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Bad Astronomy -- countering the misconceptions
Phil Plait's Bad Astronomy web site
is ``devoted to airing out myths and
misconceptions in astronomy and related topics''. He separates the fact
from all of the fiction and junk science on many television shows and movies.
He does reference my Astronomy Notes material (but, why of course!).
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
Astrophysics Java programs that you can run in your web browser. The
most popular ones are in the
Applets'' areaapplets that
show detailed solar and lunar data for any time and location, but his
(Astronomie) section is also very nice for showing astrophysical
Greg Bothun and company at the University of Oregon have created a very nice
set of Physics Applets that cover astrophysics, energy & environment, mechanics,
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
of images and information pages.
Another place to get your questions answered is using the Google groups sci.astro (for
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 sci.space
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
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?''
Michael Molnar has published a new explanation for the star of Bethlehem that
says that the ``star'' was the covering of Jupiter by the Moon in April of 6 B.C.E.
See his web site Revealing the Star of
Bethlehem for further details.
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:
Planetarium Night Sky Notes.
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
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.
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.
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 Planetarium
through the newspaper editor's filter and has all of the sky charts I create
one is printed
and their graphics person modifies the chart).
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 The
Night Sky Live. 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- Sky and Telescope's Interactive Sky Chart --- uses java to generate the sky from any location and any date between 1600 to 2400.
- 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.
- 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 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
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
The American Institute of Physics distributes the
Physics News Update
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
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
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
Equipment section of their website.
You'll also find information about the telescope accessories and astronomy
software on the market.
Planetarium & Science Center has a short introduction of things to
look for when buying a telescope and any accessories.
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.
- 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.
- 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
(Eckerd Coll.) compilation of college astronomy sites.
Astronomy for K12 Teachers
Teachers looking for astronomy-related curriculum for their
students should investigate:
- The Teacher
Resources on the Bakersfield College Planetarium website.
- 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
with their students. Each issue of the newsletter features accurate yet
non-technical information about a current topic, some well-tested classroom
and a list of quality, reliable resources.
- 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 About.com'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
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.
Society of the Pacific
also has a large
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!).
1 September, 2009
Is this page a copy of Strobel's
Author of original content: