Monday, December 11, 2006


Goodbye Night Sky

My recent visit to what remains of Night Sky Magazine’s website revealed some not quite unexpected words. Yet, they were still words I’d hoped not to read:
We regret that subscriptions to Night Sky are no longer being accepted. The March/April 2007 issue, now in production, will be the final issue.
Like everybody who's had anything to do with Night Sky (I contributed a number of articles over the magazine's brief life), I've been impressed by what Kelly Beatty and his Skypub colleagues accomplished.  I'm proud to have had a small part in what looked to be the success of a new astronomy magazine—something very rare.

Not that I'd thought the magazine had a dog's chance in hell when I first heard about it. When I was told about Sky’s plans for a new beginner magazine, I was just a mite skeptical. It was an idea that had been tried before—most recently by Kalmbach (Astronomy Magazine) with their Odyssey, which was kept afloat for quite a while, but never took off. Admittedly, Odyssey was a poor effort and made no attempt to appeal to a wider audience than kids/complete novices.

Night Sky, I learned, was gonna be different. It wouldn’t be a kid magazine, it would be aimed at amateur astronomy beginners of all ages. It would be "backyard astronomy for everyone," light on the Discovery Magazine type gee-whiz science-fact stuff, and heavy on practical observing how-tos and equipment advice. While it would be a beginner magazine, there would often be matter of interest to more advanced observers.

As one issue after the next hit the streets, each better than the last, each garnering, from what I could tell, favorable notice among amateurs old and new, young and old, I began to think the upstart just might make it.  I solicited comments on the magazine from some of the attendees at a major U.S. star party. I was gratified by their response with more than a few opining they much preferred Night Sky to Astronomy Magazine.

Alas, ‘twas not to be. If Night Sky had come along at a different time--before Sky & Telescope was sold to a magazine publishing house--I think it would have been a success, and might very well have eclipsed the distinctly variable Astronomy in a few more years. Alas, the shortsighted new owners of Sky Publishing/Sky & Telescope wanted none of that. Well, 'twas their loss--and ours.

Night Sky was a brave experiment in a time when it’s a tough proposition to start a new newsstand magazine of any kind--or even keep an existing one afloat. When magazines like Time are struggling badly, it's no surprise a new publication wouldn't have much chance.  Sadly, sometimes brave experiments fail, however worthy they may be. As above, my hat’s off to Kelly, the Night Sky staff, and my fellow contributors. No happy ending, but what a magnificent failure Night Sky was.

I still have and use every issue! I kept them all. I found out about it and subscribed before the first issue ever came out.

Too bad the sales were not good and they had too discontinue it. You had that right! Each issue was better!

I feel they are a treasure! Fell lucky to own each copy! Kelly Beaty did a great job!

They are now on a cd for people.
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