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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Northeast Astronomy Forum schedule announced

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
I’ve previously mentioned the Northeast Astronomy Forum, the largest telescope show in the United States that will take place in Suffern, New York, April 28–29. Alan Traino, NEAF’s driving force, has announced the speaker schedule for the meeting, which is sponsored by Astronomy magazine and takes place at Rockland Community College. NEAF will feature more than 140 on-site vendors showing everything there is to see in the world of telescopes, binoculars, CCD cameras, and access...
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Chumack images the M95 supernova!

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
A few days ago, I blogged about the newly discovered bright supernova in the Leo galaxy M95. This morning, Ohio astroimager John Chumack sent these great images of the galaxy and supernova (designated 2012aw), and they’ll show you exactly where to look if you’d like to go out and observe this exploding star. John’s low-resolution versions include tic marks showing the supernova’s position. Higher-resolution versions are left clean, and there are black and white and negati...
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A depressing turn in Arizona

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
Two weeks ago, I mentioned an ongoing light pollution battle raging in Arizona over e-billboards. As most of you know, these brightly glowing monstrosities are disastrous for viewers of the night sky, as they flood the surrounding area with photons blasting upward. I’m afraid there’s bad news. Yesterday, the Arizona legislature passed the bill they were considering 20–8–2, which now allows advertisers in the state to use them. And the legislature also shot down a propose...
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Australia: The Great Dreamtime Solar Eclipse

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
Join Astronomy magazine Senior Editor Rich Talcott, MWT Associates, and I on a trip Down Under to watch the November 14, 2012, total solar eclipse. Experience Australia's wild west Northern Territory, where they revel in a tough, maverick image. Darwin is the best place to experience multicultural Australia, where a quarter of the population is Aboriginal. Included is a visit to the Red Center, one of the world's most iconic symbols, Ayers Rock (Uluru). No visit is complete to Australia ...
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Patrick Moore’s "The Sky at Night" turns 55 years old — and a Moore Marathon!

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
Congratulations to a longtime friend of Astronomy magazine, Sir Patrick Moore, now 89, and to the BBC, on this 55th anniversary year of Patrick’s legendary British TV program, The Sky at Night. This show has been part of the fabric of astronomy interest in England for decades, and we’ve often observed how Patrick is to British astronomy on TV what Carl Sagan was for viewers in the United States. The show has influenced countless astronomy enthusiasts to look up at the heavens and eve...
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Hot news! Bright supernova discovered in M95

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
The well-known galaxy M95 (NGC 3351) in Leo, currently visible in the evening sky, now hosts a bright supernova. Italian astronomer Paolo Fagotti discovered the exploding star on images he took Saturday, March 17, with a 0.5-m reflector at Porziano d’Assisi, Italy. The star lies at 10h43m54s, 11°40'18" (equinox 2000), and was reported as faint at discovery, near 19th magnitude, but rose quickly to magnitude 13.3 by today, as reported by Gianluca Masi, who created a...
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"Astronomy," Astronomy Foundation partner with Philadelphia Science Festival

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
I’m thrilled to announce that Astronomy magazine and the Astronomy Foundation will be participating in and partnering with the Philadelphia Science Festival next month in Pennsylvania. Now in its second year, the festival is a 10-day, community-wide celebration of science that features lectures, debates, hands-on activities, special exhibitions, and a variety of other informal science education activities for Philadelphians of all ages. Last year, more than 120,000 people participated in t...
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John Chumack’s hot new Whirlpool Galaxy

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
The Whirlpool Galaxy (M51) is one of the favorite objects for northern hemisphere skywatchers. At a distance of about 24 million light-years, this galaxy tucked in Canes Venatici near the handle of the Big Dipper shines at about 8th magnitude and covers 8.2' by 5.6', making it visible in virtually any telescope from a reasonably dark sky. The Whirlpool is not only oriented face-on to our line of sight, giving it a beautiful spiral appearance, but it is also a Type 2 Seyfert galaxy, meani...
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Marsie Hall Newbold named Astronomy Foundation PR director

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
Many of you know the Astronomy Foundation, the telescope industry association that is promoting the hobby of astronomy through outreach events. The foundation will hold its annual meeting at this year’s Northeast Astronomy Forum (NEAF) in New York in late April, and will be hosting a number of large star party events this year. I’m delighted to announce a new addition to the team, Marsie Hall Newbold, as director of publicity for the group. Marsie is a public relations professional ...
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An incredible space station flash first!

