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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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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Brandon Doyle sketches heart of the Orion Nebula

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 heart of the Orion Nebula (M42) made with his 1...
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See a monster prominence seven times bigger than Earth

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
Our friend and astroimager John Chumack regularly takes pictures of the Sun from his observatory near Yellow Springs, Ohio (practically my old home stomping grounds!). On Wednesday, November 30, John captured this mega prominence during lunchtime, and reported yesterday the prominence was still visible. With activity on the Sun increasing, it makes for many beautiful opportunities to watch and photograph such phenomena. John used a 60mm Lunt Hydrogen-alpha solar scope, 2x Barlow lens, a DMK...
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Big funding trouble for NOAO

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
The current issue of NOAO Currents, the online newsletter of the National Optical Astronomy Observatory, contains a dire budget projection for the organization’s future. NOAO operates three major observatory complexes that are at the heart of a vast portion of major astronomy research — Kitt Peak National Observatory, Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory, and the NOAO Gemini Science Center. NOAO is operated by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AU...
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NASA saves the Webb space scope

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
An enormous process of politics and money unfolded over much of the year, with NASA’s planned James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), the successor to the Hubble Space Telescope, hanging in the balance. With money tight everywhere and Congress disputing the value of funding science, it appeared for some time during the summer that the next-generation space scope might be ingloriously axed. And then you made your voices heard, contacted representatives, senators, and the White House, and in late...
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Killer shot of the Andromeda Galaxy

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
You wanna see a remarkable image of the Andromeda Galaxy (M31) in a way you’ve never seen it before? Check out Texas astroimager Jason Ware’s shot, which combines data from his 12-inch Meade Schmidt Camera and that of the blue plate of the Palomar Observatory Sky Survey II. (Note that Jason obtained permission from Caltech to do this.) He also included data from a shot of the galaxy’s core taken with his Meade 12-inch ACF 400 scope, and the result is simply amazing. Check it ou...
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Brian May's Queen “One Vision” month at Astronomy is here!

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
• Bone up on your Queen knowledge for a chance to win autographed items from Brian May• “One Vision” contest opens November 28 and runs until December 31• Read the story “Brian May’s world of stereo astro pictures” in the January 2012 Astronomy• Watch Editor Dave Eicher’s all-time top Queen songs (online subscriber extra)• And don’t miss May’s story about space exploration in the February 2012 Astronomy Man...
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Brian May presents Queen “One Vision” month at Astronomy magazine! And a little bit about “A Kind of Magic.”

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
• Bone up on your Queen knowledge for a chance to win autographed items from Brian May• “One Vision” contest opens November 28 and runs until December 31• Read the story “Brian May’s world of stereo astro pictures” in the January 2012 Astronomy• Watch Editor Dave Eicher’s all-time top Queen songs (online subscriber extra)• And don’t miss May’s story about space exploration in the February 2012 Astronomy We...
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Brian May presents Queen “One Vision” month at Astronomy magazine! And 21 minutes at Live Aid that changed music forever . . .

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
• Bone up on your Queen knowledge for a chance to win autographed items from Brian May• “One Vision” contest opens November 28 and runs until December 31• Read the story “Brian May’s world of stereo astro pictures” in the January 2012 Astronomy• Watch Editor Dave Eicher’s all-time top Queen songs (online subscriber extra)• And don’t miss May’s story about space exploration in the February 2012 Astronomy Welc...
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Guest blog: "Sharing the universe — why astronomy outreach matters," by Benjamin Palmer

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
Yesterday would have been Carl Sagan’s 77th birthday. It seems unreal to those of us who were privileged to know him that he has been gone for 15 years. In the spirit of what Carl would like most, here is a great essay about sharing astronomy from our young friend Benjamin Palmer of Queensbury, New York. Benjamin won this year’s Youth Essay Contest, which netted him a trip to the Northeast Astronomy Forum, and also is the Youth Committee Chair for the Astronomy Foundation. Enjoy. &l...
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Cool movie of the asteroid that almost hit us

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
You no doubt heard much yesterday about the passage of near-Earth asteroid 2005 YU55, which came within 201,700 miles (324,600 kilometers) of our planet last night. The asteroid was relatively small, about the size of an aircraft carrier, but would have made for some fun and games if it had struck the planet. The fact that it passed 0.85 times as close as the Moon was close enough. In any case, we are temporarily safe once again from space rocks — if only for a time —and...
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NOW is the time to contact Congress to support astronomy!

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
As someone who cares about science, and astronomy in particular, it’s critical that you take action now to demonstrate to the U.S. Congress your support of future astronomy. I want to share a letter from several distinguished astronomers — Debra Elmegreen, Kevin Marvel, Jack Burns, and Bethany Johns of the American Astronomical Society (AAS) — reporting on the urgent need to support astronomical funding. Please read this and contact your senators and representatives. The t...
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Brian May presents Queen “One Vision” month at Astronomy magazine!

