Night Sky magazine closes its dome

By Phil Plait | February 18, 2007 8:04 am

Sigh.

I’ve known this for a long time, but somehow I never posted about it. Night Sky magazine, the daughter publication of Sky and Telescope, is closing its doors.

I wrote for Night Skyin every issue since the first one in May/June 2004. My column was called "Straight Talk", and I wrote about astronomy misconceptions as well as basic facts and things I thought were cool. Kelly Beatty was my editor. He invited me to write for the magazine back in October of 2003, and I accepted eagerly and gratefully (my exact response was "Wow, that sounds great!"). I love Sky and Tel, and I was excited to write for a mag geared specifically to beginners at amateur astronomy.

Unfortunately, the business model set up for the magazine didn’t work out, and even though it was high quality — I actually read every issue, cover to cover — it couldn’t make it. So it’s gone.

I’ll still write the occasional feature for Sky and Tel of course. That’s too much fun not to do! I’m angling to write for other magazines, and I have some other writing projects in the works as well.

So I’m sad to see it go, but I know there will be other outlets for astronomical creativity too. And there will always be astronomers, amateurs and pro, who want to get started and learn more about what truly is the most beautiful science.

Tip ‘o the dew shield to Dave P’s Astronomy for the reminder.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, Piece of mind

Comments (30)

Links to this Post

  1. A Ler…-- Rastos de Luz | February 19, 2007
  1. Will. M.

    BA:
    Of all the many publications which are available and which I would find fascinating to read, my principal constraint is time: time to read thorougly, rather than simply skim the contents; time for novels and non-fiction; time for television; time for working on stuff I’ve ignored for the many years when I worked an eight hour day; time for pleasurable pursuits in my area of artwork. I can’t imagine what it must be like for someone who has to put in time at work AND raise a family with all the responsibilities that entails. I marvel at folks who are able to do all that and still manage to write articles and the occaisional book; I remember Isaac Asimov’s prodigious output of science writing – his books on science and on other topics – Shakespere and religion among them – were supplemented with a monthly science column for Fantasy & Science Fiction Magazine for which he wrote for over thirty years. So, keep up the writing, BA. Know that we appreciate all the effort you expend.
    Will. M

  2. Melusine

    (Having posting troubles here…)

    That was very nice, Will M, and I concur with everything you said.

    Phil, I’m sad to see it go, too. When I got my first issue of Sky & Telescope, they included a free issue of Night Sky May/June 2005. I saw your article, I liked their glossary in the back and hey, more astro photos from around the world, and it was only $17. In fact, I signed up so quickly, that I got two of that issue, and so I left one in its plastic. (See, it might become a collector’s item.)

    The ironic thing is, I’ve been thinking of cancelling my S&T since it’s $43 and I just have too many magazines and much of that I can get online. I wouldn’t have cancelled Night Sky. Your last article was “A Trip To The Galaxy Zoo.” Maybe now these can all be gathered online for our persusal?

    But thanks again, especially for this, as I posted on BAUT:
    *
    That was very nice, Will M, and I concur with everything you said.

    Phil, I’m sad to see it go, too. When I got my first issue of Sky & Telescope, they included a free issue of Night Sky May/June 2005. I saw your article, I liked their glossary in the back and hey, more astro photos from around the world, and it was only $17. In fact, I signed up so quickly, that I got two of that issue, and so I left one in its plastic. (See, it might become a collector’s item.)

    The ironic thing is, I’ve been thinking of cancelling my S&T since it’s $43 and I just have too many magazines and much of that I can get online. I wouldn’t have cancelled Night Sky. Your last article was “A Trip To The Galaxy Zoo.” Maybe now these can all be gathered online for our persusal?

    But thanks again, especially for this, as I posted on BAUT:

  3. Melusine

    Ok, it doesn’t like BAUT links. The link is (well, put it together. I don’t know how to freeze the URL properly):

    http://www.bautforum.com

    /showthread.php?t=40180

  4. Melusine

    Gee, I meant it so much I just had to say it twice! With typos like “persusal,” too! ~lol~

  5. jserrano

    Although I get several astronomy mags through our astronomy club this was the only one I was personally subscribed to, and the reason is I could understand it all and made us (me and my 9 years old daughter) eager to get out and scan the sky with our binoculars.

    For guys like me who don’t have the time and money to invest in a full fledged scope, this mag was a god send. I’m sorry to see it go… does any one know of a similar amateur minded astro magazine I could subscribe to?

  6. Drbuzz0

    I’m sorry to hear it is going, but on the bright side we can hope that “thinning the flock” will result in more resources being committed to the other publications, such as Sky and Telescope. Although this magazine had a great angle on things from an amateur perspective, hopefully some of that can be integrated into S&T, such as an amateur section. If not, at least there are still plenty of online resources.

