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 / Science


January 2020

Since the first issue was published in 1941, Sky & Telescope has become the go-to resource for all things star and space. This magazine is considered the complete resource for the astronomy enthusiast. Offering everything from product reviews, buyer's recommendations, and current events news to tips, how-to articles, and computer software, fascinated readers will find a wealth of information and suggestions on how to hone their hobby. Devoted amateurs, professionals, and academics would all find a subscription to Sky & Telescope magazine of interest.

United States
F+W Media, Inc. - Magazines
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2 min.
look down

WHERE WOULD ASTRONOMY BE WITHOUT LIGHT? Save for a few rocks that have crashed to Earth or that we’ve managed to bring back from the closest bodies to us, most of what we’ve learned about the cosmos has come courtesy of electromagnetic radiation arriving from afar. Visible light, X-rays and gamma rays, ultraviolet and infrared radiation, microwaves and radio waves — all these forms of light have collectively enabled us to penetrate some of our universe’s deepest secrets. See, for example, “Spitzer’s Legacy” on page 18. Yet, ironically, astrobiologists are itching to go where there’s no light at all. The reason is to potentially answer one of the biggest cosmological questions of all: Does life exist elsewhere? Many scientists would agree that one of the most likely places to find signs of extraterrestrial…

1 min.
sky & telescope

The Essential Guide to Astronomy Founded in 1941 by Charles A. Federer, Jr. and Helen Spence Federer EDITORIAL Editor in Chief Peter Tyson Senior Editors J. Kelly Beatty, Alan M. MacRobert Science Editor Camille M. Carlisle News Editor Monica Young Associate Editor Sean Walker Observing Editor Diana Hannikainen Senior Contributing Editors Dennis di Cicco, Robert Naeye, Roger W. Sinnott Contributing Editors Howard Banich, Jim Bell, Trudy Bell, John E. Bortle, Greg Bryant, Thomas A. Dobbins, Alan Dyer, Tom Field, Tony Flanders, Ted Forte, Sue French, Steve Gottlieb, David Grinspoon, Shannon Hall, Ken Hewitt-White, Johnny Horne, Bob King, Emily Lakdawalla, Rod Mollise, James Mullaney, Donald W. Olson, Jerry Oltion, Joe Rao, Dean Regas, Fred Schaaf, Govert Schilling, William Sheehan, Mike Simmons, Mathew Wedel, Alan Whitman, Charles A. Wood Contributing Photographers P. K. Chen, Akira Fujii, Robert Gendler, Babak Tafreshi ART, DESIGN & DIGITAL Art…

5 min.
fun with names

Ted Forte’s “Favorite September Sights” (S&T: Sept. 2019, p. 30) features a planetary nebula in need of a name. From what I see in it, NGC 6781 in Aquila could be called the “Hot Blue Alien.” I see a face clearly: two eyes looking to the right, a thin nose in between, two eyebrows, and just a hint of a smile along the color boundary at lower right. Once I noticed those details, I cannot ignore them. Do others agree? Gregg Paris • San Clemente, California When someone discovers a comet, it’s named after that person. Unfortunately, this is not the case for most deep-sky objects. So I would like to suggest that we give credit to those who first noted significant galaxies, clusters, and nebulae. In each of the following examples,…

2 min.
75, 50 & 25 years ago

◖ January 1945 Spurious Perspective “In the Adler Planetarium there is a magnificent large model of the moon; when it is viewed from a distance of 20 to 30 feet, something about it appears very different from a telescopic view, and it must be [an] effect of spurious perspective involuntarily experienced in telescopic views. “All of this emphasizes the foolishness of [asking], ‘How far away does this telescope make the moon appear to be?’ The answer to this question should be a polite but firm insistence that the telescope does not make the moon appear nearer; the perspective is all wrong. The only thing the telescope does is to magnify the naked-eye image of the moon. Talk about magnifying powers of 10,000 diameters to be used on the 200-inch telescope, ‘thus bringing the…

2 min.
second interstellar visitor discovered

ON AUGUST 30, 2019, an amateur astronomer discovered another interstellar object — the second after ‘Oumuamua (S&T: Feb. 2018, p. 10). This one’s a comet that will pass nearest the Sun and Earth in December. Gennady Borisov captured Comet 2I/Borisov using a 0.65-meter telescope at the MARGO observatory near Nauchnij in Crimea, when it was about 3 astronomical units (a.u.) from the Sun. Unlike ‘Oumuamua, which was spotted after its perihelion, the new comet was still inbound. It comes closest to the Sun on December 8th, passing within 2 a.u. Its closest approach to Earth follows on December 28th. What sets Borisov (and ‘Oumuamua) apart from solar system comets is the eccentricity of its orbit. Planets, asteroids, and comets have elliptical orbits, with eccentricities between 0 and 1. But Borisov’s eccentricity is…

2 min.
nobel prize honors exoplanet, cosmology discoveries

THE ROYAL SWEDISH ACADEMY OF SCIENCES has awarded the 2019 Nobel Prize in Physics to James Peebles (Princeton) and to Michel Mayor and Didier Queloz (both at the University of Geneva, Switzerland). The prize, which will be split in half, honors discoveries that offer new perspectives on our place in the universe. Peebles is being honored for his theoretical contributions to our understanding of the Big Bang, as well as the role that dark matter and dark energy play in shaping our universe. When Robert Wilson and Arno Penzias at the Bell Telephone Laboratories in New Jersey found a persistent buzz in their radio experiments — a discovery that won them the 1978 Nobel Prize in Physics — Peebles and his colleagues had already predicted the existence of background radiation. This radiation,…