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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Buy a luxury ranch in New Mexico — and make a donation to the Astronomy Foundation

Posted 10 years ago by David Eicher
Interested in a luxurious property under dark skies in southwestern New Mexico? Steve Cullen, formerly the president of LightBuckets, is selling his house, ranch, and observatory complex near Rodeo, New Mexico. It consists of 183 acres, a 5,500-square-foot house, a 2,640-square-foot workshop and garage, a professional-grade observatory, and a 2,244-square-foot barn. All this under the amazingly dark skies of this area, which are as good as any I’ve seen. And the asking price? A cool $1,095...
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Last night’s Venus-Pleiades conjunction caught!

Posted 10 years ago by David Eicher
I’m sure many of you are enjoying the beautiful conjunction between Venus and the Pleiades star cluster (M45) in Taurus happening these days. Friends and superb astroimagers Imelda Joson and Edwin Aguirre captured the view from their driveway in the Boston suburbs last night. The couple used a Canon EOS 7D DSLR camera, a 100-400mm lens, and a 1-second exposure.What a beautiful view!  ...
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I love my new microscope!

Posted 10 years ago by David Eicher
A short time ago, I acquired a beautiful new microscope, and I’ve been having lots of fun with it. I plan on sharing quite a few things I’ll do with it over the coming months. I’ve had a variety of microscopes over the years, several of them handed down to me from my Dad, who is a retired chemist. The primary microscope I’ve used for large things (rocks, leaves, bugs, etc.) is a zoom stereo microscope that employs low powers to look at relatively large things. Recently, h...
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Anthony Ayiomamitis images stars leaving the galaxy

Posted 10 years ago by David Eicher
A group of researchers led by Warren Brown of the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in Cambridge, Massachusetts, has discovered a number of stars with high velocities that are being cast out of the Milky Way. Brown and his group discovered the first such star in 2005, and 20 more have followed. “These stars form a new class of astronomical objects,” said Brown, “exiled stars leaving the galaxy.” These suns are obviously quite rare; astronomers believe the Milky W...
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Victory in Arizona!

Posted 10 years ago by David Eicher
Thanks to everyone who read last week about the depressing news over light pollution in Arizona and turned activist. Powerful lobbyists had pushed for legislation that would have allowed exceptionally bright LED billboards to spring up around the state that is so well-known as a haven for observatories. The Arizona legislature passed the bill, forging a major defeat for astronomy in the state. However, your voice was heard loud and clear. Yesterday, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer vetoed the bill, ...
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Call for San Diego astro outreach volunteers!

Posted 10 years ago by David Eicher
Oceanside Photo & Telescope (OPT) is calling for volunteers in the San Diego, California, area to help with astronomy outreach at this year’s San Diego County Fair. The fair’s 2012 theme will be “Out of this World” and will feature many space- and astronomy-related events. Craig Weatherwax, Penny Distasio, and the folks at OPT are looking for volunteers to bring telescopes and to hang out to talk astronomy with the masses of people who attend the fair. The fair g...
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How "Astronomy" magazine started — and its history on DVD

Posted 10 years ago by David Eicher
What a fitting way to celebrate my 200th blog! Here is the story of how University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point journalism student Steve Walther started Astronomy magazine 39 years ago. I’ll be sharing the history of the magazine from time to time, a little at a time, in this blog. It’s a fascinating story that has witnessed astronomy grow in leaps and bounds as our understanding of the cosmos has deepened. And you can capture the whole history of the magazine on DVD for your computer...
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A personal and unique view on the cosmos

Posted 10 years ago by David Eicher
This fine little film about the cosmos and the author’s perspective on it is really charming. I saw it online yesterday when its creator, Robert M. Powell, posted it during a science discussion. Bob is an amateur astronomer in Mequon, Wisconsin, and relishes his time under the stars. Titled “My sacred space,” it describes in brief the joy that Powell feels when under the sky at night with his telescope. He submitted it to WGBH in Boston as a short video entry in late 2010...
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Brandon Doyle sketches the Hercules Cluster

Posted 10 years ago by David Eicher
I’ve featured several eyepiece renderings of deep-sky objects from the enthusiastic teenage observer Brandon Doyle in the past. You can see his story about drawing galaxies, clusters, and nebulae at the telescope on his website. Brandon also wrote the story on deep-sky sketching you may have read in the January 2012 issue of Astronomy. Today, I’m sharing a wonderful drawing of a favorite springtime object of many of us, the Hercules Cluster (M13). To make the sketch, Brandon used a 1...
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Don Parker images amazing clouds on Mars

Posted 10 years ago by David Eicher
Legendary planetary photographer Don Parker has done it again. As you’re probably aware, Mars reached opposition March 3, appearing bright and relatively large in the sky. Tonight, the Red Planet will shine at magnitude –1.9 and its disk will span 13.1” as seen through telescopes. Even without a scope, it’s impressive as it hangs in the constellation Leo in the evening sky, and its bright orange color is readily apparent. Don’s latest images of the planet (taken S...
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Astronomy Foundation names John Schroer Planetarium Committee chair

