The universe is back in fashion. Lockdowns have made us millions of stargazers, whether looking up at the night sky to see a few constellations from our backyards or gazing at the Moon through our windows. For some, the increase in alone time has led to an explosion of interest in the night sky and our collective place within it. I have witnessed this blossoming with my own eyes, seeing the numbers rise for my articles on stargazing for beginners, NASA missions, and space science.
Two summers later, I’m still doing my best to bring you the best of what’s happening in an easy-to-digest daily article on exactly what you need to know, what to see, and how to interpret the latest research from astronomers. .
During my research, I have come across websites that beautifully encapsulate the scale of space and exactly what is happening there right now. Here are seven websites that will launch your web browser into space:
You know that image in your head of the planets aligned from the Sun out into space? It’s an illusion created simply to show you how far – on average – the planets are from the Sun, but it has nothing to do with what’s actually going on in our own star system. Signal The planets today, a bird’s-eye view of exactly where each planet is, and will be day-to-day in their clockwise journey. Look at this website, then get up early and look east and see what planets you can see… the solar system will suddenly make sense to you.
Sometimes it’s a reduced 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 the Chinese space station in Tiangong, which currently has three taikonauts on a very long mission. Each astronaut currently in space is given a name, nationality, profession, and number of days spent in orbit. And, no, they’re not counting billionaires who visit space for 30 seconds in a Blue Origin capsule.
What begins at a Planck and ends with the entire observable universe? An interactive tool exploring the size and scale of things in the universe, this 3D model defaults to representations of a teapot, hummingbird, and shrew and allows the user to scroll to go smaller and scrolling to go larger to the observable universe via stars, our Milky Way galaxy, and distance to the Hubble Deep Field. You’ve heard the expression “space is big”, right? Well, it’s really…
Planetary scientist previously 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 should. Your reward will be its wonderful YouTube-based animations that show 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 keep up to date with 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 occur roughly every 375 years in the same place on Earth, but coincidentally the “Great American Eclipse” that unfolded coast to coast in 2017 will be followed on April 8, 2024 when a super-long 4 minutes + “everything” will go from Mexico to 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 hunter Dan McGlaun will show you exactly what to expect on the big day. Prepare yourselves !
There are a ton of free apps and software that act as virtual planetariums and let you identify what’s going on in the night sky (the free Stellarium software is awesome!). However, this Time and Date website successfully distills that down to a single web page that defaults to where you are. You’ll get moon and planet rise and set times, visibility commentary where you are, and a virtual map of the night sky for you to browse. It’s far less intimidating than planetarium software and stargazing apps.
I wish you clear skies and big eyes.