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
• Bone up on your Queen knowledge for a chance to win autographed items from Brian May• “One Vision” contest opens November 28 and runs until December 31• Read the story “Brian May’s world of stereo astro pictures” in the January 2012 Astronomy• Watch Editor Dave Eicher’s all-time top Queen songs (online subscriber extra)• And don’t miss May’s story about space exploration in the February 2012 Astronomy Welcome ...
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On the road: Germany, Austria, and the Czech Republic, Days 9-10

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
Last Saturday, October 29, the group of Astronomy magazine readers I was traveling with reached Munich, Germany, after spending the previous week in Stuttgart, Prague, and Vienna. We had been tracing the footsteps of Tycho Brahe, Johannes Kepler, and Carl Zeiss, and having a good time with the history of astronomy and lots of European restaurants. Now it was time to make our way back to Germany, and the generally cloudy and cool weather we had experienced broke wide open into blue skies and suns...
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On the road: Germany, Austria, and the Czech Republic, Days 7-8

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
Let me pick up the story of where I was a few days ago: I was traveling across Europe with a group of Astronomy readers to see sights of astronomical history and walk in the footsteps of Johannes Kepler and Tycho Brahe. Our journey had taken us to Stuttgart and Weil der Stadt, Germany, to see the birthplace and museum associated with Kepler, the Mercedes-Benz Museum, and the Carl Zeiss factory and museum, producer of super-high-quality optics. We traveled on to Prague, Czech Republic, and witne...
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On the road: Germany, Austria, and the Czech Republic, Days 5-6

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
Astronomy’s intrepid group of travelers continues to make its way across central Europe, having enjoyed parts of Germany before spending two fantastic days and three nights in Prague. We saw a large number of astronomical sights and important historical places, and, amazingly, had the expert tour guide advice of Professor Martin Scholtz of the Charles University Astronomy Department and also that of Vaclav Spicka, a theoretical physicist at the Institute for Physics in Prague. They were we...
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On the road: Germany, Austria, and the Czech Republic, Days 1-4

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
OK, I’m on vacation, but I will share some tidbits from time to time from the trip I’m on with Melita Thorpe of MWT Associates and a small group of 15 Astronomy magazine readers, trekking our way throughout Germany, Austria, and the Czech Republic. We all had a great flight over from the United States on Friday and arrived in Munich exhausted, able to make a 2.5-hour drive to the industrial city of Stuttgart and wander about the town for a short time before passing out on Satur...
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On the road: Germany, Austria, and the Czech Republic

Posted 7 years ago by David Eicher
On Friday, I’ll be flying from Milwaukee to Atlanta and then on to Munich, Germany, with a group of Astronomy magazine readers to tour astronomical sites in Germany, Austria, and the Czech Republic. Our tour leader, Melita Thorpe of MWT Associates, is directing the event that will take us across lots of space and time until we return to the United States on October 31. Although I’m technically on vacation on this trip, I’ll be blogging a bit about some of the amazing si...
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Sheldon Reynolds' "Images of Life"

Posted 7 years ago by David Eicher
Last week, I told you about the contest we’re running on Astronomy.com with our Contributing Editor Sheldon Reynolds, world-renowned musician and former guitarist and lead singer of Earth, Wind & Fire. By sending us a short essay on a moment when you looked at the universe and felt childlike wonder, you can win one of Sheldon’s Feel Good CDs, a tribute to the music of Earth, Wind and Fire, autographed by Sheldon and his wife and musical partner, Marilyn Reynolds. For more on the ...
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Retreat day at Camp Astronomy

Posted 7 years ago by David Eicher
Like every institution, Astronomy magazine has a few traditions. One of them is to set aside a day each year with our editorial and art staffs to get away from the office and think a bit about our magazine and our website. It‘s the kind of thing that helps us evolve the products in the best way possible and bring you everything we can for your enjoyment of the astronomy hobby. Friday, October 14, was this year’s day of retreat. We packed up, took the whole enterprise to my house, sp...
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Sizzling hot image of the week: Lunar crater Arzachel

Posted 7 years ago by David Eicher
Consider the lunar crater Arzachel. Located in the southern half of the Moon, in our satellite’s cratered highlands, it is one of the most prominent impact craters. It stretches an impressive 60 miles (97 kilometers) across, has several terraced clefts on its floor, and hosts an impressive winding rille called Rima Arzachel. Its prominent central peak left from the crater’s impact is some 10 miles (16km) long. John Chumack’s image of Arzachel shows all the crater’s major...
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Our wondrous Moon

Posted 7 years ago by David Eicher
As I mentioned on Monday, Astronomy.com is currently hosting an online contest in conjunction with a great friend of the magazine, the Grammy-nominated musician Sheldon Reynolds. By writing a short paragraph sharing a moment when you paused to really appreciate the amazing beauty of the cosmos, you could win a copy of Sheldon’s Earth, Wind & Fire tribute CD, Feel Good, signed by him and by his wife and collaborator, Marilyn Reynolds. (Full contest details are available at http://www.as...

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