Very few of us are likely to ever make it into outer space, unless the various space tourism ventures become mainstream successes. Even then the price of being flown into space will be so high that normal, everyday folk like you and I will only be able to look on with dreams of one day affording such a once-in-a-lifetime trip.
The closest most of us will ever get to the stars and planets is observing them from here on this big blue ball we call Earth. But even getting access to a telescope powerful to see things in any detail can be an expensive ordeal. Thankfully the Internet presents a solution, with a multitude of astronomy websites dedicated to astronomy and the bodies which exist outside our own planet’s atmosphere.
ScienceDaily is a magnificent website for science geeks of all flavors, with sections dedicated to Health, the Climate, and Computers, amongst others. The Space & Time section can be broken down further into sub-sections dedicated to Astronomy, Cosmology, the Solar System, and Space Exploration. Even then you can go further down the rabbit hole by narrowing your field of interest.
There are news stories and reference articles presented in chronological order, as well as images and videos showing some truly mind-blowing objects that exist above us. ScienceDaily is great for both beginners just starting to learn about space and deciding what area they want to focus their astronomy on, and more experienced star-gazers.
HubbleSite is the website run by the Space Telescope Science Institute’s Office of Public Outreach. As the name suggests it’s built around news of, and discoveries made by, the Hubble Space Telescope, which has been providing images from deep space since its mission began in 1990. A successor named the James Webb Space Telescope will be launched sometime around 2018.
There is a News Center and Gallery, while Hubble Discoveries and Hubble Telescope are sections devoted to recalling discoveries made by Hubble and how Hubble works respectively. Beyond the Hubble information are a wealth of other resources, including both vodcasts and podcasts, a guide to what you can see in the sky on particular nights, and interactive quizzes.
Stargazing is a BBC-branded and run site, meaning it’s mainly targeted at people in the U.K. But there is also much that will appeal and prove useful to those resident in other countries. The BBC Stargazing website is designed to appeal to all age groups, and can therefore be considered a good option for kids or those just get started with astronomy.
The site contains a multitude of guides to all things space-related, presented in written, audio, and video formats. There are activity packs designed for groups to interact and organize events based around astronomy and learning more about the universe we live in but rarely see. There is also a Flickr photo group with some stunning images of astronomical objects.
Night Skies Network
Night Skies Network is one of the few astronomy websites dedicated to live streaming video views from space. Part of the problem is that as fascinating as looking at celestial objects is nothing much happens for huge lengths of time. When events such as eclipses occur this kind of website comes into its own, but at other times photographs are more pleasing on the eye.
You can sign up to become a member of Night Skies Network, which is thankfully free (with the option to donate via PayPal), but you can also view the live feeds people have running just as a visiting guest. To broadcast your own view of space you will need to sign up and persuade the guy behind the site your broadcast warrants being added to the list. Tracking the RSS feed is the simplest way to keep tabs on when a live broadcast is happening.
NASA APOD (Astronomy Picture of the Day) is obviously part of the much-larger NASA website, but while the main NASA site is the place to go for educating yourself about the cosmos, APOD is the page to bookmark for a daily visit. The images featured on the site are never dull, always showing a planetary landscape or celestial vista that will stop you in your tracks.
Each image comes with an explanatory paragraph detailing what it is you’re actually looking at. It’s important to put the imagery in context, and the links contained therein will open up new places of interest on the Web. For those just discovering APOD there is an Archive of the images featured dating all the way back to 1995.
I now know more about the universe than I did when I started writing this article, which says much for the astronomy websites referred to within. These represent just a sprinkling of the information and media about astronomy available online. We’ve previously featured other articles featuring websites dedicated to space, and both – 5 Best Websites For Space and Astronomy Fans and 6 More Interesting Websites A Space & Astronomy Buff Should Visit – are well worth reading.
Feel free to let us know your thoughts on the websites mentioned or suggest others that more people should know about. We’re always keen on hearing your views in the comments section below.
Image Credit: oewf
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