Bob King, author and dark skies-watcher, was a photo editor and photographer for the Duluth News Tribune. He retired in 2018. King writes a popular stargazing blog, Astro Bob (astrobob.areavoices.com) and has a new book, “Urban Legends From Space: The Biggest Myths about Space — Demystified.”
I’m reading everything I can find about 2I/Borisov, the first comet ever discovered from another solar system. I’m fascinated by comets — both their beauty and unpredictability. Borisov comes closest to Earth later this month. Already we’ve discovered that its appearance and composition are very similar to comets in our own solar system. That connection tells me that even extraterrestrial life might be more common than we think. I’m also enjoying the book “The End of the Night” by Paul Bogard about how poor lighting and over-lighting have erased the beauty of a starry night for so many people. I feel sad on the one hand, but also called to action to preserve what’s left of the night sky.
I enjoy astronomer Phil Plait’s blog “Bad Astronomy.” He writes with equal measures of depth and wit on all things astronomical. I also pay close attention to approaching asteroids and all news about new meteorite falls and discoveries. As well, I try to learn all I can about ways to reduce light pollution by studying examples of what other cities have done.
I’m crazy about nature, and love spending time outside, especially under the night sky with or without a telescope. I feel free then and deeply connected to the cosmos as if there were no such thing as time. On a quiet night far from lights I might as well be walking Earth 10,000 years ago. My wife, Linda, and I enjoy watching comedy specials (we’re fans of Jim Gaffigan and Mike Birbiglia) or TV miniseries together. I’m one of those guys that always gets weepy when redemption is an important element of the plot.
I’ve always been fascinated by human behavior, so I follow the “Hidden Brain” podcast by Shankar Vedantam. I like his voice, sincerity and how he combines scientific topics with storytelling. I also enjoy irreverence and absurdity. For that you can’t do better than “My Brother, My Brother and Me.” Those guys riff off one another so fast you hardly have time to catch all the references. Classical music is my favorite, so I listen to a lot of Minnesota Public Radio as well as online on YouTube. I prefer the rich orchestral colors and jagged rhythms of modern-day classical but happily sail into the firmament on the wings of Bach cello suites. To clear the brain I listen to rock and love the sound of a fuzztone guitar.
I’ve been writing a lot lately, including my blog Astro Bob and Sky & Telescope magazine, both online and hard copy. I also love to hike and cross-country ski. One favorite place to walk is the Superior Hiking Trail, and I plan to snowshoe parts of it this winter. I’m also learning about fluorescence and have a number of cool rocks that glow in vivid colors under a UV flashlight. I use them to demonstrate how energy excites atoms to emit light in the same way that solar particles excite atoms in our atmosphere to produce the aurora. I teach community education astronomy and classes for the University of Minnesota-Duluth’s University for Seniors. One of my passions in life is coming up with ways to make seemingly obscure concepts easier to understand.