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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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 6 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 6 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 6 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 6 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 6 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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Sheldon Reynolds Earth, Wind & Fire contest!

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
Well, I’m back. Last week I was not only home for a couple days, hit with the virus that has cycled through most of Astronomy’s staff, but at the office I also was entangled with a variety of special projects. Now I am back online to blog and blog and blog some more. Today I’m proud to announce an online contest in conjunction with a great friend of the magazine, the Grammy-nominated musician Sheldon Reynolds. Sheldon is a years-long astronomy hobbyist and astroimager who beca...
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James Kevin Ty nails the great sunspot group

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
First of all, let me apologize for taking a couple days off from blogging. I have had a flurry of projects this week, including one that is huge and last minute for the January issue of the magazine. Now that I’ve caught my breath on those special things, back to the norm . . . This morning I saw a beautiful photo of the great sunspot group 1302 presently visible that Philippine astroimager James Kevin Ty posted on my Facebook page. It is such a magnificent image that I felt it needed to b...
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Huge solar activity portends auroral displays

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
Enormous storms on the Sun are creating great opportunities for solar viewing and imaging by amateur astronomers as they watch a monster sunspot group (1302), which is now visible to the naked eye. A significant explosion from the Sun’s corona occurred Saturday morning, September 24, and is making the possibility of tremendous auroral displays very real. Impacts have arrived in Earth’s geomagnetic field, and the huge coronal mass ejection (CME) observed over the weekend means that pe...
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University of Delaware students capture M101 supernova

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
Happy beginning of the week to you; some surprises coming up starting tomorrow — stay tuned. Today I am sharing a lovely image of the galaxy M101 in Ursa Major shot by astronomy students of the University of Delaware at Mount Cuba Observatory, near Greenville. Judi Provencal of the University of Delaware’s physics department sent the pic, which shows the galaxy’s nucleus, spiral arms, and the brilliant supernova the galaxy has recently sported (the brightest star below the gala...
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Florida's upcoming "Discover the Universe" star party

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
Welcome to Friday! Let’s hope that none of us is hit by pieces of an infalling satellite today. I want to let you know about a major star party event coming in 2 weeks that is being put on by Astronomy magazine Contributing Editor Mike Reynolds and his team of folks at Florida State College. Sponsored by the Astronomy Foundation (of which Mike is a director), Astronomy magazine, Explore Scientific, Florida State College, and the Northeast Florida Astronomical Society, the event will take p...
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John Chumack does it again — Moon meets Pleiades

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
Dayton, Ohio, astroimager John Chumack has a way of capturing one cool astroimage after another, and he’s done it again by sending this neat shot of the Moon and the Pleiades star cluster. As John puts it, “It can be a real challenge to shoot anything deep-sky when it is near the bright glow of the Moon. But I was able to process through the Moon’s bright glow to show the waning gibbous phase, instead of just the usual overexposed white blob!” John used a Canon Rebel Xsi ...
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Astronomy magazine’s Astronomy Foundation page — and downloadable brochure

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
I’ve mentioned the Astronomy Foundation a few times in my blogs — it’s the 2-year-old organization of telescope industry folks who want to encourage a new generation of people to discover amateur astronomy. I happen to be president of the group now through the spring of 2013 and, as such, have created an area on Astronomy.com that will be devoted to Astronomy Foundation topics and content. To check it out, please see www.astronomy.com/astronomyfoundation. Just today, Ass...
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Sizzling hot image of the week: Rust orange Moon

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
Florida astroimager Pete Lardizabal shot this beautiful image of the orange Moon he observed about 9° above the eastern horizon near Jacksonville, Florida, at 8:52 p.m. EDT on September 13, 2011. The extreme orange color seen in the area was due to smoke particles from a large smoldering fire in southern Georgia. “It’s rather unusual to see this intense coloration in concert with relative clarity of the captured image,” writes Lardizabal. He used an Astro-Physics ...
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Guest blog: From Star Hustler to Star Gazers, by Dean Regas

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
Welcome to my 100th blog! This is a day for anniversaries: 100 blogs and 29 years to the day since I joined the staff of Astronomy magazine! And to celebrate, I am taking the day off. Instead of writing something original, I am presenting you with a guest blog by Astronomy magazine contributor, Cincinnati Observatory Center astronomer, and TV’s new Star Gazer, Dean Regas. Dean has written a nice account of the TV show that he is taking the helm of now, remembering the late Jack Horkhe...
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Guest blog: A Cosmic Palette, Part 2, by Benjamin Palmer

