Terence Dickinson, former co-owner and editor of SkyNews magazine, passed away on February 1, 2023 — the same day Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) made its closest approach to Earth. He was 79 years old.
The timing of the comet’s approach could be considered a sweet farewell to an iconic Canadian amateur astronomer and accomplished astrophotographer who took on SkyNews magazine nearly three decades ago. Dickinson died after a long battle with Parkinson’s.
According to SkyNews contributor Alan Dyer, “Terry was the master of all media, known for his passionate promotion of astronomy not only through his books, but also through his long-running column in The Toronto Star, his appearances on The Discovery Channel’s Daily Planet TV show, and his regular spots on CBC’s Quirks and Quarks radio show.”
“But it was through SkyNews and his books that I worked most closely with Terry,” Dyer added. “I shall miss our long phone call chats about all things astronomical and the state of the hobby.”
Dickinson took over the writing of SkyNews in the early 1990s, when it was a newsletter sent out by the National Museum of Science and Technology in Ottawa, Ontario.
In 1995, he expanded the publication into a commercial magazine that was published by the museum until 1999. Dickinson and his business partner Greg Keilty took over ownership and continued to publish the magazine until 2016, when they sold it to The Royal Astronomical Society of Canada (RASC). This was due to Dickinson’s deteriorating condition.
“Terence Dickinson was the perfect ambassador to introduce people to the beauty and wonder of the night sky. He made the universe accessible and knowable. He coined the term ‘naturalists of the night,’ which I always thought perfect for us amateur astronomers,” said Randy Attwood, former executive director, RASC.
Attwood said Dickinson had the ability to captivate an entire audience with his stories of observing and understanding various aspects of the universe. “He was always a good friend of the RASC, and we were glad to make a subscription of SkyNews a benefit of membership. His loss will be felt for a long time, but his numerous excellent publications will continue to encourage many more people to look up and start their own celestial journey.”
Dickinson is known in the amateur astronomy world as the author of a number of books, including NightWatch: A Practical Guide to Viewing The Universe, The Universe and Beyond, Hubble’s Universe, and The Backyard Astronomer’s Guide (co-authored with Alan Dyer). His work continues to be read by many amateur astronomers in Canada today.
His love for astronomy was infectious, as anyone who attended one of his lectures will attest. According to Dyer, he once said, “I want to do what I’m doing for as long as I can. There’s just so much more to know and see, and I’m still excited as a kid about new discoveries. I’ll never run out of things to write about — I’ll just run out of time.”