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ESA - Space Science ~ Most have heard of NASA, unless they live somewhere needing astronomical intervention, but fewer notice its country cousin ESA, otherwise known as the European Space Agency. Now you’re better informed you have no excuse for not visiting their website, which has plenty of material to capture your attention, anyhow.
Evening Sky Map ~ Every month this site offers a printable map of the sky, for several locations and a number of different languages, that you can download and use in your stargazing exploits. It’s free for educational or non-commercial purposes and lists what you should look out for each night with your telescope, binoculars or your naked eye…
Exploring Comets ~ A short guide from the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. Of special interest is the section on comet names. Thus C/2012 S1 (ISON) is a non-periodic comet (C/). It was the first comet (1) spotted during the second half of September (S) 2012, using the International Scientific Optical Network (ISON) telescope. Got that?
Extrasolar Planets Encyclopaedia ~ Exoplanets orbit stars beyond the Sun. They exhibit a range of physical properties and can be smaller than the Earth, right up to the deuterium-burning limit of around thirteen times the mass of Jupiter, that distinguishes a giant planet from a brown dwarf. The study of these bodies is one of the fastest growing fields of astronomy…
Eyes On The Solar System ~ Web app created by NASA using their data, to help you explore the solar system in 3D. It has two main parts, one concentrating on immersive visualisations that follow the Juno mission to Jupiter, the other allowing you to zoom around in outer space at will. You’ll need to install the Unity Web Player, but that’s a straightforward process…
Fluxtimator ~ Pick your favourite meteor shower from the list provided. Choose your location or input your geographical coordinates. Select the viewing conditions that fit best and a date when you know the shower of interest will be visible. The Fluxtimator works out how many meteors you’ll see each hour and pinpoints the peak time for you to look.
Galaxy Zoo ~ An online astronomy project that needs your help with classifying over a million galaxies from pictures taken by a robotic telescope, because your brain spots patterns better than even the fastest computer. No prior knowledge is required, there’s an excellent tutorial and it’s all totally addictive once you’re quite confident.
Great American Eclipse ~ Please pick up some merchandise on your way out. Or in; we don’t care. On August 21, 2017 millions across the US catch a total eclipse of the Sun for the first time in 26 years. Twelve states lie beneath a centre line that sweeps from Oregon to South Carolina, with the finest views in sympathetic weather from KY 126, the Cerulean Hopkinsville Road.
Google Moon ~ Google Moon launched on July 20, 2005 the thirty-sixth anniversary of the first manned lunar landing. There’s a long way to go before this site approaches the phenomenon that is Google Earth, but the area explored by six Apollo missions is mapped out and you can zoom in to increasing levels of complexity and detail.
Habitable Exoplanets Catalog ~ While the space on Earth is increasingly at a premium, the search is on for habitable planets elsewhere in the cosmos. Exoplanets are planets from outside the solar system, orbiting other stars in constellations distant from this one. So far nine are regarded as potentially inhabitable, but others are constantly being discovered…
Haumea ~ The fifth dwarf planet to go official and acquire a proper name, was formerly called Santa and now Haumea after the patron goddess of the island of Hawai’i. Apparently, there are another 40 known bodies awaiting dwarf planet status, with estimates of perhaps 200 in the Kuiper belt and maybe 2000 further beyond that.
Heavens-Above ~ No-nonsense astronomy site that encourages registration, but only so everything can be customised for you. Rewards include personalised sky maps and data, plus a timetable of your next space station fly-past and Iridium flare - as the sun catches the antennae of an Iridium communications satellite.
Hermit Eclipse ~ Another great site for practical eclipse information from an astronomical perspective. Clearly presented and readable with some detailed graphics, an eclipse search facility and extensive statistical analysis. This site is more accessible than most, yet takes you as far as you want to go…
Hill Sphere ~ The Hill sphere was defined by the American astronomer George William Hill (1838-1914), based on the work of the French astronomer Édouard Roche. It is the gravitational sphere of influence exerted by an astronomical body, within which a smaller object is bound to orbit it. Amazingly, Neptune has the largest Hill radius in our Solar System, 2.2 times that of Jupiter.
How Are Minor Planets Named? ~ Remember when there was only Chiron? Thanks to better telescopes and more detailed observations, the quantity of numbered and unnumbered discoveries stood at 714,825 in June 2016. It would be fun to see astrologers ascribe characteristics to each one, since the International Astronomy Union has an uphill task even naming them all.
HubbleSite ~ With its new advanced camera, the Hubble Space Telescope captures supreme imagery of both the known universe and beyond. The official website has the full story with superlative details and extensive interactivity. The Hubble Deep Field multimedia tour is quite simply breathtaking!
Ian Ridpath’s Star Tales ~ Ian is a professional astronomer and a prolific author who regularly features in the media. His book Star Tales was first published in 1988 and outlines the myths surrounding the 88 constellations used nowadays, plus a few obsolete ones besides. It’s now available online, with updates and additions on the way…