September 20, 2017

Review: AstroMags.

 

Two of the leading competitors for your astro-dollar!. (Photo by Author).

Two of the leading competitors for your astro-dollar!. (Photo by Author).

 

  If you’ re like us, the modern electronic era has seen our magazine subscriptions dwindle over the last decade. Gone are the piles of magazines threatening to take over our attic or garage, as we consume more and more of our information digitally. No field changes quicker than astronomy, and up to the minute info is what we all seek on the new comet or solar flare activity that may or may not be eminent. But is there still room for astronomy magazines in our ever-dwindling astro-budget? This week, we take a look at the two most venerable of American magazine institutions; Astronomy magazine and Sky & Telescope. More exist, we know, not the least of which is The Sky at Night that we advertise on our own site. If you clamor for them, or better yet, send us a trial subscription of these hard to find periodicals, (are you listening, astro-publishers?)  we’ll promise to give them the fair and unbiased Astroguyz review that is our hallmark.

First up is Sky & Telescope. founded in 1941 as a merger of the two magazines The Sky and The Telescope, Sky & Tel will celebrate its 70th anniversary next year. No resource is a better digest of what’s going on in the world of astronomy today. I particularly like how they’ve kept up with the amateur telescope making crowd, and columns such as Gary Seronik’s Telescope Workshop are all indispensible for later reference. Intriguingly, Sky & Tel often does independent historical research of their own, tracking down such fascinating minutiae such as the angle at which Ansell Adams did some of his moon shots in Yosemite from, or the inspiration of Walt Whitman’s meteors. Magazines still win out when it comes to this type of investigative reporting; true science blogs may get the scoop on that newly spotted asteroid long before it goes to press, but trust me, it’s just plain hard to support a journalistic staff on Google AdSense alone. And speaking of which, Sky &Tel does offer a robust website with a diverse gallery, community, and shop. The free newsletters and email alert system alone is handy, and covers much of the same news content online that the magazine does, free of charge. A curious trend is also present in Sky & Tel which perhaps all magazines are to some extent guilty of; namely, we notice that most of the gallery shots are made with the same shinny new cameras that grace the advertisements in the magazine. True, this may not be intentional, but surely somebody is still out there using ad hoc setups!

Next up is Astronomy magazine. This magazine has more of a populist take on astronomy, but still plenty on meat to attract the technical minded. They seem to certainly be able to attract the heavy hitters in the field, with names such as David Levy, Stephen O’Meara and Bob Berman making monthly contributions. They went through a phase in the 90’s using flashy covers in an attempt to draw in the fringe newsstand crowd, but the science reporting has always been solid. Another perk is that subscribing gives you access to online “A+” extras, and their site also provides you with a free e-newsletter option as well.

Are these magazines worth it in the electronic age? Certainly specialty magazines, like anything else, are feeling the electronic pinch; I notice both Sky & Tel and Astronomy are getting physically thinner over the years. I doubt that even communal blogs will be able to totally replace them, at least until the funding is there for folks (such as Astroguyz) to do this sort of thing as a full time job. What I would like to see is an online subscription that not only would give you access to each month’s issue electronically, but also access to the backlog. This would be a powerful educational and research resource, and again, give you an excuse to finally shovel those crates out of your garage. Sky & Tel did recently offer its entire archive as an 8 CD set, and while this may be a step in the right direction, we’d like the option to receive upgrades. We firmly believe in the dream of the “empty computer”, where we can live uncluttered and simply access our virtual data at will. Many new computers do not even have optical disk drives, and one wonders if this CD set will soon be as outdated as the 8-track. Hopefully, such an online subscription option could be at a much reduced cost as well…

Our pick for our one desert island subscription would be Sky & Tel, but we still frequently find ourselves picking up both from time to time. Perhaps some Kindle savvy reader out there could inform us if such an online subscription is in the works for those of us in the PC universe… that is, at least until the advent of; Astroguyz, the online magazine!

Comments

  1. Mike Weasner says:

    I’ve been a subscriber to S&T since January 1962. Still have all those issues! I just recently started reading Astronomy Technology Today, which comes out 6 times a year. It has a very technical equipment orientation.

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