talks about and shows his galaxy simulations that will be used for IMAX movies ...
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The annular eclipse from San Jose, California -- and a goat!

Posted 5 years ago by David Eicher
I’ve been absolutely amazed this week at the crossover of folks who have been in touch from two separate but allied worlds — astronomy and mineralogy. You may have seen mineralogist John Veevaert’s blog about the eclipse a few days ago, and now I’ll present you with another great photo shot by someone from the mineral world. Sharon and Gene Cisneros of San Jose, California, own and operate another big mineral dealership, the Mineralogical Research Company. Also stoked wit...
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Galileo lives again!

Posted 5 years ago by David Eicher
My friend Vic Maris of Stellarvue Instruments sent me this fantastic shot of a surprise guest appearance by Galileo Galilei at last weekend’s annular eclipse. The apparition occurred at Great Basin National Park in Nevada, where at first clouds threatened to spoil the event. “But Galileo told the several hundred park visitors to inhale deeply and blow toward the clouds,” said Vic. “True to form with Galileo’s magic, the clouds began to move away, and after th...
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Tony Hallas on "HDR Toning" at NEAIC

Posted 5 years ago by David Eicher
One of the hottest new trends in using Photoshop to make digital astroimages their best is called “HDR Toning.” This is short for High Dynamic Range Toning, which pulls out significant details in an image and makes it the best it can be. You will read about this process in Tony Hallas’ July and August columns in Astronomy magazine. For now, check out this video I shot of Tony talking about the technique at the Northeast Astro Imaging Conference (NEAIC) in late April, in Suffern...
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Rare four-part Neil Armstrong interview online

Posted 5 years ago by David Eicher
A heads-up from Jonathan Abbott of Certified Practicing Accounts (CPA) Australia alerted me to a really wonderful online feature I urge you to check out. CPA Australia has produced a terrific four-part interview with Neil Armstrong, and the whole thing is online at http://thebottomline.cpaaustralia.com.au.“Space race,” “Blast off,” “Giant leap,” and “Presidential pride” offer great segments of the normally shy and retiring astro...
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Guitar great Sheldon Reynolds on the annular eclipse!

Posted 5 years ago by David Eicher
Most of you know that Sheldon Reynolds — former guitarist and front man for Earth, Wind & Fire, member of the Commodores, and all-around good guy — is an astro enthusiast. He’s also a contributing editor of Astronomy magazine. Sheldon and his wife Marilyn Holloway-Reynolds observed the annular eclipse Sunday at a pretty cool place — the Allen Telescope Array northeast of San Francisco. And they had some pretty special friends to hang out with, too, including Jill...
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Robert Reeves talks about lunar imaging at NEAF

Posted 5 years ago by David Eicher
Many years ago, I had the good fortune to meet Robert Reeves of San Antonio, Texas. This high-energy astrophotography and astronomy enthusiast has been shooting the sky for as long as I can remember. He was an early contributor to Deep Sky and Astronomy magazines, and has for years been keenly interested in promoting amateur astronomy. I ran into Robert at the Northeast Astro Imaging Conference (NEAIC) at the end of April, and then saw him again at the Northeast Astronomy Forum (NEAF) that follo...