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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IBEX illuminates a dark corner of our neighborhood

Posted 6 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 6 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 6 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 6 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 6 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 6 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 6 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 6 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...
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John Sanford, 1939–2011

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
We at Astronomy magazine just learned about the death of a wonderful man and important astronomy enthusiast who helped change amateur astronomy for the better, especially in the 1970s and ’80s. John Sanford died December 11, 2011, after a long illness in his beloved Southern California, at the age of 72. Longtime Astronomy readers may know that John contributed a column on photography in astronomy starting with his story “Optics for Astrophotography” in the very first iss...
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Fly me to the Moon!

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
Talented astrophotographer John Chumack has done it again by capturing two aircraft crossing in front of the waxing gibbous Moon, as shot on January 6, 2012, at 5:47 p.m. EST from his backyard in Dayton, Ohio. John used a Canon Rebel Xsi DSLR, a 300mm lens at f/8, and exposed at ISO 400.A great shot, John!...
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Guest Blog: Dean Regas on The New Star Gazers

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
Dean Regas, a longtime friend and contributor to Astronomy, is now one of the hosts of the new Star Gazers, the PBS show that brings you great sky observing info and is the successor to Jack Horkheimer’s Star Gazer. Here is a great story Regas forwarded about the new show! The new Star Gazers: A new twist on an old favorite show “Hey there Star Gazers!” This is the phrase James Albury and I use when we welcome you to the new Star Gazers astronomy program. Available on most PB...
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Guest Blog: Becky’s Bucket List

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
Becky Ramotowski is an enthusiastic amateur astronomer who lives in New Mexico, is the author of Secrets of Stargazing, and writes a stargazing blog at astrobeck.com. Check it out! She recently sent me a piece that summarizes some really interesting things coming up this year for amateur astronomers, and I’m delighted to share it with you here. Thanks, Becky! Becky’s Astronomy Bucket List for 2012At the beginning of each year, I make an astronomical “bucket list” of thing...
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Patsy Tombaugh dies at age 99

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
A wonderful woman who was a treasure to the astronomy community died on Thursday — Patricia Tombaugh, wife of Clyde Tombaugh, Pluto’s discoverer. Many who knew her in the astronomy world were hoping she would live to see the New Horizons spacecraft reach Pluto in 2015, but that would just not be the case. Patsy had a great sense of humor and was known for her energy and enthusiasm in talking about astronomy and Pluto and in supporting her husband’s career for many years. Clyde ...
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Brian May Queen “One Vision” Contest winners announced

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
Congratulations to Marvin Long of Austin, Texas, and Philip Knight of Wolverhampton, England, for winning the “One Vision” Contest! Marvin and Philip each will receive a set of Brian May’s London Stereoscopic Company’s astronomical stereo cards along with an OWL viewer, signed by Brian! The magazine received an enormous response from the article I wrote in the January issue, “Brian May’s world of stereo astro pictures,” and the accompanying co...
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Beautiful waxing crescent Moon closes out year

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
Ohio astroimager John Chumack captured a delicate waxing crescent Moon from his observatory in Dayton, Ohio, on Thursday, December 29, 2011. He used a 10-inch Meade SCT, an f/6.3 focal reducer, a Canon Rebel Xsi camera set at ISO 400, and a 1/60-second exposure. What a pretty way to ring in the new year and remember the last days of the old year! Happy New Year!...
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Stunning image of the Orion Nebula’s core

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
Ohio astroimager John Chumack has done it again — he leaves us with a New Year’s image of the Orion Nebula (M42) that has been carefully processed to show amazing detail in the core. John shot this through his 10-inch scope in Dayton, Ohio, and combined this data with imagery from his 16-inch scope in Yellow Springs, Ohio. The images were combined and layered in Photoshop. The camera used was a modified Canon Rebel Xsi (Baader filter) at ISO 400, with dark frames subtracted. The tot...
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Killer Sun image shows prominences, filaments, sunspots!

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
As a reader of this blog, you’ve seen many cool images shot by astroimager John Chumack. Here is yet another — a fabulous Sun image John captured December 11, 2011, showing a full range of solar activity, prominences, filaments, plage, and sunspots all in one picture! John used a Lunt Solar LS60 scope with an LS50 Hydrogen-alpha filter, a DMK 31AF04 Firewire CCD camera, an exposure of 1/483-second for surface details, 1/30-second exposures for prominences, and stacked 4,616 frames fo...
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Brandon Doyle sketches starburst galaxy M82

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
Sixteen-year-old Brandon Doyle of Albion, New York, loves sketching deep-sky objects at the telescope. Brandon’s latest drawing, made with his 10-inch Dobsonian at 200x, shows the famous galaxy M82 in Ursa Major. M82, sometimes called the Cigar Galaxy, is a starburst galaxy with a central black hole and oodles of star formation occurring along the galaxy’s hub, which is oriented edge-on to our line of sight. Enjoy!...
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Spectacular International Space Station view of Comet Lovejoy

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
As many of you know, Comet 2011/W3 (Lovejoy), a sungrazer that miraculously survived its encounter with the Sun’s corona December 15, is putting on a nice show in the Southern Hemisphere. The comet is showing a long tail that stretches 10° and glows at magnitude 4, having peaked as it rose above the horizon in the south at magnitude –1. Southern Hemisphere observers have had some brief, incredible views of the comet, and International Space Station Commander Dan Burbank phot...
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Final warning on Brian May’s Queen “One Vision” Contest!

