Sticky Post

We are currently not maintaining our blog here. Please go to our Facebook Page for latest updates!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

7 useful astronomy resources

Finding out what's happening up in the sky often involves using a variety of resources, such as books, star charts, astronomy software, apps, etc. Some may present you with a bunch of number or unfamiliar terminology. Here's some of my favourite online resources, which are relatively easy to use and interpret as well as some new ones which I just recently discovered.

This popular astronomy magazine has many useful features on its website. The Sky Chart provides a relatively simple view of which stars and planets you can expect to see at any time of day or year.

After registering your details on the site and opening the sky chart, you first have to set your location/hometown and timezone (i.e. Singapore, GMT+8). Once that's done, you can alter the time and date on the side panel and watch which objects appear during that particular time.

This website provides a static but more detailed starmap for each month, in an easily printable pdf format. The important part is to pick the right map for your part of the world, i.e in Singapore, you'll need the Equatorial Edition.

Enter your desired date and time, and receive a simple image of the moon phase on that particular date.

View any object in the solar system as they would appear from any other object. For example, look at the rings of Saturn as seen from its largest moon Titan or how the Sun and other planets look like from Pluto.
I often use it to get an overall view of the whole solar system, to see the arrangement of planets during significant alignments or the position of current space probes, like New Horizon, which is on its way to Pluto.

On the menu page, you need to select the object you wish to view and  where you want to view it from, as well as the size of the field of view.

NASA Solar System  Simulator -  field of view 45 degrees - wide enough to see Pluto, but too far to see inner planets
NASA Solar System - field of view 5 degrees - only wide enough to see up to Jupiter. but can show position of inner planets.

I recently remembered this rather nice-looking solar system model. Although the size and distances of the planets is not to scale, their positions are accurate.
Just drag the arrow indicating the date around the outer edge or select the running speed on the control bar in the top left corner and watch the planets dance around each other.

The two options at the bottom right corner (Copernican and Tychonian) give two slightly different views: Copernican shows the more realistic view with the Sun at the centre, whereas Tychonian puts Earth at the centre, allowing you to see the position of planets as seen from Earth.

Very similar to dynamic diagrams, except with more options that allow you to adjust the size and scale of the planets. 

Both Planets Today and Dynamic Diagrams appear to be used for astrology, as they provide information regarding the position of the planet's with respect to zodiac star signs (Leo, Gemini, etc). Whilst the zodiac does represents actual constellations, the position of the astrological star signs given in these two sites is scientifically inaccurate and out of date. However, you have to option to remove the zodiac star signs from each diagram.

Finally, for a bit of solar system exploring fun try Ace of Space and pilot your space ship around the solar in the fastest possible time.

No comments:

Post a Comment