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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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...
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Supernova in M101 imaged by Kevin Boucher

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
As first I described on Friday that a 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 it could be visible in binoculars within a week or so. On Monday evening, August 29, Kevin Boucher of the Aldrich Astronomical Society Imaging Group in Massachusetts shot this fine portrait of M101 and its supernova. “There wasn’t a lot ...
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Supernova in M101 imaged by Jimmy Westlake

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
As I first described on Friday, a supernova discovered 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 it could be visible in binoculars within a week or so. Yesterday, Jimmy Westlake, a professor of astronomy at Colorado Mountain College in Alpine (and a longtime astroimager), sent these “before and after” images of the supernova, which now hovers aro...
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Supernova in M101 imaged by Anthony Ayiomamitis

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
  As I described on Friday, a type Ia supernova discovered 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 it could be visible in binoculars within a week or so. Late on Friday, our good friend Anthony Ayiomamitis in Greece, a superb astroimager, sent his latest picture of the galaxy and its attendant supernova, which is reproduced here. Anthony shot ...
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HOT NEWS! Supernova in M101 could be visible in binoculars

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
A type Ia supernova discovered Wednesday, August 24, in the nearby galaxy M101 in Ursa Major is the nearest type Ia supernova astronomers have found since 1986. The brightness of this exploding star is on the rise, and it could be visible in a 6-inch telescope within a week or so. Astronomers at the Palomar Transient Factory project on California’s Palomar Mountain discovered the supernova using the Oschin Schmidt telescope at Palomar Mountain Observatory. The supernova is designated SN 2...
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Cool video of Hurricane Irene from the International Space Station

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
As East Coast residents prepare to be hammered by Hurricane Irene, check out this amazing video of the storm shot yesterday from 230 miles (370 kilometers) above Earth’s surface by the crew of the International Space Station. The movie shows the storm as it washed over the Bahamas at about 3:10 p.m. EDT on August 24, 2011. Irene is currently moving northwest and is classified as a Category 3 storm, with winds of 120 mph (193 km/h). It is heading toward North Carolina’s Outer Banks a...
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John Chumack nails Comet Garradd

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
There’s a reasonably bright comet in the sky right now — Comet C/2009 P1 (Garradd), discovered by Australian amateur astronomer Gordon Garradd. The comet is now visible through binoculars and small telescopes, an evening object glowing at around magnitude 8, and showing a nice, intense, bright green coma. The comet is in the tiny constellation Sagitta in the summer Milky Way, and will continue to be visible for some time to come. Astronomy magazine contributor John Chumack captured ...
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Sizzling hot image of the week: Heckathorn-Fesen-Gull 1

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
Rarely do you get a look at a planetary nebula that’s this old. The endgame for Sun-like stars, planetary nebulae — so named because many years ago their disks appeared like planets in the eyepiece — are clouds of gas slowly dissipating into surrounding space. They’re one of the methods the universe uses for its stellar recycling program. Noted astroimager Don Goldman recently captured an amazing planetary nebula, Heckathorn-Fesen-Gull 1. What sounds like the first case o...
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How young people can influence astronomical research — part two

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
Today I’m sharing part two of a guest story by 16-year-old Benjamin Palmer of Queensbury, New York (you can find part one here) . Benjamin is an active amateur astronomer, won this year’s Astronomy magazine Youth Essay Contest, and is chair of a committee on Youth in Astronomy for the Astronomy Foundation.* * * *Surfing the web, surfing the cosmosAs the Internet has expanded over the decades, a novel breed of observers has emerged. These individuals depend not on eyepieces, filters, ...
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How young people can influence astronomical research — part one

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
Today I’m sharing part one of a guest story by 16-year-old Benjamin Palmer, of Queensbury, New York. Benjamin is an active amateur astronomer, won this year’s Astronomy magazine Youth Essay Contest, and is chair of a committee on Youth in Astronomy for the Astronomy Foundation. Please enjoy the first part of this great article written by Benjamin, with the conclusion to come tomorrow. * * * *When pondering the mystique of the cosmos, one unequivocal truth prevails: The only thing cer...
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How you can help save the next space telescope

