Farewell

With a mixture of emotions, I'm signing off from my blog. A few weeks ago I accepted an offer to work as the senior science writer in the Astrophysics Science Division at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, located in Greenbelt, Maryland, just outside Washington, DC. Today is my final day at Sky & Telescope, and I will be leaving the Boston metro area on Monday. I start my new job in early February. I will be working to promote many of NASA's current and planned space-science missions, such as Swift, WMAP, GALEX, RXTE, GLAST, JWST, Constellation-X, LISA, and many others. These orbiting observatories are advancing human knowledge of our universe by leaps and bounds (or they will do so if launched), and I'm excited that I will be part of the effort to inform you about what they're doing.

It has been a rewarding and enriching experience working at S&T for the past 3-plus years. Those of you who have visited our offices already know this, but for those of you who have not, the staff of this publication has an enormous commitment to accuracy and integrity — a commitment that cannot be surpassed — only equaled. We don't make many mistakes in print, and when we do, unlike other publications covering astronomy and the sciences, we fess up to it. Whenever I made an error that would appear in print (even a relatively minor error, such as putting an obscure galaxy in the wrong constellation), it would gnaw at me for days, because I would feel like I let my colleagues down.

I have many people to thank at S&T, but I particularly want to thank editor-in-chief Rick Fienberg for giving me the opportunity to return home. I say "home" because my science-writing career started here back in 1991, when I worked as an editorial intern at S&T while finishing my master's degree across the river at Boston University. I also want to thank Dave Tytell, Alan MacRobert, and Joshua Roth for stimulating conversations about science, journalism, and other subjects, and for helping me get up to speed when I returned home in November 2003. And I can't say enough about how much I have enjoyed working with our outstanding designers and illustrators (and I congratulate Pat Coppola for her recent promotion to Design Director of S&T).

I want to thank all of you who wrote comments to my blog over the past few months. I really appreciate hearing from you, even if you disagreed with what I wrote. Blogs are supposed to be about expressing opinions and sometimes taking unpopular stances, so I tried not to be bashful about what was on my mind. I apologize that because I was busy helping to produce a magazine, I did not have time to post all the comments that were sent.

Last but not least, as much as I enjoyed writing my blog, and as much as I read other blogs and articles on the Internet, this entire medium gives me great concern about the future. The very nature of the Internet puts tremendous pressure on journalists to write their stories fast, and to be the first to post a story about a particular result. The result is often shoddy and incomplete reporting, and many times the media hypes a purported "discovery" that is unlikely to hold up upon further scrutiny. I saw this in action just a few weeks ago at the American Astronomical Society conference in Seattle, with stories such as "NASA Discovers and Then Kills Martian Life." While I was not immune to this affliction, S&T's priority has always been to get the story right, not necessarily to be the first to go on record. So as you read stories about astronomy on the Internet, please bear in mind the possibility that what you're reading might not be true, or might not be a good result. Ultimately, the great questions of science are not going to be resolved on the Internet or who shouts first or the loudest, they will be resolved by the scientific method and in the scientific literature.