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
For years, Robert Reeves of San Antonio, Texas, has been an Astronomy contributor, friend, and amazing astroimager. Now Reeves, along with some friends in the San Antonio Astronomical Association and the Austin Astronomical Society, has produced a major imaging first — producing a flash of bright light from a particular spot on Earth that was imaged from the International Space Station (ISS). With their friend, astronaut Don Pettit aboard the station, Reeves and company flashed the sp...
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Cool aurora photos taken from plane

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
Astroimagers Imelda Joson and Edwin Aguirre are longtime friends and contributors to Astronomy. Last week, during that phenomenal outbreak of aurorae generated in the wake of the big solar flare, they caught some magnificent images during their flight from Boston, Massachusetts, to Los Angeles, California. “It was Thursday, March 8,” said Imelda, “and we were cruising at an altitude of 34,000 feet (10,360 meters) somewhere over Minnesota.” Imelda and Edwin knew thei...
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Sheldon Reynolds on amateur astronomy

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
Sheldon Reynolds has done it again! The guitarist and amateur astronomer, as well as a contributing editor of Astronomy, has produced a great new video you should definitely watch. Sheldon tackles five big questions about astronomy, why he loves it, and what it means to him. He explores the future of amateur astronomy and suggests why young people should be more excited about stargazing than ever. Check it out!     ...
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How to image an astronaut from the ground

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
OK — this is pretty neat stuff. For years Dutch amateur astronomer and writer Ralf Vandebergh has specialized in imaging spacecraft like the International Space Station from the ground with backyard telescopes. This requires careful tracking of exactly the right type and thorough image processing, but the result is that Ralf has imaged not only spacecraft, but also astronauts from the ground — with just a 10-inch backyard telescope! Check out the accompanying photo, which shows ...
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Guest blog: Benjamin Palmer on NuSTAR

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
A new orbiting observatory is set to launch next week — NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuStar). This pioneering mission will image the sky for the first time in orbit in high-energy X-rays, promising all kinds of cool findings regarding black holes, supernovae, the Milky Way, cosmic accelerators, and other good stuff. Here’s a guest blog by Benjamin Palmer of Queensbury, New York, last year’s Astronomy magazine Youth Essay Contest winner and now youth commi...
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An important book: Marc Kuchner’s "Marketing for Scientists"

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
Well, I wish I had better news. The business of science is in as uncomfortable a position as it’s ever been these days. In an age when education should be at its greatest level ever, when more people than ever should realize that science is the way to understand and make the most of the world around us, scientists are struggling for funding, for livelihoods, for success. Somehow, more people need to awaken their minds to the fact that there are bigger things to do than debate endlessly who...
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BIG ANNOUNCEMENT: Star party guidance from the Astronomy Foundation

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
Most of you know that the Astronomy Foundation (AF), the telescope industry trade organization created several years ago, promotes amateur astronomy outreach in a variety of ways. Now it offers two important documents for astronomy clubs and groups to help them put on star parties, whether they be sidewalk star parties right in the hearts of large cities or dedicated dark-sky star parties in rural areas. One of the foundation’s officers and driving forces, Karen Jennings of Townsend, Dela...
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Critical light pollution battle raging in Arizona

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
I urge all of you, Arizona residents or not, to pay heed to a warning I’ve received about a terrible light pollution battle happening now in Arizona. The magazine’s longtime good friend and contributor Geoff Chester wrote a couple days ago about this, which I hope you will read about and act on. The background is that in November 2011, the Arizona Court of Appeals ruled that electronic billboards were a violation of a state law’s ban on intermittent light pollution. But the Ari...
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Pluto needs you

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
You may have heard over the past month of an effort to recognize the New Horizons mission now en route to Pluto and due to arrive in 2015. Now, many of you know the folks here at Astronomy are Pluto backers. I was a friend of Clyde Tombaugh and considered it a great honor to have known and observed with him quite a few times before his death in 1997. Most of us here feel the “demotion” of Pluto to dwarf planet status was a silly exercise by the International Astronomical Union. And w...
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Now you can search for extraterrestrial life on your laptop!

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
Yesterday, a new website associated with the SETI Institute in Mountain View, California, rolled out, and the folks there are urging astronomy enthusiasts to check it out. SETI Live (www.setilive.org) allows the public access to data collected by the Allen Telescope Array in Hat Creek, California, for the first time. The site opens the door for anyone to sign up as a user and scan data for potential signals, assisting the search for intelligent life on other planets in the cosmos. The site grew...
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Check out Deepskyforum.com

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
Alvin Huey, an enthusiastic deep-sky observer, author, and resident of the Sacramento, California, area, turned me on to a new site that deep-sky devotees should know about. Check out www.deepskyforum.com to see a growing community of posts from dedicated observers about viewing deep-sky objects. Many of the posters own large scopes and are sophisticated viewers looking for faint and challenging objects. The founders are Dragan Nikin of Dark Skies Apparel and Jimi Lowrey of Ft. Davis, Texas. The...
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The great conjunction of 2012 — and a Minute Man

