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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The skies belong to everyone, part one: The Moon

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
So, you bought a telescope to look at everything the universe has to offer. There are moons, planets, stars, comets, nebulae, and galaxies, many of which are visible to users of small telescopes on any clear night. What should you look at first? There’s no better way to start in astronomy than with the Moon. The brightest and largest object in the sky, the Moon is covered with features easily visible in binoculars or small telescopes. You can actually see some lunar features with your una...
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Have a spare $100,000?

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
If so, you just might be able to win the bidding for Alexei Leonov’s flown space suit from the Apollo-Soyuz Test Mission, July 15–19, 1975. It’s just one item among many dozens of space-related memorabilia in an auction to be held May 5, 2011, by Bonhams in New York. This big space auction is loaded with unusual and one-of-a-kind items for the collector who has everything and misses the heyday when space exploration was more aggressively funded. Among the other treasures: the c...
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What kind of a thinker are you?

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
Every day you are alive on planet Earth, there’s a big philosophical question you have to deal with many times. How do you determine what is the truth? What thought process or processes do you use to decide what constitutes reality? Do you use different kinds of thought processes for different areas of your life? Four broad types of thinking exist. They stretch over a spectrum from simple to complex, from primitive to sophisticated, from employing “gut feelings” to analysi...
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The history of Astronomy magazine

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
Little did Steve Walther know that his brainchild would turn into the greatest magazine about astronomy in the world. At 29, the ambitious graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point launched a periodical about his first love, the stars. The premier issue, August 1973, held 48 pages and five feature articles, plus information about what to see in the night sky that month. Walther had grown up in the Milwaukee area and taken jobs in public relations after college, yet always dabbling in...
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Not so fast, New York Times

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
On April 4, 2011, the New York Times ran a story called “Black-Market Trinkets from Space” in which writer William J. Broad lashed out at amateur meteorite collectors and dealers for practicing their hobby. “An illegal sales market has boomed” in the wake of increasing interest in space rocks, claimed Broad. He quoted Dr. Ralph Harvey of Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland as calling the meteorite trade “as organized as any drug trade and just as ...
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Celebrating Earth Day

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
You know, I noticed on the calendar when I came into work on Friday that April 22 was Earth Day. That’s great, and I fully support Earth as a good planet and a nice place to be. Sure beats the chills you would get on Mars, the trouble you would have breathing on Mercury, or the scorched hellfire that would consume you on Venus. And bringing attention to good causes is pretty fine, too, as long as it’s not a manufactured process, as it usually is, to sell greeting cards or solicit cas...
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Tidbits from Tunisia

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
As many of you know, Astronomy magazine took a tour group of 22 to Tunisia to hunt for meteorites and explore historical and archaeological wonders back in March. We found abundant, albeit small, meteorites at Tataouine. En route to our meteorite hunt, we visited a famous Star Wars filming site, the ancient Berber fortified granary Ksar Ouled Soltane, which was used as a set for Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. Two of our most exotic travelers were Phil and Wendy Evans, who live on Rarotonga in t...
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On the road: The American Museum of Natural History

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
When in New York the past few days, I spent a great deal of time at the American Museum of Natural History. Among the numerous collections on view at the institution are the specimens in the Arthur Ross Hall of Meteorites. I spent a great deal of time in this gallery studying and photographing the collection, which is one of the best anywhere. The stones, irons, and stony-irons are displayed beautifully in a circular room spread about the gigantic Cape York chunk in the room’s center. Name...
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On the road: The Rose Center for Earth and Space

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
Following the Northeast Astronomy Forum in Suffern, New York, I traveled to New York City to work on a couple stories for future issues of the magazine. I won’t divulge exactly what they will be, but let me share a few photos of the day I had at the Rose Center for Earth and Space at the American Museum of Natural History. The Rose Center is the preeminent astronomy educational museum and planetarium in the United States, and it is under the direction of a good friend of the magazine, Neil...
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On the road: The Northeast Astronomy Forum, April 17, 2011

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
The second day of the Northeast Astronomy Forum (NEAF) got underway early with a meeting of the board of the Astronomy Outreach Foundation (AOF), a group of telescope manufacturers that is assembling programs to promote the hobby. Working with partners including Astronomy magazine, the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, the International Dark Sky Association, and other groups, the AOF is going to have a big year with new surprises, some of which you will see in the next few weeks. The program ...
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On the road: The Northeast Astronomy Forum, April 16, 2011

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
The first day of the 2011 Northeast Astronomy Forum (NEAF) got off to a big start on the morning of Saturday, April 16, 2011, at the Eugene Levy Fieldhouse at Rockland Community College in Suffern, New York. More than 140 vendors were on hand, including all the large telescope manufacturers and many retail dealers, as well as numerous accessory producers and media such as Astronomy magazine. Inclement cold, rainy weather eliminated one of the daytime activities, solar observing, but many hundre...
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A recent history of telescopes

