Astronomy Links

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Bad Astronomy -- countering the misconceptions

Phil Plait's Bad Astronomy blog is ``devoted to airing out myths and misconceptions in astronomy and related topics''. Besides writing about astronomy news stories (putting some context behind a gee-whiz news flash from some research organization like NASA or a university), he separates the fact from all of the fiction and junk science on many television shows, movies, and internet sites. He has referenced my Astronomy Notes material in some blog postings (but, why of course!).

Crash Course Astronomy

Plait also created a set of Astronomy lectures for CrashCourse.

Exploration of Space from Space

The NASA website and European Space Agency website have millions of images, videos, multimedia interactives, and other documents

Java Applets for Astronomy

Juergen Giesen has created a very impressive suite of Astronomy and Astrophysics Java programs that you can run in your web browser. The most popular ones are in the ``GeoAstro Applets'' area—applets that show detailed solar and lunar data for any time and location, but his Astronomy (Astronomie) section is also very nice for showing astrophysical processes.

Greg Bothun and company at the University of Oregon have created a very nice set of Physics Applets that cover astrophysics, energy & environment, mechanics, and thermodynamics (need to have java enabled in your browser).

Royal Greenwich Observatory Information Sheets

The Royal Greenwich Observatory publishes many astronomy information pamphlets for the general public and new media. See if they have the infomation at their Fact Files site.


See if the Students for the Exploration and Development of Space have the answer on their SEDS Forum or in their Space Information Archive.


Another place to get your questions answered is using the Google groups sci.astro (for general astronomy questions; UNmoderated so watch out for the loonies!), sci.astro.amateur (discussion on building your own telescope, buying a telescope, doing your own observing, astronomy clubs, etc.; UNmoderated so watch out for the loonies!), and sci.astro.research (moderated group about current research topics -- note that it is really for the professional astronomer). Before you try out those news groups, see if your question has been answered in the ``Frequently Asked Questions'' list known as the sci.astro FAQ list or the FAQ list (you may want to try the sci.astro FAQ list first). If you do post a message to one of the news groups, be sure to include your email address in your message so people can reply back to you (especially if you don't read that news group that often!).

Local Astronomy Club

For Bakersfield and most of the rest of Kern County, Kern Astronomical Society is the group to join if you are interested in astronomy and telescopes. They meet on the first Friday of the month at Northminster Presbyterian Church on north Union (3700 Union) across from Oak Warehouse in Bakersfield. You do not need to be a member to attend the meetings or the star parties. People just starting out with astronomy are especially encouraged to join (or at least come to a star party and look through some excellent telescopes or get some help with that new telescope you have!).

Their most recent newsletter can be viewed from the link in the Kern Astro newsletters index.

Other Local Astronomy Clubs

If you are not in Kern County, then check out the Astronomy Directory at Sky and Telescope to find the astronomy club closest to you.

What was the Star of Bethlehem?

A question asked of astronomers at Christmas time. So just in time for the holiday season is my response to ``what was the star of Bethlehem?''

What's Happening Up There This Month?

There are several web sites that tell about the interesting things happening this month for the backyard astronomer. Here's a list of good ones I've found:
  1. Abrams Planetarium Night Sky Notes. The sky notes give you a night-by-night guide to what to look for in the night sky. This web page gives a chronological list of events for the observer in the northern hemisphere (particularly for those at the same latitudes of the 48 contiguous states in the United States). There is also a very nice sky calendar available by subscription that has a calendar with the important phenomena listed in the day blocks and a crude sky map on the reverse side. Abrams Planetarium is at Michigan State University in East Lansing, Michigan.
  2. What's Up in the Sky from Sky & Telescope. This web page gives a brief narrative of where each of the planets will be in the sky this week and star charts for the current month. It also gives information about other celestial wonders visible to the naked eye or through a typical amateur astronomer's telescope.
  3. Bakersfield Night Sky is a column I write for my local newspaper that appears (usually) the first and third Saturday of the month. The online version on the William M Thomas Planetarium website has not gone through the newspaper editor's filter and has all of the sky charts I create (usually just one is printed and their graphics person modifies the chart).
  4. The Evening Sky Map is a free downloadable star chart for the month from Charts are available for various latitudes and each chart comes with a monthly guide to what's up in the sky for that month.
  5. Video broadcasts from NASA: HubbleSite Tonight's Sky and JPL's "What's Up" monthly broadcasts.

What's Happening Up There Right Now?

You can find out what is happening up in the night sky from at least ten sites around the world with All Sky Camera Network. A fisheye lens attached to a CCD camera shows the entire sky, from horizon-to-horizon, in a circular image that is updated every 3 to 4 minutes. The faintest object visible is equivalent to the faintest visible to the naked eye.