  7. Stu

    I think it’s a desperate shame that the magazine is closing down. I give a lot of lectures and presentations about astronomy here in the UK, to both adult and young audiences, and NIGHT SKY has been THE magazine I recommended to people who came up to me afterwards and asked which magazine they should buy to “get them started” in astronomy. With great articles, superb illustrations, informal but informative text, this was a publication that was needed desperately by people wanting to enter the hobby, who might have been put off by the Big magazines’ features on such things as dark energy, astrophysics etc etc.

    NIGHT SKY will be sadly missed by many of us out here who spend a lot of our so-called free time educating people about astronomy and the beautiful universe we live in. I hope something takes its place, with the same aims and goals, because, sadly, I think that – despite their best intentions – the Big magazines just can’t satisfy the needs of absolute beginner astronomers in the same way.

    Very sad.

  8. I liked Night Sky magazine as well–I hope a lot of the good stuff in there gets folded into Sky and Telescope. I’m a “mixed bag”–beginner at some things, but accomplished at others, so I read both magazines!

  9. Nic

    That’s terribly sad. I’m a software engineer, 40 years old. I started in electronics though it surprises me – no _amazes_ me how the level of understanding of basic electronics, physics and engineering has nosedived in the last 25 years – the magazines die, the number of hobbyists diminish. Apparently people want to watch ‘reality’ TV, not learn.
    So I’m saddened to hear another educational forum has gone.

    How can we stop this?
    Damned if I know – the US has always been a core of innovation, and education especially in the realms of science and engineering – what on Earth is happening?

    Saddened.

    Nic

  10. bkallee

    Drat.
    My favorite magazine I so looked forward to getting. My only question was “when is it going monthly.” As an amateur, I guess I’ll have to look elsewhere. Thank BA for your contribution. Perhaps you can suggest a replacement for us novices.

  11. BlueCollarScientist

    I noticed the “Annoucement” (sic) in the last issue of Night Sky as well. Things do not look well at the S&T family of publications, regrettably.

    On the other hand, Astronomy magazine stands heads and shoulders above Night Sky and Sky & Tel, in my opinion, having improved a great deal in the last few years under editor David Eicher and senior editor Michael Bakich. I think the BA should be writing for them.

  12. Jeff

    I never knew about Night Sky. I’m essentially a scientific layperson (though I love studying science from an armchair perspective) but astronomy has never ranked too high on my list. As time goes by, I realize I’d love to have a reasonable working knowledge of astronomy, from learning to recognize what’s up there when I look with the naked eye to more of the essential basic knowledge of the field. Forgive me if I’ve missed it on your blog, but I’d love an overview of resources for someone like me looking to gain a basic working knowledge. Thanks

  13. cletus

    Gee, I pop in to check the comments about the demise of a truly perfectly designed publication for club outreach purposes, and topping the list of Goooooogle-sponsored ads is…

    Night Sky Magazine
    Up to 90% Off Subscriptions Here! Free Shipping and Pay No Sales Tax.
    http://www.Magazines.com

    (The link, however, acknowledged that the magazine is no longer available.)

  14. aiabx

    The problem with a beginner-level magazine is that it is designed to destroy itself. A successful beginner magazine will encourage poeple to dig further into a subject until they are ready to take the next step up, and no longer need the ntroductory-level articles. It’s too bad astronomy doesn’t have enough of a stream of newbies to keep something like Night Sky afloat after the original readers move up to Astronomy or S & T.

  15. Quiet Desperation

    I’ve been away from amateur astronomy for too log. I never even heard of the magazine. I’m not even sure where the mirror for my 13″ Dobsonian is. :(

    I really ought to build a new one. Preferably with this mirror:
    http://www.buytelescopes.com/product.asp?pid=3087

  16. Stu

    “It’s too bad astronomy doesn’t have enough of a stream of newbies to keep something like Night Sky afloat after the original readers move up to Astronomy or S & T. ”

    Well, if we all did our bit to give talks and do Outreach work with our astronomy societies, organising starwatch events etc, and by publicising in our local media celestial events such as eclipses, meteor showers etc, then our hobby would indeed have a “stream of newbies” to wash itself in, because there are thousands, probably tens of thousands of people out there who, every night, look up at the sky, whilst walking their dogs or heading home from work, or the pub, and think “I wish I knew what that star was called… and what that misty thing up there is…” If people frequenting this very board didn’t know about the magazine, then how many people with a much less developed interest in astronomy out there hadn’t heard of it either, but would have benefitted from it?

    People are born every day, growing into kids, who grow into adults, all of them potential amateur astronomers. How bigger a “stream of newbies” do you want?