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
You’ve heard before from 16-year-old Benjamin Palmer of Queensbury, New York, an enthusiastic astronomy buff who won Astronomy magazine’s Youth Essay Contest this year and also serves as chair of the Youth Committee for the Astronomy Foundation. Benjamin has written an essay on astronomy and art, and I think you’ll enjoy reading it immensely. What follows is part two; the first part appeared in my blog yesterday. Enjoy!A Cosmic Palette:Astronomy’s Unique Impact on Post-Im...
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Guest blog: A Cosmic Palette, Part 1, by Benjamin Palmer

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
You’ve heard before from 16-year-old Benjamin Palmer of Queensbury, New York, an enthusiastic astronomy buff who won Astronomy magazine’s Youth Essay Contest this year and also serves as chair of the Youth Committee for the Astronomy Foundation. Benjamin has written an essay on astronomy and art, and I think you’ll enjoy reading it immensely. The first part follows; part two will come tomorrow. Enjoy!A Cosmic Palette: Astronomy’s Unique Impact on Post-Impressionism &ld...
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Monster sunspot imaged by John Chumack

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
Check out this huge sunspot captured by astroimager John Chumack in Dayton, Ohio, September 12. It is a striking image of our Sun, the source of all our energy in the solar system, the entity that makes life possible on our planet, and the nuclear engine that will ultimately wipe out life on Earth another 600 or 800 million years from now when the oceans boil away. There’s a positive thought for a Tuesday, huh?! John shot the image, which he describes as “kind of looking like Leo or ...
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Astronomy at the Beach: A model skygazing outreach event

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
Earlier this year, I had the pleasure of being asked to come to Astronomy at the Beach near Detroit, Michigan, the 15th annual public star party put on by seven different astronomy clubs in the metro area. Despite the fact that I was in Green Bay for the Packers-Saints game on Thursday night (and arrived back home at 2 a.m. Friday), I was a good guy and got up, made my flight, and was Detroit-bound by 10 a.m. John Schroer of the Detroit Science Center was the contact person who asked m...
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On the road: Astronomy at the Beach

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
For the 15th year in a row this weekend, the seven astronomy clubs in the Detroit, Michigan, metro area are sponsoring Astronomy at the Beach, an observing event held at Maple Beach at the Kensington Metropark near Brighton, Michigan, northwest of the city. It will feature nighttime observing, solar observing, astronomy-themed movies, activities for kids, talks by scientists and amateur astronomers, planetarium presentations, and laser tours of the sky that will delight hundreds of people who co...
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Supernova in M101 imaged by Tom Bash

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
As first I described on Friday, August 26, a type Ia supernova discovered on Wednesday, August 24, in the nearby galaxy M101 in Ursa Major is the nearest type Ia supernova astronomers have found since 1972. The brightness of this exploding star is on the rise and now shines at about 10th magnitude, presumably near maximum. On Saturday, August 27, Tom Bash shot this fine portrait of M101 and its supernova at the Julian Starfest in Julian, California. He used a Celestron HD-11 on a CGEM-DX mount,...
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Sizzling hot image of the week: van den Bergh 142

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
Few astroimagers have the kind of history and spectacular results as Tony Hallas, contributing editor to Astronomy magazine and experienced skyshooter. For years, Tony has pioneered shooting deep-sky objects in color, and his recent image of the dark nebula van den Bergh 142 is one of the greats. Located in the heart of IC 1396, a fantastic emission nebula in Cepheus, this nebula is visible with large amateur scopes on very dark nights. Amazingly, Hallas shot this image during Full Moon from For...
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Close encounters of the cometary kind

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
Several of you who were at star parties over the past few days commented to me about how cool it was to see Comet Garradd slide past the rich globular cluster M71 in Sagitta, a close encounter that occurred on the evening of Saturday, August 27. C/2009 P1 (Garradd), as it’s officially known, was discovered by Australian astronomer Gordon Garradd and has been making a show in the evening sky, currently shining at magnitude 8.2 and well-placed for observing. The energetic Ohio astroimager Jo...