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
I’m sure most of you are well aware of the danger the James Webb Space Telescope faces from Congressional budget cutting. Now is the time to rise to action to save JWST, which represents the next generation of our exploration of the distant universe. Here is an informational email from the American Astronomical Society (AAS) that suggests how you can get involved now to help the future of astronomy and science. Please read it and take action. It is all up to you. JWST: What Can We Do Now?...
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More Perseids from Ohio

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
A few days ago, I shared an image of some Perseid meteors captured by John Chumack at his observatory near Dayton, Ohio. Although the Moon was very close to Full and, therefore, the conditions hardly ideal this year, observers did catch quite a few Perseids over the past several days, and I hope you were one of them. I have the pleasure of sharing another image of John's, this one taken August 12, when he captured more than 100 meteors. For more on John's astroimaging, see http://www.g...
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A new phase for the Astronomy Outreach Foundation

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
Many of you are familiar with the telescope industry’s first trade association, the Astronomy Outreach Foundation, which was created in late 2009 to spread interest in astronomy, especially to younger folks. The group has recently undergone a reorganization. Now named simply the Astronomy Foundation (AF), the organization consists of telescope manufacturers, clubs, magazines, and devoted amateur astronomers who wish to spread the joy of our hobby. See the group’s website at astronomy...
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Welcome Sheldon Reynolds as contributing editor

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
I have the distinct pleasure of welcoming a new contributing editor to Astronomy magazine, Sheldon Reynolds, amateur astronomer, astroimager, and entertainer. Those who know the music business may be aware of Sheldon’s career as a member of the Commodores, as lead guitarist and vocalist for Earth, Wind & Fire, and as a writer and producer of many other musical ventures. A native of Cincinnati, Ohio, Sheldon followed his 14-year career in EWF with several years of involvement managing E...
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Here come the Perseids!

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
I hope you are looking forward to the peak of the Perseid meteor shower, which takes place Saturday, August 13, the same day as the Full Moon. Although the Moon phase stinks this year for the shower, you still may see as many as 20 decent meteors per hour under clear skies. Well, whether you go out or you don’t, you can still enjoy this fantastic image of pieces of Comet Swift-Tuttle captured by astroimager John Chumack last night. John had meteor cameras running at his observatory near D...
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Stars and lava in Hawaii

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
You may have heard about the major breakout of lava at Kilauea volcano on the Big Island of Hawaii that took place last week. On Thursday and Friday, crater walls collapsed and sent rivulets of lava trickling down to the ocean in a spectacular scene that made the ordinary lava viewing seem very ordinary. It constituted another stage in the eruption of Kilauea’s middle east rift zone. Astronomy Contributing Editor Steve O’Meara and his wife Donna live on the Big Island and are volcano...
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Meet Comet Garradd

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
If you haven’t looked at Comet C/2009 P1 (Garradd) yet, you might want to check it out. Discovered by Australian amateur astronomer Gordon Garradd, the comet is currently a respectably bright binocular object, at magnitude 8.7, located in the late evening sky in the constellation Pegasus. Here, I present to you two fresh images of the comet from July 29 from our great astroimaging friend Anthony Ayiomamitis in Greece. His shots depict the comet tracked on the nucleus, which trails the sta...
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More awesome shuttle shots to share

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
Astronomy contributors Imelda Joson and Edwin Aguirre were fortunate enough to be down at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida for the launch of the now fabled last space shuttle mission, STS-135, this past month. Atlantis lifted off July 8, 2011, and returned to Earth July 21, just 13 days ago. Imelda and Edwin shot a flurry of outstanding photos of the launch, and I wanted to share a few of them with you here. Enjoy! ...
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A tale of two stories

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
The August issue of Astronomy magazine contains two special articles. For those who have not seen or read them yet, I want to share them with you here — because they are important to the future of astronomy as an interest. The first was written by 14-year-old astronomy enthusiast Ayla Besemer, an energetic young lady who travels the globe with her parents on a ship (see threeatsea.com) and is very devoted to observing the sky. Ayla penned a great story about why astronomy interests h...
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The sweetest shuttle landing shot

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
OK, I know I've thrown lots of shuttle images at you over the last couple of weeks, but pretty soon there won't be any more to celebrate from recent history, so bear with me. I had to share the greatest image I've seen of Atlantis' landing, which concluded the STS-135 mission and the Space Shuttle Program, from friend and astroimager Chris Cook, who was in Florida covering the event for Astronomy. What a striking image this is! Enjoy!    ...

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