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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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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New video: Truth and science

Posted 6 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 6 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 6 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 6 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 6 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 6 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 6 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 6 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 6 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 6 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 6 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...
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John Veevaert's annular eclipse guest blog!

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
One of the fun things I spend my time with on this little planet when not doing astronomy is collecting and studying minerals. You know, pieces of the planet. It‘s an interesting chapter of planetary geology to understand and celebrate the ways nature combines atoms into the constituents of planets. Anyway, one of my favorite people in the whole mineral world is good friend John Veevaert of Weaverville, California, who is an amateur astronomer and also an expert mineralogist and well-known...
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Coleman Coates of iOptron at NEAF!

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
Check out yet another great video from the Northeast Astronomy Forum (NEAF), held in Suffern, New York, in late April. This one features Coleman Coates, marketing and sales manager of iOptron Corporation, talking about the company’s line of optical products and mounts for amateur astronomers. Coleman is joined by our enthusiastic and energetic Youth Essay Award winner, Jenna Elliott, who assisted in shooting some of our videos. You will enjoy seeing the many fine products iOptron has for b...
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Growing up with amateur astronomy

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
When I was a young teenager, I leaned in interest toward medicine — a physician’s career, I thought. Then, at 14, I went to a local star party and saw Saturn through a small scope. That moment changed my life. All other interests ceased; I was obsessed with the sky and what lay in it. I was a teenager in a small town in Ohio, stuck between Cincinnati and Dayton in a little community called Oxford where Miami University, an old state school, was the main event. Besides the univer...
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Annular eclipse report from Imelda Joson and Ed Aguirre

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
Here’s an eclipse report from yesterday by Imelda Joson and Edwin Aguirre, two good friends and expert astroimagers. I’ll continue posting a few of these as they roll in from readers. It was mostly cloudy and disrupted here in Waukesha, Wisconsin, but some observers in the area caught glimpses of the partial eclipse. And I know that many of you farther west saw a fantastic annular event. Keep looking skyward! Here’s the report by Imelda and Edwin:Success in the high desert!Tw...
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Annular eclipse report from Bob Gent

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
Here’s an eclipse report from yesterday sent to the magazine by Bob Gent, former president of the Astronomical League. I’ll continue posting a few of these as they roll in from readers. It was mostly cloudy and disrupted here in Waukesha, Wisconsin, but some observers in the area caught glimpses of the partial eclipse. And I know that many of you farther west saw a fantastic annular event. Keep looking skyward! Here’s Bob’s report:Greetings from northern Arizona!Terrie...
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Richard Taylor from AstroTrac at NEAF!

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
If you’re at all into astroimaging, you really need to check out AstroTrac’s TT320X–AG. It’s one of the hottest accessories in astronomy right now. The simple and elegant tracking mount makes taking wide-field images of the sky a breeze. Join me for this video I shot with Richard Taylor, managing director of AstroTrac, at the Northeast Astronomy Forum (NEAF) in Suffern, New York, in late April. It will tell you everything you’ll need to know!Enjoy. cs_setInnerHtml(...
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Transit of Venus event with Frank Drake in Cincinnati!

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
If you’re in the area of Cincinnati, Ohio, on June 5 for the incredible transit of Venus that is coming up, I urge you to check out the following event. Marsie Hall Newbold, director of publicity for the Astronomy Foundation, has coordinated a viewing event and big party at the Drake Planetarium in Cincinnati. Many things will make this event special, but consider this: legendary astronomer Frank Drake, chairman emeritus of the SETI Institute and the man who devised the famous “Dra...
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"Astronomy" magazine's history -- revisiting 1975!

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
I’ll be sharing the history of the magazine from time to time, a little at a time, in this blog. It’s a fascinating story that has witnessed astronomy grow in leaps and bounds as our understanding of the cosmos has deepened. And you can capture the whole history of the magazine on DVD for your computer — every page of every issue, 449 issues and more than 46,000 pages altogether.The DVD also includes the entire histories of Deep Sky and Telescope Making magazines, two quarterli...
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Brian Deis of Vixen Optics at NEAF!

