Tammy Plotner Has Passed Away

I just got the word that one of our writers, Tammy Plotner, just passed away after a long struggle with MS.

Here’s a message from Mike Romine, from the Richland Astronomical Society:

Hi, I’m Mike Romine, the current president of the Richland Astronomical Society, at Warren Rupp Observatory, in Mansfield, Ohio.
This email is to inform you, and I hope you’ll pass it along to your readers, that Tammy Plotner passed away Feb. 11, 2015. Her longtime battle with MS finally took it’s toll.



Tammy was the first regular contributor to Universe Today. She started with me in 2004, reporting on what amateur astronomers might see in the night sky using an archaic WebTV to write and send in her stories. When she started, Tammy was… rough. She was enthusiastic, but very wordsy and needed a tremendous amount of editing. But her enthusiasm for the night sky was infectious, and over time, her writing tightened up; wordiness became poetry that described the night sky in amazing detail and made you drag your scope out into the darkness for just a peek.

In 2006, Tammy took things to the next level for us and wrote an actual book. We called it What’s Up 2006: 365 Days of Skywatching. We offered it as a free PDF book, and it was downloaded hundreds of thousands of times, and purchased in print form. We did another edition in 2007, and then Springer continued the franchise with Tammy directly.

Tammy continued to write for me off and on until just a few months ago. She would disappear for a few months at a time, and I eventually discovered that was because she was suffering from MS. It was making it more and more difficult to get on with the basics of life, let alone set aside the time to write about astronomy.

Our senior editor Nancy Atkinson said she learned a lot from Tammy: “I was honored to work with Tammy and her articles were a joy to read. She had a unique but professional perspective on the latest astronomy news and she relished the chance to share new findings with her readers. We will miss her expertise and her endless enthusiasm, and she will be greatly missed in the astronomy community.”

I never met Tammy, that’s the curse of living our lives online. We build relationships with people through email messages and chat, but we can go a decade working side by side and never meet in person. That makes me sad. I should have made the effort to hang out with her.

Farewell Tammy, thanks for everything. I’m sorry for your struggle, but I’m grateful for how much you taught me about the sky, and I’ll keep on sharing it with anyone who’ll listen – just like you did.

19 Replies to “Tammy Plotner Has Passed Away”

  1. Thanks for sharing. It is indeed the human qualities we find most endearing among the many splendors of all of space. A life of service and insight is one to note.

  2. Tammy’s passion for space was evident in everything she wrote. She loved the night sky, and loved to share it with the world. That’s a noble life’s endeavor if there ever was one. I’m glad I got to work alongside her for a while.

  3. Very sad news indeed. I actually read quite a few of her contributions, and thoroughly read her millisecond pulsar article when I wrote a blog article about how I was kept up all night thinking of an experiment I could personally conduct to show that gravity is not a force felt instantly, but rather propagates at the speed of light.

    Though I did not actually use her material in my research, it was the only reason I made the decision to investigate how gravity affects our observations of close binary neutron stars or pulsars.

    In the end, I never could think of an experiment to write about for budding young scientists and astronomers to do, but the millisecond pulsar article absolutely made it possible for me to show how teams of other scientists are doing the experiments that we mortals cannot.

    Thank you, Mrs. Plotner. I learned something because of you.

    -Mitchell Tubbs

  4. Very sad and unexpected news. Tammy will be greatly missed.

    Fraser – do you know if Tammy ever published her two e-books on The Messier Catalog and The Constellations? Back in 2010 and again in 2012 (with images from John Chunak) I helped her convert and edit all her hundreds of individual Messier and Constellation articles she had posted on Universe Today into two documents that she was intending to publish as e-books. The Messier Catalog doc was 538 pages and the Constellations doc was 268 pages the last time I worked on them with her. I do hope that large volume of work made it out for others to read and enjoy and to remember her.
    Larry McNish, Calgary Centre of the RASC

    1. No, I don’t think she ever got around to releasing them. They’re still web pages here on Universe Today. Do you have a draft? Maybe we could release them as free PDFs?

  5. I will miss her articles, she was a really inspiring writer. My condolences to her family and, as someone else said already, she’s off to see the stars.

  6. “I never met Tammy, that’s the curse of living our lives online.”

    The blessing of online relationships is that you get to meet and interact with people we would never have known existed otherwise. Take comfort from the fact that while we sometimes know each other less than we would like, we are often more blessed with knowing in the first place.

    All of us are blessed from Tammy’s time here with us, and we are richer for it.

  7. “I never met Tammy, that’s the curse of living our lives online.”

    It couldn’t be more true. We, as readers, only slightly touched Tammy’s life by reading her articles. But the sadness I feel seems too real…

  8. Dang… I’ve been writing to Tammy off and on for several years. She always promptly responded in a positive and professional manner to my inquiries and comments.

    The last message from her was on Sept. 28, 2014. She mentioned she’d been in and out of the ‘Blue Cross Motel’ several times and wasn’t doing all that well. I could kick myself for not writing her more often! She mentioned in that letter that I shouldn’t be offended if she took a long time to respond but otherwise never let on how bad things were.

    I’ll miss you Tammy – R.I.P.

    P.S. I FINALLY got that telescope built, thanks in no small part to you!

  9. Such sad news. I always looked forward to Tammy’s articles in UT. So clear, acurate and fresh. When ever I wrote for advice or comments it was always forthcoming and very helpful. She will be sadly missed across the astronomical community. It would be great to release her ebooks as a memorial to her work.
    Brian Sheen, Roseland Observatory – UK

  10. Tammy will be sadly missed a True Star Returns to the Cosmos, Thank you Tammy for making our lives a little brighter…..

  11. Shocked and saddened to hear of Tammy’s passing. I first came across Tammy over 15 years ago when I started out in Astronomy. Her enthusiasm and help gave me real boost in understanding what I was doing and what I was seeing.

    She will be missed.

  12. I’m sorry to have heard of Tammy’s death. While it’s nice to hear of her accomplishments, a little bit of personal info would also be nice. How old was she? Was she married? Any children?

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