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
The contest we have been running along with the story on Brian May’s astronomical stereo photos in the January 2012 issue is almost over! Read the story and check out the Queen song “39” by Brian in order to enter our contest, which ends December 31! You may win a set of stereo astro cards and a stereo viewer autographed by Brian!Be sure to check out Brian’s London Stereoscopic Company website (www.londonstereo.com) for info on how to order these cards and for information...
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Cool shot of Orion by Sheldon Reynolds

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
Lots of Astronomy readers know about one of our great friends and contributors, Sheldon Reynolds, who is a legendary guitarist and former member of Earth, Wind, & Fire and The Commodores. Sheldon loves astronomy — he recently sponsored a contest in which he gave away several signed copies of his very cool CD, Feel Good, and he wrote an accompanying essay on the Moon, “The wonder of our nearest neighbor.” For more on the contest, see www.Astronomy.com/FeelGood. Sh...
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Comet Lovejoy plunges toward the Sun — and survives!

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
Yesterday, recently found Comet C/2011 W3 (Lovejoy) survived its plunge into the Sun’s corona after passing a mere 87,000 miles (140,000 kilometers) from our star’s photosphere — an incredibly close encounter. This Kreutz sungrazer was discovered by Australian amateur astronomer Terry Lovejoy on November 27, 2011, and was immediately given up for dead, as nearly all such sungrazers are pulled into our star. Oddly, the comet had a little detached mini comet riding alongside...
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Ever seen a LEGO Freddie Mercury?

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
OK, here’s something fun, light, and kooky for a Thursday, pointed out to me by Astronomy’s Senior Graphic Designer Alison Mackey. The website BuzzFeed recently featured a LEGO Freddie Mercury, complete with the half mic stand that was Freddie’s trademark stage prop. This is way cool — now can someone out there build a LEGO Brian May so that we can show it to Astronomy’s Editorial Advisory Board member?  To see more of LEGO Freddie, check out: http://w...
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Amateur astronomer investigates a galaxy’s tidal stream

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
Frequent Astronomy magazine contributor R. Jay GaBany, who operates the Blackbird II Observatory near Alder Springs, California, recently participated in a study of the dwarf starburst galaxy NGC 4449 and its attendant tidal stream. He is working with several professional astronomers on the project. Here is the story of this project from GaBany’s website:“We have mapped and analyzed a stellar stream in the halo of the nearby dwarf starburst galaxy NGC 4449, detecting it in deep inte...
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Bright Geminids light up the sky!

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
Astroimager John Chumack of Dayton, Ohio, has done it again. Check out this image John captured with his southern sky video camera December 10 with the near-Full Moon hanging in the sky. It’s a great image with Orion in plain view, the Moon shining brightly, and bright Geminids streaking past the stars! Says John: “Despite the bright Moon, I turned on all my sky cameras and captured several dozen bright Geminid meteors. Dress warmly and get out there to see some of these, folks! Moon...
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Breathtaking view of the eclipse from Hawaii

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
Astronomy Contributing Editor Stephen James O’Meara sent along this spectacular view of Saturday’s lunar eclipse as he imaged it from his home on the Big Island of Hawaii. Steve and his wife, Donna, who are, in addition to expert astronomy enthusiasts, also specialists in studying volcanoes, captured this superb image of totality. As Steve writes, “It was a bright and beautiful eclipse, coppery red. We had so much rain lately that I was really holding my breath. But the clouds ...
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Brandon Doyle captures Seyfert galaxy M77

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
Sixteen-year-old observer Brandon Doyle of Albion, New York, is an enthusiastic sketcher at the eyepiece. For ample evidence of this, see his story, “How to sketch deep-sky objects,” in the January 2012 issue of Astronomy. In that story, you’ll find 16 of Brandon’s sketches made with his 10-inch Dobsonian reflector. However, not all of his great drawings made it into the story. For example, see the attached sketch of the Seyfert galaxy M77 made with his 10-inch...
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Killer Jupiter photo by Don Parker

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
As you probably know, Jupiter has been a prominent part of our evening sky over the past few months, reaching opposition — opposite the Sun in the sky and consequently at its brightest — October 28. The planet still dazzles at magnitude –2.7 as it floats among the stars of Pisces. Don Parker of Coral Gables, Florida, has for years been the reigning champion of photographing planets. Just as Aaron Rodgers is playing quarterback on another level, so are Don’s pic...
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Cool 3-D movie of the Andromeda Galaxy

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
Astroimager John Bunyan of Grants Pass, Oregon, sent along this very cool movie he made of the Andromeda Galaxy on 3-D approach. He shot the underlying image of M31 at this year’s Oregon Star Party and then played around with it a bit in Photoshop to create the 3-D zoom-in sequence. Very cool, John!  ...
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David H. Levy’s observing logbooks now online

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
Astronomy Contributing Editor David H. Levy has had a long and storied career as an astronomy popularizer. Co-discoverer of the famous Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 that slammed into Jupiter in 1994, David has been active in observing since the late 1950s. He is the discoverer or co-discoverer of 22 comets and more than 150 asteroids, and he is the first person ever to have discovered comets visually, photographically, and by electronic means. A longtime member of the Royal Astronomical Society of Can...

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