Explore the Universe With the Internet

Category: Astronomy

Did you know there was a rare lunar eclipse this morning? I missed it too. But if you take my advice in today's article, you'll never miss another eclipse, meteor shower or other awe-inspiring astronomical event. If you're an amateur astronomer, or you just enjoy looking up into the night sky, the Internet is full of resources for you. For the best star pictures, astronomy websites, user groups and online astronomy information, read on!

Explore the Universe With Online Astronomy Resources

Attention all stargazers... Space.com offers a handy stargazing guide to help you stay informed on what's happening in the night sky. Visit and learn how to view the moon, stars, planets, constellations, and sign up for breaking space news and updates on special events like eclipses, asteroids, meteor showers and rocket launches. And if you missed it, there are photos of the "Beaver Moon" lunar eclipse of November 2021 -- the longest partial moon eclipse in 580 years.

Our next stop along the celestial highway is NASA's Astronomy Picture of the Day. It features a high quality image with a description of its significance written by a professional astronomer in clear, easy to understand terms. One recent image (shown on this page) is "The Cat's Eye Nebula in Optical and X-ray." There's also an extensive archive going back several years.

Stellarium is a free planetarium for your computer, the same software being used in planetarium projectors. It shows a realistic sky in 3D, just like what you see with the naked eye, binoculars or a telescope. You can view it on the Web, or download the free software on your Windows, Mac or Linux computer.

The Nine Planets is one of the first, and still among the quintessential astronony websites. You'll find an overview of the history, mythology and current scientific knowledge of each of the planets and moons in our solar system. Each page has text and images, some have sounds and movies, and links to related information. Even though Pluto is no longer an "official" planet, the site retains the name it started with in 1994. The home page says "We still love you, Pluto!" in homage to the ex-planet.

Astronomy websites

The Planetary Society, the world's largest space-interest group, is dedicated to inspiring the public with the adventure and mystery of space exploration. Through projects and publications, the Society plays a leading role in creating innovative coalitions to engage the public and fuel support for exploring other worlds. The organization is supported by over 50,000 members in over 100 countries, and by hundreds of volunteers around the world. Click the "Explore Space" link at the top of the page for resources on Planets & Other Worlds, Space Missions and The Night Sky.

Galaxy Map focuses on our home galaxy, the Milky Way. You'll find maps, images, and a guide to the Milky Way. The Milky Way Explorer is a Google maps interface, that shows what our galaxy would like if we had the eyes to perceive the sky at infrared, microwave and radio frequencies, and what our galaxy might look like from an interstellar spaceship.

Here's a site aimed at amateur astronomers interested in satellite orbits. Did you know there are 100+ satellites orbiting the Earth, and many can be seen with the naked eye? Heavens Above will generate predictions about satellites that will be passing overhead for a particular evening, so you can keep watch as they zoom along in their orbits.

Khan Academy has a free online Cosmology and Astronomy course. Topics covered include: Scale of earth, sun, galaxy and universe; Big bang and expansion of the universe; Stars, black holes and galaxies; and Earth's geological and climatic history.

More Celestial Sights... and Sounds!

At Spooky Space Sounds, you can listen to radio emissions captured by spacecraft. NASA scientists converted these to sound waves, and the "sounds" of howling planets, magnetic fields, whistling helium, and a dust storm in space are rather eerie.

SPACE.com modestly bills itself as "the world's No. 1 source for news of astronomy, skywatching, space exploration, commercial spaceflight and related technologies." The site employs a team of professional reporters, editors and video producers to explore the latest discoveries, missions, and futuristic ideas. You'll find the latest happenings about the shuttle, NASA, and the space station; along with intriguing articles about space, astronomy and our place in the universe.

Sky Marvels provides astronomy enthusiasts of all ages a growing treasury of tools, information, animations, experiences, inspiration and fun! This site aims to bridge the gap between astronomy enthusiasts who are passionate about "real sky observing" with their telescopes, and those who would rather just simulate events on their computers. Immerse yourself in a 3D universe, and journey with startling realism to stars, planets, galaxies and over 100 globular clusters!

Sky Map is a free "hand-held planetarium" for your Android smartphone. Open the app and point it at an object in the night sky to identify stars, planets, nebulae and more. It can even find objects over the horizon, beyond your field of view. A similar app for iPhone users is Sky View.

Ever thought about joining an Astronomy Club? Astronomy clubs frequently offer discounts on astronomy related magazines and other printed material, loaner telescopes, and practical advice on how to get started in the hobby of Astronomy. Check out this list of clubs from Sky and Telescope Magazine, which covers the whole world.

Sky and Telescope also offers some helpful astrophotography tips & techniques.

Try reading sci.astro.amateur. Here, amateur astronomers from all over the world, some with a wealth of expertise, hang out, ask questions and discuss diverse astronomy topics. Quite a few of the posts deal with purchasing the right astronomical telescope or the right equipment to go along with it. This newsgroup is also another source of late breaking news, on comets, meteor showers, and aurorae.

Got a favorite astronomy site? Post your comments below...

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Most recent comments on "Explore the Universe With the Internet"

Posted by:

Rick Nimtz
19 Nov 2021

The internet is nice, only if you can't be there in person. I've seen many videos of a total solar eclipse. Nothing compares to seeing one in person.

The cooling air, the sound of insects, the reactions of fellow spectators, the joy & satisfaction mixed with melancholy when it's over - none of that can be experienced with the internet.

Posted by:

20 Nov 2021

For a user-friendly guide to the naked-eye objects that are visible wherever you are (and were or will be visible at any time) if the sky is clear, I recommend https://www.timeanddate.com/astronomy/night/

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