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
On the eve of the Northeast Astronomy Forum (NEAF) in Suffern, New York, the nation’s largest astronomy expo, I’d like to reflect on telescopes. The history of amateur astronomy is filled with many memorable moments in scope technology. Those of us fortunate to attend NEAF this year will see a spectacular array of new equipment from numerous manufacturers. But what about some of the historical highlights of the amateur astronomy telescope market? This compilation of key dates, from ...
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On the road: The Northeast Astronomy Forum

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
Tomorrow, I will fly east to Newark and then drive up to Suffern, New York, to attend the 20th anniversary of the Northeast Astronomy Forum (NEAF), America’s premier astronomy expo, which takes place at Rockland Community College April 16 and 17. (See http://www.rocklandastronomy.com/NEAF/index.html.) The event is driven by the energy and tireless work of many people, but none so much as Alan Traino, the Rockland Astronomy Club’s workhorse. I will report on the event this weeke...
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Starman: The truth behind the legend of Yuri Gagarin

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
Lots of buzz shot across the Web yesterday to mark the 50th anniversary of Yuri Gagarin’s celebrated 108-minute spaceflight. That event ushered in a new era, and it’s amazing that we now have a half-century of space exploration under our belts, as well as 108 years of human flight. You probably read a few posts yesterday online summarizing the excitement over Gagarin’s orbital flight April 12, 1961, that made him a hero of the Soviet Union. A mere 7 years later, Gagarin was tra...
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Adventures in pseudoscience — magnetic "therapy"

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
Have you ever been watching a movie late at night when you’re interrupted by one of these inane commercials for magnetic bracelets? You know, the ones that show people wearing a magnetized piece of metal on their wrist or as a pendant and somehow their lives are fully in order and all their health problems are magically fixed? Who are the people buying these cheap marketing gimmicks? Have they lost their minds? Did they have functioning minds to begin with? Do these people even know ...
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What do the days of the week mean?

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
Astronomy’s roots in human culture run deep, and rarely more so than with nomenclature for our days of the week. Origins of the days of the week date to Sumerians around 5,000 B.C. The Romans revised them in A. D. 321. The Romans named weekdays after the “wandering stars” that moved through the sky and were thus “alive,” becoming candidates for worship as gods. At the time, seven such gods were known, which by coincidence matched the Biblical seven days ...
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Formaldehyde and arsenic — two fun substances

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
Welcome to "Dave’s universe," the new blog by Dave Eicher, editor of Astronomy magazine, and astronomy and science popularizer. I’ll be bringing you new thoughts about astronomy, cosmology, nature, the hobby of astronomy, the sometimes disturbingly pseudoscientific culture we live in, and other miscellany. I hope you’ll enjoy it! Early this week, we heard about an important discovery by three astronomers at the Carnegie Institution of Washington. George Cody, Co...
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Let’s get our words straight, people!

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
Welcome to “Dave’s universe,” the new blog by Dave Eicher, editor of Astronomy magazine, and astronomy and science popularizer. I’ll be bringing you new thoughts about astronomy, cosmology, nature, the hobby of astronomy, the sometimes disturbingly pseudoscientific culture we live in, and other miscellany. I hope you’ll enjoy it! Ya know what really ticks me off? When people talk about some developing idea in science that may or may not be right, and they ca...
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How old is the universe?

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
Welcome to “Dave’s universe,” the new blog by Dave Eicher, editor of Astronomy magazine, and astronomy and science popularizer. I’ll be bringing you new thoughts about astronomy, cosmology, nature, the hobby of astronomy, the sometimes disturbingly pseudoscientific culture we live in, and other miscellany. I hope you’ll enjoy it! Over the past century, astronomers have deduced several ways to estimate the age of the universe. By using each of these me...
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The Kepler space telescope is about to reset your brain

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
Welcome to “Dave’s universe,” the new blog by Dave Eicher, editor of Astronomy magazine, and astronomy and science popularizer. I’ll be bringing you new thoughts about astronomy, cosmology, nature, the hobby of astronomy, the sometimes disturbingly pseudoscientific culture we live in, and other miscellany. I hope you’ll enjoy it! While in Tunisia last week, I was able to hang out with a very cool couple. Marcie Smith is the mission director of NASA’s Kepler ...
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The Ten Commandments of the Universe

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
Welcome to “Dave’s universe,” the new blog by Dave Eicher, editor of Astronomy magazine, and astronomy and science popularizer. I’ll be bringing you new thoughts about astronomy, cosmology, nature, the hobby of astronomy, the sometimes disturbingly pseudoscientific culture we live in, and other miscellany. I hope you’ll enjoy it! We’re all familiar with the Ten Commandments of biblical verse, a set of religious imperatives given by God to the people of Israel...

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