Future generations will experience the joy of shaking hands with beings from another Earth-like planet; Mars Attack and Independence Day notwithstanding. But I guess we aren’t so worse off either because sometimes the fun is in the hunt and in the grandest of all questions – are we alone in the universe?
Space buffs will be familiar with the SETI (Search for extraterrestrial intelligence) program which is one “mission” that brought the search of the cosmos to our computers. Computers of today can create virtual worlds that expand our understanding of space. Space telescopes and other Earth based great observatories have made discovery of new exoplanets almost routine.
The excitement never wanes. If you share the enthusiasm, let’s enter the portals of NASA’s PlanetQuest.
The Search for another Earth
PlanetQuest is an information hub within NASA’s network of websites that showcases NASA’s efforts in searching for new planets outside our solar system. PlanetQuest is eye-catching to say the least, and not only because it is multimedia rich, but also because it is superbly designed. PlanetQuest has been a nominee of Webby Awards and has also won a few in the 2012 rounds. The space website is a resource rich stockpile for educators and students alike.
Watch the audio-visual PlanetQuest Overview to understand how NASA is going on a search for alien worlds.
History, Missions, and Planet Finding Methods
PlanetQuest is a well-concocted mixture of news items on space exploration, blogs from scientists and astronomers, and articles that take you behind the scenes of planet discovery ever since it began. The Alien Vs Editor is a blog by NASA astronomer Steve Edberg who is at the head of the NASA/JPL’s Space Interferometry Mission to search for Earth-like planets. It will also be the world’s largest planet-hunting telescope ever. He encourages amateur astronomers and even thinks himself to be on. In his blog he explains how things could be in any alien planet we discover. Read his interpretation on John Carter and his “suspension of disbelief’.
It’s not difficult to get interested in the Images & Video section because we want everything to be visual about space. Check out videos by category and images by subject and type (artwork, observation, and maps).
The Interactives That Grab Your Interest
This is where things really start tugging at your interest. PlanetQuest has six interactive presentations which should keep you on the site for some time. These are fun and entertaining but are rooted in science. Let’s take a brief look at each…
Extreme Planet Makeover
Make you own planet here…with a bit imagination, but also with a bit of science foresight as you have to settle on things like distance, planet size, and planet age. Each choice is explained and so are the results which tell you if the planet is habitable or not.
We had taken a brief look at this timeline when we looked into 7 Historical Websites That Let Us Go Back & Take Another Peek At History. The timeline takes us through the ages and our quest for understanding space.
If extreme organisms can exist in the most inhospitable spots on Earth, there is a chance that similar life forms can survive on alien planets too. Life after all need not walk on two legs.
Interstellar Trip Planner
I chose a starship to take me to Mars. I could be there in 3 minutes flat at the speed of light. Play on the Interstellar Trip Planner and go to any of the “travel spots” on offer.
3D Guide to the Galaxy
Navigate your way across the Milky Way galaxy and get the bigger picture here. You can use keyboard controls or the ones given in the Java applet to view the galaxy from different angles.
Alien Fact or Fiction
A set of 10 questions examine your knowledge of space. A few are correlated to Star Wars.
This could be the beginning of your own quest to look heavenwards and enjoy space. Venture forth to our previous posts too:
- 5 Best Websites For Space and Astronomy Fans
- 6 More Interesting Websites A Space & Astronomy Buff Should Visit
- 9 Live Citizen Science Projects You Can Participate In To Learn More About Our Planet & Space
- Experience Space Exploration In 3D At NASA Visualizations
- 7 Cool iPhone & iPad Space Apps From NASA [iOS]
Are you a space buff? Do you use the web to satisfy your cosmic curiosities? Share your love for space in the comments.