The universe is back in fashion. The lockdowns turned millions of us into stargazers, whether gazing up at the night sky to catch a glimpse of some constellations from our backyards or gazing at the Moon through our windows. For some, increased alone time led to an explosion of interest in the night sky and our collective place within it. I witnessed this blossoming with my own eyes, watching the numbers of my articles on stargazing for beginners, on NASA missions, and on space science increase.
After two summers, I’m still doing my best to bring you the best of what’s happening at an easy-to-digest everyday item about exactly what you need to know, what to see, and how to interpret the latest research from astronomers.
During my research I came across some websites that beautifully encapsulate the scale of space and exactly what is happening inside of it right now. Here are seven websites that will launch your web browser into outer space:
You know that picture in your head of the planets in a line from the Sun going out into space? It’s an illusion created simply to show how far, on average, the planets are from the Sun, but has no bearing on what’s actually happening in our own star system. Sign the planets today, a drone-eye view of exactly where each planet is, and where it will be from day to day on its clockwise journey. Look at this website, then get up early and look to the east and see what planets you can see… the solar system will suddenly make sense to you.
Sometimes it’s a minimal crew of three on the International Space Station. The full list is seven, of course, but the visit of four space tourists recently changed that, temporarily. Then there is China’s Tiangong Space Station, which currently has three taikonauts on a very long mission. Each astronaut currently in space is given a name, nationality, occupation, and how many days they have been in orbit. And no, they don’t count billionaires who visit space for 30 seconds in a Blue Origin capsule.
What starts with a Planck and ends with the entire observable universe? An interactive tool that explores the size and scale of things in the Universe, this 3D model has default representations of a teapot, hummingbird, and shrew and allows the user to scroll in to go smaller and scroll out to go larger. large to the observable universe through the stars. , our Milky Way galaxy and the distance to hubble deep field. You’ve heard the phrase “space is big,” right? Well, it really is…
A planetary scientist formerly at NASA and now at the Japanese Space Agency (JAXA), follow Dr. James O’Donoghue on Twitter if you want to know how the solar system really works you should. Your reward will be your wonderful YouTube based animations which demonstrate everything from the size of the planets, the speed at which they orbit and the reason for the seasons.
When is the next SpaceX rocket launch? A regularly updated list of planned orbital missions from spaceports around the world, this is the website to bookmark to stay on top of what’s happening and when. If you want it on your phone, download the space launch now app for rocket launch updates, notifications and links to watch live.
A life without experiencing a total solar eclipse is a wasted life. These fleeting events happen roughly every 375 years in the same place on Earth, but luckily, the “Great American Eclipse” that went from coast to coast in 2017 will be followed. on April 8, 2024 when a super long 4+ minute “totality” will go from Mexico through Texas, the Midwest and Niagara Falls to Canada. No eclipse will match this.”great north american eclipse” until 2045—and this fabulous simulation from eclipse chaser Dan McGlaun will show you exactly what to expect on the big day. Start planning!
There are plenty of apps and free software that act as virtual planetariums and allow you to identify what is happening in the night sky (the stellarium The software is great!). However, this Time and Date website successfully distills it into a web page that defaults to showing where you are. You’ll get moon and planet rise and set times, visibility commentary for where you are, and a virtual map of the night sky that you can scan. It’s much less daunting than planetarium software and stargazing apps.
I wish you clear skies and wide eyes.