Free Astronomy Magazine – January-February 2021 Issue Available For Reading And Download

Above: The OSIRIS-REx TAGSAM on touch-down at the Nightingale sampling site on Bennu. [NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona]

The most recent issue of Free Astronomy Magazine (January-February 2021) is available for your reading and downloading pleasure at

This issue marks a bit of a change in format under the direction of our fearless leader Michele Ferrara. PDF or not, there are only so many hours and pages one can commit to all that goes into writing, editing, and formatting. This is contrast to the seemingly unlimited (+/-) number of studies getting published and discussed that an editor would really like others to see. Add in the desire to include some additional context to bridge the gap between what a reader is reading and what else you (as the writer) think is worth stressing about the broader scope of the study, and you see how daunting a task it is for a few (5?) people (total) to try to sample everything bimonthly to everyone's satisfaction.

"I’m sorry I wrote you such a long letter. I didn’t have time to write you a short one." – Blaise Pascal (d. 1662. And, for those now asking in their noggin, “History never repeats itself, but it rhymes.” – Mark Twain, b. 1835)

After several years of feature articles surpassing the +10 page mark, the recent change now features more shorter articles covering a bit more variety but, with a 6-ish page limit, a less broad analysis and discussion for each.

This month's contribution from here (with my NASA Solar System Ambassador helmet on) is about the successful sample collection and return prep by OSIRIS-REx at Bennu. Astronomical mythology nut, I opted to wrap in a bit of the olde stories for both Osiris and Bennu before digging into the much older aspects of accretion theory and the upcoming issues of planetary defense.

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Jump to the PDF download (14.7 MB): January-February 2021

Free Astronomy Magazine – November-December 2020 Issue Available For Reading And Download

Above: At left, a false-color enhancement of an original photograph of the opaque Venus cloud cover taken by Mariner 10 during its gravity-assist maneuver en route to Mercury in February, 1974. At right, the surface of Venus as captured by the Magellan spacecraft. [Magellan Project/NASA/JPL]

The most recent issue of Free Astronomy Magazine (November-December 2020) is available for your reading and downloading pleasure at

Our fearless leader Michele Ferrara was again gracious enough to offer me the cover article, this issue featuring a broader discussion of the phosphine detection in the Venusian atmosphere and the "extreme conditions call for extreme adaptation" analysis of what, if actually there, might go into understanding Venusian lifeforms.

Michele had a similar problem to mine in the writing of this article when he was putting the final touches on the Betelgeuse article in the September-October 2020 issue. Within two weeks of going to print, yet another article was published in the peer review that challenged the previously-published analysis of the events leading up to the changing brightness of Betelgeuse over last winter. For the phosphine article, the story is still quite evolving – within days of going to print, the article "Re-analysis of the 267-GHz ALMA observations of Venus: No statistically significant detection of phosphine" was published on claiming that the original published study was a result more of data-fitting than detection. There will be a follow-up article on the phosphine debate to come, but we, as the article says, "sit back and watch how the professionals do it" for a time.

The original content for this issue continues with two articles extending the recent discussions of SETI-related projects in the magazine. I mentioned to Michele that he's been writing so many of these articles as of late that I wonder if he knows something I don't…

This issue also, so far as the current plan is, brings me back to something I greatly enjoy but have not had the time to commit to as of late (global pandemic or no, there is no slowdown with a near-indefatigable 18-month-old in the house) – outreach through astronomy writing specifically, and astronomy writing in general. The adjustment to accomplish this was made through, after eight years, my stepping away from CNY Observers website and membership duties this past September (you will notice the finality of the most recent site post). The CNYO site is sub-hosted and paid up for some time to come, so its record of activities will remain.

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Jump to the PDF download (14.2 MB): November-December 2020