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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An important book: Marc Kuchner’s "Marketing for Scientists"

Posted 5 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 5 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 5 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 5 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 5 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 5 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 5 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 5 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 5 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 5 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 5 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 5 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 5 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 5 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 5 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 5 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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Planning Australia for this year’s big total eclipse?

Posted 5 years ago by David Eicher
OK, a few days ago I told you about Astronomy magazine’s planned trip to see the June transit of Venus in Hawaii. Now I’m going to suggest you also go to Australia to see the big eclipse event of the year, the total solar eclipse on November 14. This will be a nice one, lasting just over four minutes if you’re out at sea in the middle of nowhere, but about 2 minutes near the most populous city in the path, Cairns, Queensland, in northeastern Australia. Once again, Astronomy ma...
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Rob Walrecht’s planned super cool superplanisphere

Posted 5 years ago by David Eicher
Even in this electronic age, and even if you observe with a computer screen beside your telescope, you really need at least one old-school device — a planisphere. Sometimes called “star wheels,” these devices allow you to dial in your date and time and see the sky represented for the particular latitude you’re observing from. Many fine planispheres have existed for decades — now Rob Walrecht, the Dutch cartographer and creator of fine star maps, is cr...
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Let’s get ourselves a New Horizons-Pluto stamp!

Posted 5 years ago by David Eicher
You may have heard over the past few days of an effort to recognize the New Horizons mission now en route to Pluto and due to arrive in 2015. Yesterday, Alan Stern, the mission’s project scientist, called me and asked Astronomy magazine to step on board as a partner in the effort. 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...
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Astronomy Foundation to hold annual meeting at NEAF

Posted 5 years ago by David Eicher
Astronomy magazine is once again co-sponsoring the Northeast Astronomy Forum (NEAF) this year in Suffern, New York, which takes place April 27 and 28. This 21st annual event is the biggest telescope show and gathering in the United States, with several thousand people attending to see more than 140 telescope vendors and their wares and hear numerous astronomers speak on many topics. It is always an exciting event, and this year there will be some special treats awaiting attendees. Moreover, for...
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Come to Hawaii for the transit of Venus!

Posted 5 years ago by David Eicher
The last transit of Venus in our lifetimes will take place Tuesday, June 5, 2012. You can see a portion of this rare and storied event, in which the disk of Venus crosses the face of the Sun, from North America. But Hawaii is one of the closest places where you can see the whole transit — and it’s a pretty nice place to be. I’ll have the privilege of accompanying readers of the magazine on a trip to Hawaii to see the transit this June. In conjunction with Melita Thorpe of...
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Sheldon Reynolds’ Images of Life

Posted 5 years ago by David Eicher
Many of you know our Contributing Editor Sheldon Reynolds, for years singer and guitarist with Earth, Wind, & Fire, as well as an enthusiastic astronomy promoter. Check out his latest film, Images of Life, with reflections on the universe. You’ll love it! ...
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IBEX illuminates a dark corner of our neighborhood

Posted 5 years ago by David Eicher
Yesterday, scientists at a NASA press conference described the first findings from IBEX, the Interstellar Boundary Explorer satellite, which was launched in 2008 and is the first craft to study the region between our solar system and interstellar space. Astronomers don’t know much about the edge of our solar system and how it interacts with our neighborhood in the galaxy beyond. By contrast, we know a great deal about various objects far away in the Milky Way (and in other galaxies), but t...
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How life on Earth made minerals

Posted 5 years ago by David Eicher
For centuries, scientists believed that animals and minerals lived in two separate worlds. Then, four years ago, a groundbreaking study led to a dynamic realization: Life on Earth radically altered the way minerals formed on our planet. Last year, a major research journal devoted an entire issue to analyzing the idea, and now the science of studying minerals and understanding Earth as a planet has been radically shaken up. The evidence shows that microbes on Earth exploded the number of mineral...
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Help reduce Chicago light pollution!

Posted 5 years ago by David Eicher
Audrey Fischer is on a mission. This tireless promoter of dark skies has an important milestone coming in her fight to reduce light pollution in Chicago, Illinois — and you can help in a big way. Audrey is a friend of the magazine, one of the organizers of the 2012 Astronomical League meeting upcoming in Chicago (ALCon 2012; see http://alcon2012.astroleague.org/), and a friend of every amateur astronomer. With her program “One Star at a Time,” she is making thousands ...
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Heads up for NEAF, coming in April!

Posted 5 years ago by David Eicher
Astronomy magazine is proud to be sponsoring three big events in the astronomy world in the coming months. First, we will co-sponsor the Northeast Astronomy Forum (NEAF) in Suffern, New York, April 28–29, hosted by the Rockland Astronomy Club at Rockland Community College. The world’s largest telescope show will feature more than 140 vendors — manufacturers and dealers — with countless telescopes, binoculars, and accessories on hand. This show reflects the incr...
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Amazing new picture of where you live

Posted 5 years ago by David Eicher
In the old days at Astronomy, we used to have a saying whenever someone separated Earth science from astronomy— “Earth is a planet, too.” NASA has just released what may be the greatest image yet of our planet, a multicolor photo of Earth showing North and South America and swirls of clouds hovering about. This “blue marble” image of the planet was made with the VIIRS instrument aboard NASA’s most recent Earth-observing satellite, Suomi NPP. Th...
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Astronomy magazine co-sponsors ALCon 2012 in Chicago

Posted 5 years ago by David Eicher
Astronomy magazine is proud to be sponsoring three big events in the astronomy world in the coming months — I’ll tell you about each of them soon. First, let me mention a major astronomical meeting — ALCon 2012, the annual convention of the Astronomical League. This meeting will take place July 4–7 in Chicago, Illinois, and will feature speakers including Dave Crawford of the International Dark Sky Association, stellar astroimager Don Parker, Astronomers Without Borders P...
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Amateur astronomy loses a great pioneering salesman

Posted 5 years ago by David Eicher
Yesterday, news broke about the death of a great figure in the telescope world, Norman Edmund, who died in South Florida last week at the age of 95. The founder of Edmund Scientific Co. in Barrington, New Jersey, Edmund created a huge opportunity for telescope makers and astronomy enthusiasts to buy materials with which to make scopes on the cheap from the post-WWII surplus market. He later made his company into a powerhouse that continues as one of the major forces in selling telescopes and acc...
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Fantastic Mars imaging from Don Parker

Posted 5 years ago by David Eicher
For years and years, Don Parker of Coral Gables, Florida, a retired anesthesiologist, has led the world in color planetary imaging by amateur astronomers. His portraits of planets in the solar system are just a cut above everything else that gets produced, and he’s been a contributor to Astronomy for decades. Don regularly images several planets, with Mars being one of his favorites. His images of the Red Planet from January 12 are simply amazing; check out the composite and the three ind...