Digital Planetarium Skies

Several places on the web allow you to create your own "planetarium" on your computer screen: see what the sky looks like from any time and location. Other places will enable you to zoom around our galaxy. Here are some nice ones:

  1. Neave Planetarium --- a nice use of Flash. You set your time and location and it will show you the sky. Move your cursor to pan around the sky. Move your cursor over an object and it will give you some brief information about it.
  2. Your Sky --- an older style of inputting your time and location via web forms and then it will generate either a "horizon" view of the sky (a section of the sky with horizon) or a "sky map" view of the entire sky with the the zenith in the middle and the horizon along the border.
  3. Sky and Telescope's Interactive Sky Chart --- uses java to generate the sky from any location and any date between 1600 to 2400.
  4. Google Sky --- stitched together imagery of the sky from various ground and space observatories allows you to zoom in to various objects or to get the big picture view with the constellations.
  5. World Wide Telescope --- Microsoft's foray into the digital sky also stitches together imagery from various ground and space observatories. You can create tours of universe and share them with other people.

Astronomy News

Astronomy Picture of the Day website displays a new astronomical picture every day along with a brief explanation. The site also has an searchable archive back to mid-1995.

Sky and Telescope distributes a weekly news bulletin. This bulletin gives information on all areas of astronomy, from naked-eye phenomena to the latest discoveries by those hard-working professional astronomers. They have bulletins that go back several months (at least) and is good way to get up-to-date information about current interesting happenings ``up there.''

Ron Baalke is the Information Man for Jet Propulsion Laboratory. He distributes a calendar of space missions and astronomical happenings at the JPL Calendar site. All of the major events for the space missions for the upcoming year (plus) are listed.

The American Institute of Physics distributes the Physics Update -- Physics Today and Inside Science every week. Occasionally there will be astronomy discoveries listed.

Buying and Using Telescopes and Accessories

Sky and Telescope also has a lot of good information/tips for the amateur astronomer (tips for naked eye observing, buying and using binoculars, telescopes, and eye pieces, and photography, etc.) in the Choosing Your Equipment section of their website. If you're wondering about a telescope, eye piece, astronomy software, or other astronomy instrument you've seen advertised, be sure to check out their Test Reports web page to see if it has been reviewed by their panel of experts. However, there is a small charge for every test report download (a PDF file)

Astronomy Magazine gives tips on buying the right telescope or binoculars for you or your child in the Equipment section of their website. You'll also find information about the telescope accessories and astronomy software on the market.

Morehead Planetarium & Science Center has a short introduction of things to look for when buying a telescope and any accessories.

Astronomy Software

See if the free software or shareware software list has the package that does what you want on your computer before paying for an expensive commercial software package.

Sky Surveys

  1. The Space Telescope Science Institute has created a Digitial Sky Survey for the public. You can find the coordinates (Right Ascension and Declination) of an object and a picture from their survey. The pictures are in FITS (Flexible Image Transport System) format (used by many professional astronomers) and GIF format.
  2. Tom McGlynn has compiled surveys of the sky at 15 different wavelength bands (from gamma ray to radio) into a very nice tool called SkyView. You can enter either the coordinates of an object or simply its name and which wavelength bands you want and it will put together the pictures in either GIF or FITS format.

Astronomy Education and Outreach

Another excellent site for learning college astronomy is the Astronomy Education and Outreach site of the Center for Astrophysics & Space Sciences at UCSD. There is an online tutorial and a good set of links to other astronomy education sites on the web.

Other Introductory Astronomy Classes

There are many other astronomers who use the WWW in their teaching. Go to Reggie Hudson's (Eckerd Coll.) compilation of college astronomy sites. Lecture slides and lecture videos or audio files from some astrophysics courses are available in the Online Physics Courses database.

Astronomy for K12 Teachers

Teachers looking for astronomy-related curriculum for their students should investigate:

  1. The Teacher Resources on the Bakersfield College Planetarium website.
  2. The Astronomical Society of the Pacific's Universe in the Classroom newsletter. This newsletter is written for teachers who would like to share the excitement of astronomy with their students. Each issue of the newsletter features accurate yet non-technical information about a current topic, some well-tested classroom activities, and a list of quality, reliable resources.
  3. The Space Science Education Resource Directory . This NASA site is a convenient way to find NASA materials for use in classrooms. You can search by either grade level, or subject, or topic.

Astronomy for Kids

Need to start at a more basic level than my site or need some information for your child or young friend? Then go to's Space & Astronomy for Kids web site.

Also check out NASA's StarChild: A Learning Center for Young Astronomers. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory has a site called The Space Place that has a number of activities geared for elementary school kids (so you teachers or prospective teachers should look it over!). NASA has "Kid's Club" for children to learn about NASA science and living and working in space. The IPAC education group's Cool Cosmos site explains infrared astronomy as well as the multi-wavelength universe to a variety of ages from kindergartners to adults. The main NASA student site has a section for the grades K to 4, a section for grades 5 to 8, and a section for grades 9 to 12.

AstroWeb, and A.S.P.

For further exploration into what astronomy resources are available on the web, also check out The AstroWeb database and the Astronomical Society of the Pacific websites. The Astronomical Society of the Pacific also has a large set of resources and links to astronomy information and astronomy education. Finally, see if the dmoz Open Directory - Science: Astronomy has link to a web resource you need (but take care in critically distinguishing the good stuff from all the junk that dmoz references on its site!).

Go to Astronomy Notes beginning

last updated: 31 October, 2015

Is this page a copy of Strobel's Astronomy Notes?

Author of original content: Nick Strobel