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
I’m sure that if you had a clear sky over the past few nights, you’ve marveled at the great evening grouping formed by the Moon, Venus, and Jupiter. Talented astroimagers and old friends Imelda Joson and Edwin Aguirre captured the conjunction over the Minute Man Statue in Minute Man National Park, Concord, Massachusetts, on Sunday, February 26. “In the photo, the Moon is the most brilliant object in the western sky, with Venus below it and Jupiter to its left,” said ...
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Hot image of the Sun by John Chumack

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
Check out this amazing shot of a solar prominence captured by astroimager John Chumack last Wednesday, February 22, from his backyard observatory in Dayton, Ohio. Enormous towers of plasma lift off the Sun’s disk in this spectacular shot. John used a Lunt 60mm Hydrogen-alpha LS 50F solar scope with a DMK 21AF04 Firewire camera and a 2x Barlow lens. He stacked and composited 742 frames to make the final image. Fantastic!...
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Study suggests Earth-like planets could be very different from Earth

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
A revolutionary new study by a team of astronomers suggests that although the universe may be filled with planets similar to Earth, other Earth-like worlds may be quite different from our planet. Garik Israelian, an astronomer at the Institute for Astrophysics in the Canary Islands (AIC), alerted me to this fascinating study. He is one of the researchers involved, the others being Jonay González Hernández (also of the AIC); Jade C. Carter-Bond and David O’Brien of the Planeta...
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Asteroid named for Mark Kelly and Gabrielle Giffords

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
Bob Gent, activist and former president of the Astronomical League, forwarded this news as reported in the March issue of The Reflector, which is just out. Former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and her husband, astronaut Mark Kelly, have received the honor of a minor planet named for them. Giffords, who was tragically and critically injured in the Tucson, Arizona, shooting of January 8, 2011, resigned from Congress in January of this year. Kelly is still an active astronaut and is a Navy veter...
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New killer Mars shot from Don Parker

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
Legendary astroimager Don Parker of Coral Gables, Florida, has sent an amazing new shot of the Red Planet he made February 20, 2012. “The north polar cap’s edge appears to be breaking up as it enters the rapid regression phase,” said Don. “Late morning cloud over Ascraeus with clouds and hazes extending from eastern Tharsis across Candor and Chryse. Post-front seeing was highly variable.” A great martian image and Red Planet weather report for the middle of the...
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Updated schedule for the North East Astro-Imaging Conference

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
I blogged about the North-East Astro-Imaging Conference (NEAIC) on Friday, and now Bob Moore, one of its organizers, has provided an updated schedule of events for the meeting. Held April 26–27 before the Northeast Astronomy Forum (NEAF) in Suffern, New York (at the Crowne Plaza Conference Center), NEAIC will bring together a couple hundred dedicated astroimagers for a high-level meeting of the minds. Astronomy magazine is proud to be a sponsor of this event, as well as of NEAF. The sched...
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Calling all imagers to the North East Astro-Imaging Conference!

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
I’ve previously mentioned Astronomy magazine’s sponsorship and participation in the Northeast Astronomy Forum (NEAF) this coming April 28–29 in Suffern, New York. It’s the largest telescope show in the world, and it will be a must for amateur astronomers in the region. But I want to inform you about a two-day conference that precedes NEAF — the North East Astro-Imaging Conference (NEAIC). A premier event for astrophotographers, this meeting will feature talks a...
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Killer image of supernova remnant Simeis 147

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
California astroimager Rogelio Bernal Andreo has scored again with a stunning image of Simeis 147, the famous and legendarily faint supernova remnant in Taurus. Also known as Sharpless 2–240, this cloud is composed of expanding gas belched from a dying star that exploded about 40,000 years ago. The nebula is so faint that it’s a challenge to photograph, let alone observe visually. The nebula covers about 3° of sky, making individual parts of it extraordinarily faint. Th...
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The Heart Nebula on Valentine’s Day

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
Check out this fantastic image from legendary astrophotographer Jack Newton. It shows a well-known region in Cassiopeia that contains two large, faint emission nebulae, IC 1848 (left) and IC 1805. These objects are enormous factories whose gas is coalescing into new stars, producing clusters you can see within the nebulosity. At right, IC 1805 is often called the Heart Nebula (if you tilt your head to the left you’ll see the nebula’s looping “heart” shape). Just to m...
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Check out David Fuller’s “Eyes on the Sky”

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
David Fuller, a member of the Kankakee Area StarGazers in Illinois, has been producing some pretty great content about observing the sky from urban and suburban locations for several years now. His main purpose is to draw attention to light pollution and to inspire those who have never seen the sky to look toward the heavens. An astronomy enthusiast for more than 30 years, David has written many local newspaper articles about astronomy and for the past couple years has turned his attention to pr...

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