  17. Kaptain K

    I could not disagree more strongly with BlueCollarScientist.
    Astronomy Magazine has put “form” over”function”. Lots of “pretty pictures” splashed hap-hazzardly all through the articles with little regard for the flow of the text. Also, the proof-reading is atrocious. Not an issue goes by without at least one glaring “clanger” that should have, would have been caught and corrected if it had been read by someone with a working knowledge of the subject. one example that sticks in my mind:. “the surface temperature of type B stars is 91,000,000 degrees”. Sky & Telescope is head and shoulders above Astronomy, at least for the intermediate to advanced amateur astronomer. I subscribe to both and every month, I hope that Astronomy arrives first to avoid the let down of reading it after S&T.

  18. I restarted my Looking up through a scope about 2 years ago. I found Night Sky about the same time. I love this publication. I use it and so do my two kids. They have used it for school projects and quenching their thirst for information on what’s out there. The Dollar drives the presses of the new owners. Too bad they don’t look up.

    Thanks Phil for making me laugh, think and challange.

  19. rpdelgado

    The bad news came for me last week, when I visisted the S&T website, looking for Night Sky points of seeling in Portugal (where I am). I was able to buy only 2 issues of NightSky but enough to find it the best magazine for my needs, since I’m not a regular starwatcher.
    I like astrnomy because of what is out there to see and available in the sky to explorer, not much because of the astrophysics related stuff ( can we take them apart ? )

    And that’s what I’ve loved about NS. Easy and simple to understand articles about astronomy.

    Sorry to know its over…. :(

  20. Astrogirl

    I was saddened when I heard about this awhile back. I did buy Night Sky from time to time. It was a nice magazine to refer the general public to while educating them about astronomy at the observatory. It will be missed by many!

    As a meteorologist (who loves my field!), I must admit Phil, you are right. Astronomy is the most beautiful of all the sciences. Made me think of college when a Bio-Chem major friend told me why astronomy is the most beautiful, and romantic, of the sciences. He said, “You can easily impress your date by showing her a tour of the night sky. You don’t get the same pleasant reaction by giving her a tour of a chemistry or biology lab!”

  21. aiabx

    Stu-
    I agree completely. My astronomy club (The RASC Toronto Centre) has regular public star parties, and my scope and I are almost always there. Since Halloween was clear this year, I set up my scope out front so that all the little kids, their parents and the scary-looking teenagers could have a good look at the moon. Surprisingly, it was the scary looking teens who seemed to get the biggest kick out of it. But I don’t expect quick results. My hope is that 10 years from now, someone will see an article on space and think “That reminds me of the guy with the moon scope on Halloween. I could get a scope too”.

  22. Terry Rasmussen

    I will miss Night Sky magazine. I originally subscribed to it for my kids, but found that it was the perfect magazine for me (an aspiring, but not as knowledgable as I’d like to be, amatuer atronomer). I am very sorry to see it go.

  23. CR

    Geez, another astronomy forum bites the dust? I had subscribed to ‘Space University’ via Scholastic for my kids, and it was cancelled before completion due to “lack of interest.” It was geared to elementary school level children, and while not necessarily the best source of info, it was a fun introduction & helped get kids I know interested in astronomy.

    Night Sky would have made a nice forum to ‘graduate’ up to… (At least we still have Q & BA!)

  24. George

    Darn! I just bought my first issue in january and was looking for the next one at the newstand…. just when i was getting excited about looking at the sky again… ahhhh may be some one will step up and feel the gap..

  25. Tom Butler

    I’m a 66 year old retired science teacher, amateur astronomer from the 1950′s when I was in 7th grade and now Chief Observer of the West Valley Astronomy Club, Phoenix Arizona. From my point of view, Night Sky was about the best , most entertaining and easiest reading science magazine I’ve ever run across. What a pity it didn’t make it financially.

  26. Laura Stewart

    I am just heart broken that Night Sky will no longer be published. This was hands down my favorite of all the Astronomy Magazines. It quickly became the only one that I bought faithfully every time it came out. I sometimes find the other magazine beyond the scope of what I need. My 7 year old son and myself would sit down and go through it. He liked it so much that for his 7th birthday the only thing he wanted was a telescope of his own. Now, I’m not sure if I’ll be able to hold his interest if I’m not able to easily answer his questions. The articles were so helpful.

    What a shame. How are do you keep this hobby alive if the beginners are ignored or not encouraged to pursue it? How do you spark the interest if it seems too complicated and difficult?

  27. Laura, find an astronomy club near you and go! You can find them on my Astronomy Club page: http://www.badastronomy.com/bitesize/astroclubs.html

  28. Georg Beilhack

    Hi,

    I, too, loved Night Sky magazine when I started to be interested in 2004 to look a the sky. For me the articles written in this journal fit perfectly, I learned really a lot and I was always looking forward to the next issue. I am happy I kept the old editions.

    Night Sky will be truly missed!

    Cheers, Georg

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