Happy third birthday to Seattle Astronomy

Bust out the cake and champagne! Seattle Astronomy turns three years old today!

Our first post was made Jan. 9, 2011—it was a calendar listing previewing the meeting of the American Astronomical Society, held in Seattle that winter. The AAS will be back in town next year. The post also listed an upcoming exhibit by renowned photojournalist Roger Ressmeyer, and a talk by Dr. Connie Walker of the National Optical Astronomy Observatory for the Boeing Employees Astronomical Association.

As a birthday celebration, let’s look back at our favorite stories of 2013.

The Year of the Comet

Moon probe sketch

This sketch of a “Moon probe,” probably NASA’s Lunar Orbiter, is in my space scrapbook with other article from 1966. It was probably my first astronomy “post” at age 8.

Last year was touted as The Year of the Comet mostly because of the discovery in September 2012 of Comet ISON, which would graze the Sun at Thanksgiving with possibly spectacular results. Despite the unpredictability of comets, many couldn’t resist speculating that ISON would be the comet of the century.

ISON disintegrated during its encounter with Old Sol, and while some intrepid early-morning observers spotted it, ISON never became the spectacle many had hoped. We chronicled the coverage of ISON in this post in December.

While ISON disappointed, the year opened well with Comet PanSTARRS, which we saw well from Seattle for a few days in March.

The Year of the Fundraiser

Seattle Astronomy participated in a couple of crowdfunding campaigns during 2013, both of them local efforts that achieved their goals by attracting widespread interest.

The Battle Point Astronomical Association ran an Indiegogo campaign to raise funds to build an equatorial bowstring sundial near its Edwin Ritchie Observatory on Bainbridge Island. While the effort fell well short of its goal to raise $17,000 for the sundial, it attracted enough attention to bring in significant contributions outside of Indiegogo. The club’s board has given the go-ahead for the sundial, which it hopes to complete by summer.

Meanwhile on Kickstarter the asteroid-mining company Planetary Resources, Inc. was aiming to raise $1 million to launch an ARKYD space telescope. The June ask proved wildly successful, ultimately bringing in more than $1.5 million from more than 17,000 backers from around the world. The ARKYD will hunt for asteroids and contribute to education, research, and outreach. Eventually the company plans to launch a fleet of ARKYDs. We’re looking forward to receiving our “space selfie”—a perk for contributing—some time next year.

The Year of Great Talks

We covered more than a dozen talks during 2013 by astronomers and authors who were brought in by local astronomy clubs, Town Hall Seattle, the Museum of Flight, the Pacific Science Center, and the University of Washington Astronomy Colloquium.

Two of our favorite talks were by Paul Bogard, author of the fine book The End of Night, and by Mike Simmons, founder of Astronomers without Borders who keynoted the annual banquet of the Seattle Astronomical Society.

Other interesting lectures were given by astronauts Chris Hadfield and Jerry Ross; professors Bernie Bates and Dennis Danielson; Galileo Astronomy Unclub founder Jon Bearscove; asteroid hunter Don Youmans; Mars rover driver Melissa Rice; and authors Mario Livio, Lee Smolin, and Neil Shubin.

Links above go to our articles about those events. Books by the authors are available in our Seattle Astronomy Store, a new feature of the blog this year.

The Year Table Mountain Was Somewhere Else

A forest fire in September 2012 damaged part of the site of the annual Table Mountain Star Party, the Northwest’s biggest annual astronomy shindig. Last year’s party was held at a site other than Table Mountain for the first time since the event was established in the 1980s. The Table Mountain site remains unsafe, and the Star Party again will be held at the Eden Valley Guest Ranch near Oroville, Washington in 2014.

The Year We Were Published

It’s one thing to run your own astronomy blog, but quite another when someone else thinks your writing ought to be seen by more people.

Back in May we posted an essay about getting “the kids” interested in astronomy. We also submitted the piece to Astronomy magazine, which posted it on its Local Group Blog. The Astronomical League also spotted the essay and ran a version of it in its magazine, Reflector, in September.

Thank you for your interest and support. Onward to 2014!