Requiem for the Space Program

“Requiem”, though we tend to think of the word in reference to a Catholic Mass said (or sung) for the dead, literally means “rest”.  And that’s the way I think of the United States space program, at rest. On Tuesday the Space Shuttle Discovery cruised into Washington, DC, buzzed the monuments a few times, and…

Dark Sky

Lexicographer Grant Barrett published a list of words that entered into common usage in 2011 that he thinks will be with us for a while. One of them was this: DARK SKY Designates a place free of nighttime light pollution. For example, the island of Sark in the English Channel is a dark-sky island. This is…

Why nerd is punk

I was thinking recently that perhaps my readers might be wondering about that “nerd is punk” tagline. I thought I’d explain myself, which sounded great until I went to the wordpress dashboard, opened up a new post, and was actually confronted with the ambiguity I have unleashed on the world, all because punk sounded like…

Pluto’s Song

Clare and the Reasons has a beautiful, witty and tender song about Pluto and it’s demotion to Dwarf Planet. It’s a great bit of songwriting. I’m not really particularly upset about the International Astronomical Union’s 2006 decision, though I see that many people still are. Our view of the universe, and of our solar system, is…

The Race (back) to the Moon

Sky and Telescope is one of the major monthly publications for amateur astronomers; it has a long history, some very talented writers, photographers and artists, and a long list of big corporate advertisers. They’re a serious bunch of people who do a lot for the amateur hobby, the professional science, and a general public that…