Posted 10 years ago by David Eicher
As president of the Astronomy Foundation, the telescope industry association and outreach group, I’m proud to announce the appointment of John Schroer as Planetarium Committee chair. John is a highly energetic planetarium wizard, amateur astronomer, and outreach promoter. He is the planetarium education coordinator at the Detroit Science Center, is a graduate of Miami University in Oxford, Ohio (my old school!), and an alum of the Schenectady Museum in New York; the Boonshoft Museum of Dis...
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Northeast Astronomy Forum schedule announced

Posted 10 years ago by David Eicher
I’ve previously mentioned the Northeast Astronomy Forum, the largest telescope show in the United States that will take place in Suffern, New York, April 28–29. Alan Traino, NEAF’s driving force, has announced the speaker schedule for the meeting, which is sponsored by Astronomy magazine and takes place at Rockland Community College. NEAF will feature more than 140 on-site vendors showing everything there is to see in the world of telescopes, binoculars, CCD cameras, and access...
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Chumack images the M95 supernova!

Posted 10 years ago by David Eicher
A few days ago, I blogged about the newly discovered bright supernova in the Leo galaxy M95. This morning, Ohio astroimager John Chumack sent these great images of the galaxy and supernova (designated 2012aw), and they’ll show you exactly where to look if you’d like to go out and observe this exploding star. John’s low-resolution versions include tic marks showing the supernova’s position. Higher-resolution versions are left clean, and there are black and white and negati...
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A depressing turn in Arizona

Posted 10 years ago by David Eicher
Two weeks ago, I mentioned an ongoing light pollution battle raging in Arizona over e-billboards. As most of you know, these brightly glowing monstrosities are disastrous for viewers of the night sky, as they flood the surrounding area with photons blasting upward. I’m afraid there’s bad news. Yesterday, the Arizona legislature passed the bill they were considering 20–8–2, which now allows advertisers in the state to use them. And the legislature also shot down a propose...
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Australia: The Great Dreamtime Solar Eclipse

Posted 10 years ago by David Eicher
Join Astronomy magazine Senior Editor Rich Talcott, MWT Associates, and I on a trip Down Under to watch the November 14, 2012, total solar eclipse. Experience Australia's wild west Northern Territory, where they revel in a tough, maverick image. Darwin is the best place to experience multicultural Australia, where a quarter of the population is Aboriginal. Included is a visit to the Red Center, one of the world's most iconic symbols, Ayers Rock (Uluru). No visit is complete to Australia ...
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Patrick Moore’s "The Sky at Night" turns 55 years old — and a Moore Marathon!

Posted 10 years ago by David Eicher
Congratulations to a longtime friend of Astronomy magazine, Sir Patrick Moore, now 89, and to the BBC, on this 55th anniversary year of Patrick’s legendary British TV program, The Sky at Night. This show has been part of the fabric of astronomy interest in England for decades, and we’ve often observed how Patrick is to British astronomy on TV what Carl Sagan was for viewers in the United States. The show has influenced countless astronomy enthusiasts to look up at the heavens and eve...
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Hot news! Bright supernova discovered in M95

Posted 10 years ago by David Eicher
The well-known galaxy M95 (NGC 3351) in Leo, currently visible in the evening sky, now hosts a bright supernova. Italian astronomer Paolo Fagotti discovered the exploding star on images he took Saturday, March 17, with a 0.5-m reflector at Porziano d’Assisi, Italy. The star lies at 10h43m54s, 11°40'18" (equinox 2000), and was reported as faint at discovery, near 19th magnitude, but rose quickly to magnitude 13.3 by today, as reported by Gianluca Masi, who created a...
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"Astronomy," Astronomy Foundation partner with Philadelphia Science Festival

Posted 10 years ago by David Eicher
I’m thrilled to announce that Astronomy magazine and the Astronomy Foundation will be participating in and partnering with the Philadelphia Science Festival next month in Pennsylvania. Now in its second year, the festival is a 10-day, community-wide celebration of science that features lectures, debates, hands-on activities, special exhibitions, and a variety of other informal science education activities for Philadelphians of all ages. Last year, more than 120,000 people participated in t...
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John Chumack’s hot new Whirlpool Galaxy

Posted 10 years ago by David Eicher
The Whirlpool Galaxy (M51) is one of the favorite objects for northern hemisphere skywatchers. At a distance of about 24 million light-years, this galaxy tucked in Canes Venatici near the handle of the Big Dipper shines at about 8th magnitude and covers 8.2' by 5.6', making it visible in virtually any telescope from a reasonably dark sky. The Whirlpool is not only oriented face-on to our line of sight, giving it a beautiful spiral appearance, but it is also a Type 2 Seyfert galaxy, meani...
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Marsie Hall Newbold named Astronomy Foundation PR director

Posted 10 years ago by David Eicher
Many of you know the Astronomy Foundation, the telescope industry association that is promoting the hobby of astronomy through outreach events. The foundation will hold its annual meeting at this year’s Northeast Astronomy Forum (NEAF) in New York in late April, and will be hosting a number of large star party events this year. I’m delighted to announce a new addition to the team, Marsie Hall Newbold, as director of publicity for the group. Marsie is a public relations professional ...
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An incredible space station flash first!

