Tools of Astronomy
The tools of astronomy include more than telescopes. There are also probes, landers, spectroscopes, satellites, computers, members of the public, star charts, planetarium programs and many others.
Annie Jump Cannon
Oh! Be a fine girl (guy)--kiss me! This is the traditional mnemonic for the way stars are classified: OBAFGKM. Find out about the astronomer and suffragette who devised the system and who said that astronomical spectroscopy made it "almost as if the distant stars had acquired speech."
Astronomers on the Mountain Tops
Big telescopes on high mountains, drawing astronomers to some exotic-sounding places. Is it as glamorous as it sounds? Not really, says one astronomer who describes some of the symptoms people suffer at high altitudes.
Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2011
More fantastic astronomy pictures from around the world were sent to the Royal Observatory at Greenwich, England in 2011. Exquisite skyscapes and landscapes, aurorae and nebulae, and the expanding shock wave of an ancient supernova explosion. Young astronomers continue to impress too.
Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2012
An exquisite whirlpool of two galaxies held together by invisible bonds was this yearīs winning image. And the Young Astronomy Photographer of the Year captured the beauty of the Pleiades, a cluster of hot blue stars surrounded by a delicate haze of reflective dust. A feast for the eye.
Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2013
Gasp at the Galaxy's starry glow. Be awed by aurorae. Marvel at meteors. Be dazzled by deep space. It's the Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2013 competition winners. If you can't see the exhibition in Greenwich, England, it's also online.
Cassini Mission and Website
The space probe Cassini has been sending home fantastic pictures of Saturn and its satellites since 2004, and its mission has been extended twice. Its website has a wealth of images and some interesting material for teachers and astronomy fans.
Choosing and Using a Telescope
Youīve learned about the night sky with binoculars and you want to see more. What kind of telescope is good for a beginner? Here are some hints for choosing and using your first telescope. Theyīve come a long way since Galileo first looked up through a telescope.
Christmas in the Skies
Christmas is a special day with a magic of its own. A Christmas eclipse is a great treat and centuries ago a long-awaited comet finally showed up on Christmas day. On the other hand, imagine spending the holidays a quarter of a million miles from home as the crew of Apollo 8 did.
Distances in Space
You wouldn't want to know the distance from Boston to San Francisco in inches. And for the same reason, miles aren't very useful in space. After all, it's 26 trillion miles to the next nearest star. So how do astronomers deal with these enormous distances?
Millions of people have followed the treks of the Martian rovers Spirit and Opportunity as they explored the red planet. In 2009 Spirit became trapped and was last heard from in March 2010. After a year being unable to contact her, on May 24, 2011, with sadness, NASA formally ended her mission.
Heavens Above [offsite link]
Heavens Above helps you find things in the sky.
You can get predictions for the International Space Station and for a number of satellites. Each prediction includes the time, brightness and where to look.
A whole sky chart feature lets you see where stars and planets are from any location at the time and date that you choose.
If you register as a user, which is free, you donīt have to put in your location every visit and you can list a number of locations.
Hubble 3D - film review
For over two decades a special telescope has given us breath-taking views of the cosmos. The Hubble Space Telescope has lasted this long through servicing by space shuttle astronauts, but the final mission is over. This IMAX film is a tribute to the iconic instrument - is there a theater near you?
Photography and the Birth of Astrophysics
Saturn's rings, spiral galaxies, solar flares. Astrophotography has shown us some wonderful images, but it's more than pretty pictures. It has allowed us to discover objects too dim for the human eye to see. Partnered with spectroscopy, it moved astronomy from mapping to understanding the stars.
Royal Greenwich Observatory Photography
An ancient tree is young compared to the center of the Galaxy. The Sun shines through dark clouds as a perfect ring in an annular eclipse. These are two of the dazzling images in the Astronomy Photographer of the Year competition. You can see the exhibition online.
Satellites & Probes
The Hubble Space Telescope is the most famous astronomical satellite. But meet some of the others. What are they finding out and how are space probes complementing these discoveries?
Seeing in the Dark - book review
Does amateur equal incompetence? No, says Timothy Ferris in a superb book exploring the role of amateur astronomers in probing the heavens. He reminds us that the root of the word amateur is love, and interweaves the stories of these lovers of astronomy with a grand tour of the universe.
The Transit of Venus - book review
In the north of England in the early 17th century, there was an amazing circle of astronomers. They were well ahead of their time and included the first two people ever to observe a transit of Venus. What ended this brief flowering? Peter Aughton tells the story.
Transit of Venus - Measuring the Solar System
On June 8, 2004 millions of people witnessed an event that no one still alive had ever seen: a transit of Venus. Another one will occur in June 2012 and then not again for over a hundred years. What is a transit of Venus? How did it help in working out the size of the Solar System?
Water on the Moon
Everybody had known for a long time that the Moon was bone dry. In the nineties probes found some evidence of water. After a big announcement of water on the Moon, it went back again to being described as dry. Whatīs the story in the 21st century?
What Herschel Found in a Dark Cloud
What's hiding within an impenetrable dark cloud in the constellation of the Eagle? A stunning stellar nursery. Find out how the Herschel Space Observatory was able to photograph it.
Whatīs in a Name
Things arenīt always what they seem. Many discoveries arenīt named for or by their discoverers. Halley didnīt discover Comet Halley. Kuiper said the Kuiper Belt didnīt exist. The Herschels called Uranus "the Georgian planet" after George III of England, but no one else did.
Who Let the Dogs out?
Someone must have left the door open, because the skies are full of dogs. You can see the dogs of Orion and the hunting dogs of the shepherd Bootes in pursuit of the Great Bear. There is also the Running Dog Nebula and the memory of poor Laika, the first cosmonaut, who perished in space.
Young Astronomers at Work
Telescopes are essential for astronomy, but you donīt need one of your own. A computer can be the right instrument. Big telescopes collect data faster than professionals can process it, so amateurs can help. There is also room for individual ingenuity. See what some young astronomers have done.
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