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
One of the world’s largest manufacturers of telescopes and accessories, Vixen Optics had a significant presence at the Northeast Astronomy Forum (NEAF) in Suffern, New York, three weeks ago. Many of their new and long-standing products were on hand, and I had the good fortune to meet up with Brian Deis of Vixen, who was kind enough to help me produce this excellent video showing highlights of Vixen’s product line. You’ll see such things as the incredible Polarie Star Tracker mo...
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Supernova discoverer Caroline Moore seeks funds for school observatory project

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
You may remember hearing in 2008 about the remarkable 14-year-old New York observer Caroline Moore who then became the youngest person ever to discover a supernova. Caroline detected Supernova 2008ha in the galaxy UGC 12682 in Pegasus. A year later, she attended and helped host the famous White House Star Party put on by President and First Lady Obama. Now 17, Caroline is also the founder and president of the Warwick Valley Central School District Astronomy Club, which serves six schools and s...
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Rick Hedrick of PlaneWave Instruments at NEAF!

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
PlaneWave Instruments is well-known among astroimagers for its exceptionally produced, high-end corrected Dall-Kirkham telescopes, massive mounts, cameras, and accessories. Its products set a high bar for professional-level astroimaging for advanced amateurs, enthusiasts, professionals, and institutions. Rick Hedrick is not only the CEO of PlaneWave, but also the secretary of the Astronomy Foundation, so he’s active in outreach events and in industry events with scopes. It was my distinct ...
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Scott Roberts of Explore Scientific at NEAF!

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
Many of you know Scott Roberts for all of the incredible things he does for astronomy outreach. Others of you know him for being the main man at Explore Scientific, one of the largest manufacturers of telescopes and eyepieces in the world, and a major force in the world of amateur astronomy. Two weeks ago at the Northeast Astronomy Forum (NEAF), Scott had an incredible truck parked outside the exhibition hall that constitutes his mobile showroom, filled with all of his amazing products. In this ...
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Canon U.S.A. and its hot new camera at NEAF!

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
As you astroimager types know, Canon has just introduced a hot new camera designed specifically for astrophotography — the 60Da. “The EOS 60Da is a testament to the constant desire to meet the needs of every customer, including those in specialized fields,” says Yuichi Ishizuka, executive vice president and general manager, Imaging Technologies & Communications Group, Canon U.S.A. “This new camera enables an accurate depiction of a part of our solar system which ...
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Astroimager Christopher Go on capturing planets

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
A couple weeks ago at the Northeast Astro Imaging Conference (NEAIC) in Suffern, New York, I had the pleasure of hearing Christopher Go speak about planetary imaging. A resident of Cebu City, Philippines, Chris is an old friend and a longtime subscriber and contributor to Astronomy magazine — in fact, he attributes his interest in astronomy to picking up a copy of the magazine years ago. Chris is now one of the world’s most accomplished imagers of the planets (see his website ht...
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Tele Vue Optics at NEAF!

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
Nearly all of us in the amateur astronomy hobby know Al Nagler, who started Tele Vue Optics many years ago and introduced his revolutionary eyepiece designs, which really transformed telescopic observing. We will have some special coverage of Tele Vue and of Al’s storied career coming up in Astronomy magazine; for now, please enjoy this video tour by Al (who is joined by Jenna Elliott, our Youth Essay Contest winner) at last week’s Northeast Astronomy Forum (NEAF) in New York. Enjoy...
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Karen Jennings becomes Astronomy Foundation vice president

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
On Monday, May 7, 2012, Astronomy Foundation (AF) President David J. Eicher announced that Alex Khachaturyan, vice president of the Astronomy Foundation, has stepped aside, and that Delaware amateur astronomer and activist Karen Jennings is the foundation’s new vice president. Khachaturyan will continue as a member of the foundation and will continue providing help on the AF website with his company GammaFX. Jennings, a dedicated amateur astronomer and town council member in Townsend, Del...

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