Posted 10 years ago by David Eicher
For years, Robert Reeves of San Antonio, Texas, has been an Astronomy contributor, friend, and amazing astroimager. Now Reeves, along with some friends in the San Antonio Astronomical Association and the Austin Astronomical Society, has produced a major imaging first — producing a flash of bright light from a particular spot on Earth that was imaged from the International Space Station (ISS). With their friend, astronaut Don Pettit aboard the station, Reeves and company flashed the sp...
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Cool aurora photos taken from plane

Posted 10 years ago by David Eicher
Astroimagers Imelda Joson and Edwin Aguirre are longtime friends and contributors to Astronomy. Last week, during that phenomenal outbreak of aurorae generated in the wake of the big solar flare, they caught some magnificent images during their flight from Boston, Massachusetts, to Los Angeles, California. “It was Thursday, March 8,” said Imelda, “and we were cruising at an altitude of 34,000 feet (10,360 meters) somewhere over Minnesota.” Imelda and Edwin knew thei...
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Sheldon Reynolds on amateur astronomy

Posted 10 years ago by David Eicher
Sheldon Reynolds has done it again! The guitarist and amateur astronomer, as well as a contributing editor of Astronomy, has produced a great new video you should definitely watch. Sheldon tackles five big questions about astronomy, why he loves it, and what it means to him. He explores the future of amateur astronomy and suggests why young people should be more excited about stargazing than ever. Check it out!     ...
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How to image an astronaut from the ground

Posted 10 years ago by David Eicher
OK — this is pretty neat stuff. For years Dutch amateur astronomer and writer Ralf Vandebergh has specialized in imaging spacecraft like the International Space Station from the ground with backyard telescopes. This requires careful tracking of exactly the right type and thorough image processing, but the result is that Ralf has imaged not only spacecraft, but also astronauts from the ground — with just a 10-inch backyard telescope! Check out the accompanying photo, which shows ...
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Guest blog: Benjamin Palmer on NuSTAR

Posted 10 years ago by David Eicher
A new orbiting observatory is set to launch next week — NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuStar). This pioneering mission will image the sky for the first time in orbit in high-energy X-rays, promising all kinds of cool findings regarding black holes, supernovae, the Milky Way, cosmic accelerators, and other good stuff. Here’s a guest blog by Benjamin Palmer of Queensbury, New York, last year’s Astronomy magazine Youth Essay Contest winner and now youth commi...
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An important book: Marc Kuchner’s "Marketing for Scientists"

Posted 10 years ago by David Eicher
Well, I wish I had better news. The business of science is in as uncomfortable a position as it’s ever been these days. In an age when education should be at its greatest level ever, when more people than ever should realize that science is the way to understand and make the most of the world around us, scientists are struggling for funding, for livelihoods, for success. Somehow, more people need to awaken their minds to the fact that there are bigger things to do than debate endlessly who...
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BIG ANNOUNCEMENT: Star party guidance from the Astronomy Foundation

Posted 10 years ago by David Eicher
Most of you know that the Astronomy Foundation (AF), the telescope industry trade organization created several years ago, promotes amateur astronomy outreach in a variety of ways. Now it offers two important documents for astronomy clubs and groups to help them put on star parties, whether they be sidewalk star parties right in the hearts of large cities or dedicated dark-sky star parties in rural areas. One of the foundation’s officers and driving forces, Karen Jennings of Townsend, Dela...
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Critical light pollution battle raging in Arizona

Posted 10 years ago by David Eicher
I urge all of you, Arizona residents or not, to pay heed to a warning I’ve received about a terrible light pollution battle happening now in Arizona. The magazine’s longtime good friend and contributor Geoff Chester wrote a couple days ago about this, which I hope you will read about and act on. The background is that in November 2011, the Arizona Court of Appeals ruled that electronic billboards were a violation of a state law’s ban on intermittent light pollution. But the Ari...
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Pluto needs you

Posted 10 years ago by David Eicher
You may have heard over the past month of an effort to recognize the New Horizons mission now en route to Pluto and due to arrive in 2015. Now, many of you know the folks here at Astronomy are Pluto backers. I was a friend of Clyde Tombaugh and considered it a great honor to have known and observed with him quite a few times before his death in 1997. Most of us here feel the “demotion” of Pluto to dwarf planet status was a silly exercise by the International Astronomical Union. And w...
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Now you can search for extraterrestrial life on your laptop!

Posted 10 years ago by David Eicher
Yesterday, a new website associated with the SETI Institute in Mountain View, California, rolled out, and the folks there are urging astronomy enthusiasts to check it out. SETI Live (www.setilive.org) allows the public access to data collected by the Allen Telescope Array in Hat Creek, California, for the first time. The site opens the door for anyone to sign up as a user and scan data for potential signals, assisting the search for intelligent life on other planets in the cosmos. The site grew...
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