My article in the December Sky & Telescope

October 31, 2015
SnT Dec 2015 cover - marked up

Einstein has my article on his mind!

Here’s the exciting news I teased back in September: the December 2015 issue of Sky & Telescope, which is available online and should be hitting newsstands about now, has an observing article by yours truly. It’s a binocular tour of the southern stretch of the winter Milky Way, from Canis Major through Puppis to end in Hydra.

SnT Dec 2015 contents - marked up

The road that led here started back in December, 2014, when I got a very nice email from S. Johnson-Roehr, “JR”, the observing editor for Sky & Tel. JR had stumbled across this very site (possibly because I’d just recommended the newly-reprinted Caldwell Objects?) and asked if I’d be interested in contributing an observing article. We batted some ideas back and forth and quickly settled on the winter Milky Way. I had been through this area of the sky before but I wanted to give it one more pass, both to flesh out my notes and to road-test the star hops I had in mind. I made those observations this spring, wrote the article over the summer, and now it’s out in the world.

I have one favor to beg of anyone who reads the article – I need feedback. This is my first time writing about astronomy anywhere but a blog, forum post, or club newsletter, and I’d like to know (1) what worked, (2) what didn’t, and (3) what you’d like to see in the future. The comment field is open.

There’s a lot more to like in this issue of S&T, some of which will be of particular interest to regular readers of this blog. Tony Flanders has another inexpensive telescope shoot-out. Back in 2011 he and Joshua Roth looked at $100 scopes, in particular the Orion SpaceProbe 3, GoScope 80, and SkyScanner 100 (that article is a free download here, and a follow-up comparing the SkyScanner to the StarBlast is here). This time Tony considers three scopes in the $200 range: the Meade Infinity 90mm refractor and alt-az mount, the Orion StarBlast 4.5, and the Astronomers Without Borders OneSky. I won’t give away any spoilers, except to note that he finds all three to be capable scopes, which I’m sure is no surprise around here.

Another nice review in this issue is Alan MacRobert’s look at the first two volumes of Jeff Kanipe’s and Dennis Webb’s Annals of the Deep Sky, from Willmann Bell. As a deep-sky junkie who likes to read himself to sleep with Burnham’s Celestial Handbook and Stephen James O’Meara, I have been curious about these new books, but I hadn’t heard anything about their quality before reading MacRobert’s article. Sounds like I need to make space on my Christmas list.

There’s loads more interesting stuff in this issue – cover articles on Einstein and gravitational waves, great observing articles by Alan MacRobert, Fred Schaaf, Gary Seronik, and Charles A. Wood, a very nice piece by Sue French looking at some neglected open clusters and double stars in Cassiopeia (an area I thought I knew well)…you get the picture. If you’re not a subscriber, you can find the December issue of Sky & Telescope on your local newsstand, or order a print or digital copy online here.

If you’re new here, welcome! Have a look around, and feel free to comment.


  1. […] Just been busy with teaching. But I have some exciting astronomy news coming up later this fall (finally revealed here!), and in the meantime, I’m looking forward to the total lunar eclipse this coming Sunday […]

  2. After reading your binocular article in the December Sky and Telescope I followed the link to this blog. I really appreciate how you uncovered so many items that were visible in binoculars / small instruments and possibly even from the city. Combining so many Messier and non-Messier objects will keep this observer very busy in the coming months. Your reports of what to expect in various sized optics (yet all Bino/Small) is also extremely helpful. I can’t wait for Canis Major to reach the Meridian in the evening hours, perhaps I should just get up very early!

  3. Congratulations Matt for your achievement !!

  4. I can’t wait for Canis Major to reach the Meridian in the evening hours, perhaps I should just get up very early!

    Heh, yeah, that’s something I forgot to mention in the post. I was originally tapped to do something on the winter constellations for the December issue. I was going to cover more ground, but my notes turned out to be so detailed that I only had room to do part of what I had planned, and I opted for the Canis Major – Puppis – Hydra section. BUT I hadn’t though about when that part of the sky would actually be up high in the evening, versus when the December issue would hit the newsstands. So from the perspective of convenient evening viewing, the article is a little early. Hopefully people will hang onto it until the new year! 🙂

    Thanks everyone for the kind words!

  5. Was pleasantly surprised when I saw your article yesterday on the way to my office on Halloween day (was wondering why you didn’t give us a heads up on it…). Congrats!

  6. Many congratulations — it’s a great feeling to publish something substantial in a field outside your own, and it couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.

  7. Thanks!

    Terry, I didn’t give you, David, or Doug a heads up because I wanted it to be a surprise. Dunno if that was a good call or not – maybe you can tell me!

    Mike, you’re right, it is very satisfying. I guess this is something you’ve experienced a few times now, between computer science, paleontology, your Dr. Who book, and your Joni Mitchell presentation.

  8. Very true, but I didn’t mention that stuff because I didn’t want to make it all about me 🙂 But, yes, stepping outside the area you know and making a contribution is deeply, deeply satisfying.

  9. […] tour of the winter best and brightest. One of the fun spin-off benefits of having written the Canis Major and Puppis binocular tour for the December Sky & Telescope is that now I am compelled to run through those objects […]

  10. […] a bit belatedly, as this issue has been on newsstands for about a week already. When I wrote about my first S&T article last year, I said that my editor, JR, and I had “batted some ideas back and forth and quickly […]

  11. […] American astronomy magazine, for a year now. My first feature article was published last December (details here), my second came out this April (ditto), and my latest is in the current (December 2016) issue, […]

  12. […] on the first attempt was Canis Major, Puppis, and a couple of odds and ends like M48. That was my article in the December 2015 […]

  13. […] them quickly anytime I’m out. In this case, I started at Sirius and followed the path of my December 2015 article down through Canis Major, across Puppis – with a side trip down to Vela that was not in the […]

  14. […] written for Sky & Tel on the Milky Way (twice), galaxies, and look-back time, and I’ve included individual double stars in Bino […]

  15. […] of Milky Way through Perseus and Auriga, the third in a series that also includes my articles from December 2015 and March 2017. Will I make it all the way around the sky? I’d like to, but I suppose […]

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