Meeting With ‘Oumuamua

Observations from ESO’s Very Large Telescope in Chile and other observatories around the world show that this unique object was traveling through space for millions of years before its chance encounter with our star system. It appears to be a dark, reddish, highly-elongated rocky or high-metal-content object. – European Southern Observatory, Nov. 20, 2017  Science […]

Loving Explosions

Years ago, talking about the persistent rumor that the Hubble Space Telescope was an off-the-shelf spy satellite retrofitted for astronomy*, I told a NASA employee that I was pretty sure academic astronomers were culturally anti-military and they wouldn’t be crossing lines and dealing with spies or the defense department.  The NASA employee looked at me […]

Redux: Johnny and Oppie

So.  Everybody got excited about gravitational waves coming from the mergers of neutron stars and black holes.  My Facebook feed which is full of scientists and science writers got further excited about a newish phrase everybody used, “multimessenger astronomy.”  My Facebook feed agreed that “multimessenger astronomy” is an all-around dreadful phrase.  Not only does it sound corporate and […]

Guest Post: Warm Feelings About the Void (A Rebuttal)

Last week Cassandra Willyard wrote that space bores her, and argued that astronomy writers need to highlight the human drama to hook her and other spacephobes. This is my response. This essay being one exception that probes the rule, I am a writer who does not get assignments from editors. At best, they ask me […]

Redux: On Getting From “Wow!” to “[yawn]”: Yes!!!

Yesterday the Royal Swedish Academy announced that the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics would recognize the discovery of gravitational waves; the recipients would be Barry Barish, Kip Thorne, and Rainer Weiss, three of the visionaries who shepherded the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) through four decades of technological and bureaucratic innovations. (Another founder of the […]

Guest Post: The Weight of the Eclipse

2017 was the year of the Great American Eclipse, and I live in its path. I also write about the Earth, moon, and sun for a living. So I was determined to not only cover the eclipse, but own it. Like many creative people, I am happiest when I am doing work for myself, and […]

Totality Awesome

The eclipse, as narrated by our children and their friends. Two hours before totality Adele, age 7: “What do you know about the eclipse?” Lulu, age 8: “What happens is that the moon comes in front of the sun and eats it and blocks the sunlight.” Adele: “Goes in front of it, kinda.” Lulu: “And […]

On the Path of Totality

I’m writing this from a traffic jam on I-95. When we were choosing days on the schedule for Eclipse Week, nobody wanted the responsibility of writing a post the day of the eclipse. Because I have an overactive sense of duty, I signed up for this post, then joked that I’d be writing it on […]