Free Astronomy Magazine – July-August 2021 Issue Available For Reading And Download

Above: Natural color images of the planet Venus as taken by the JAXA Akatsuki probe. Imaging in the ultraviolet, visible, and infrared, Akatsuki is providing a wealth of atmospheric information as it orbits Venus every 10 days. JAXA/ISAS/DARTS/Damia Bouic

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

The cover article highlights the recent selections of the DAVINCI+ and VERITAS missions in the interest of greatly expanding our understanding of our sister planet Venus. Germane to several articles in previous issues, this improved understanding will address (1) what happened to Venus to make it the hellish (relatively speaking, of course) landscape that it is and (2) if Venus might be the fate of all rocky planets on the too-hot-side of stellar Goldilocks Zones after enough time has passed. If the answer to (2) is “yes,” that might mean that any future explorations of such planets in other solar systems will be (exo)paleontological/archaeological in nature. It might also mean that any existing life forms are going to be real tough hombres.

Our editor Michele continues his discussion and documentation of recent efforts to identify and classify (often) technological extraterrestrial intelligences – provided they reveal themselves, of course. In this issue, the ichnoscale (footprint scale) is presented, “which defines the relative value of a hypothetical alien technosignature with respect to its terrestrial expression.” What one might take from the several recent issues where Michele discusses these topics is that there is an active component of the SETI-and-similar community that is hedging the discovery bets on the assumption that aliens will be more-or-less at our point of technological development – and will have produced similar signals of their presence because they will have evolved in a similar way (nothing -> combustion -> renewables). Ask again when Webb is up and running.

Browser-readable version:

Jump to the PDF download (13.1 MB): July-August 2021

Free Astronomy Magazine – March-April 2021 Issue Available For Reading And Download

Above: Taken from the descent stage, a snapshot of Perseverance rover from about two meters above the Martian surface. This image was sent down the coiled umbilical into Percy for later transmission before the descent stage disconnected from the rover and flew off to a safe distance. [NASA/JPL-Caltech]

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

The entire issue celebrates the successful (fortunately) landing of Perseverance by summarizing the history of all five NASA rovers (Sojourner, Spirit and Opportunity, Curiosity, "Percy") – with as much Martian eye candy as will fit into 60-ish pages.

For those who'd never heard of Jezero Crater before discussion of the descent on the live feed, I refer you to the Jan/Feb 2020 issue for a full background.

For the record – Percy’s landing on the 18th did not leave a whole lot of time to prep a full article that then needed to be translated into three other languages by the 28th. Additionally, it would have been awful (on many levels) to put together a full article on all of the exciting science and imaging to be done by Percy and Ingenuity – only to then have to scrap the whole article if the rover itself ended up as scrap on the surface (or several feet below depending on the speed of impact).

That said, the landing of Curiosity was exceptional and nine years is a long time to perfect a technique. As such, the final article only required a few changes of verb tense and the “Nixon-Apollo 11” alternate version was not necessary to have out early for its separate translation. In the words of Thomas Zurbuchen as he tore the thin stack of papers up during the first press briefing, “Here’s for the contingency plan!”

I will say, however, that the last-minute-ness of the prep may have resulted in a few glitches working their way into the final edition. People finding them means people are reading, so all the better. As expressed to our fearless leader Michele and in the words of Paul Valéry, “Aux yeux de ces amateurs d’inquiétude et de perfection, un ouvrage n’est jamais achevé, – mot qui pour eux n’a aucun sens, – mais abandonné."

Browser-readable version:

Jump to the PDF download (18.7 MB): March-April 2021