Easy Astronomy Resources

If the weather stays clear, I’m going to be doing my first astronomy night of the semester with our students tonight, so I thought I’d shift gears a bit and share some of my favorite online astronomy resources with you. I’m fortunate enough to have access to a 10″ reflecting telescope for the informal programs I do, but there’s plenty to check out in the night sky even if all you have is your eyeballs.

  • SpaceWeather.com: the front page is kept updated with current space “weather” (solar storms, etc.), but the most useful part of this site is the section on flybys. Click on the Flybys tab, enter your zip code or Canadian postal code, and it will tell you when the International Space Station (ISS) and other satellites of note will be passing over you. When the ISS appears it basically looks like a very bright star moving across the sky. (It also provides a link to a global version if you’re outside the U.S. and Canada.)
  • How Many People Are In Space Right Now?: Once you know if you’ll be able to see the ISS anytime soon, make this site (literally howmanypeopleareinspacerightnow.com) your next stop. It tells you how many people are in orbit at the moment and provides a link to more information about the current mission.
  • Aurora Borealis Activity: If, like me, you’re lucky enough to live in a part of the northern hemisphere that occasionally experiences the aurora (or northern lights), add this to your list of bookmarks. Once you use the maps to figure out what the Kp level needs to be to see the aurora in your area, you’ll be able to judge at a glance how likely it is to be visible where you are at the moment.
  • This Week’s Sky at a Glance: this page from Sky & Telescope gives you a handy night-by-night summary of what to keep an eye out for in the sky, focusing mostly on stuff you can see without a telescope. Always worth checking before you head out.

Have you used any of these before? Grab some friends and have an astronomy night of your own!

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