August 5th, 2008
I throw a lot of links at the writers attending the Launch Pad Astronomy Workshop for Writers. I usually do it on the fly before a lecture, or embedded within lecture slides. It made sense to pull them out and to put them in one place with a little organization. The idea is that these sites have lasting and specialized value to the writer wanting or needing to include astronomy in their work. I’ll be maintaining and making future edits to the list (attendees are contributing, too), so please feel free to suggest a key site if you think I’ve overlooked one. Here they are for the attendees and the public. Enjoy!
General Astronomy Information and News
Bad Astronomy: Phil Plait’s Blog is an excellent source of basic astronomy information and news in the field.
Centauri Dreams: The News Forum of the Tau Zero Foundation
Space.com: One of several websites I like doing a consistently good job of covering astronomy news. You can sign up for a weekly email summary of stories.
Hard SF Writer’s Bookshelf: My list of some books on my bookshelf that I pull out to share with Launch Pad participants.
Astronomy Picture of the Day: Always really cool and the archive is now vast. Visit every day.
Professional Papers and Resources
astro-ph astronomy journal preprint server features abstracts and new papers just being released.
NASA Extragalactic Database (NED) is handy for detailed information about extragalactic sources.
The National Virtual Observatory (NVO) is a way to put together archival, public astronomical data.
NASA’s Astrophysical Data Server (ADS): Lots of basic information, scanned reference books, and abstract search for journal articles.
3D Star Maps: Really cool resource designed for sf writers.
Cycles in the Sky
Phases of the Moon: One of several nice websites illustrating this basic explanation. This one is better than many.
One page about the seasons that gets the explanation right and addresses some common questions and misconceptions.
In general, it is possible to know what the sky looks like at any given time from any given place on Earth (assuming no clouds), in the past or in the future. Check out Sky & Telescope’s Interactive Sky Chart.
A Private Universe is a movie showcasing the issue of misconceptions in science with particular focus on the seasons and phases of the moon.
There are a lot of good websites for solar system information. One is nineplanets.org.
An interactive Hertzsprung-Russell diagram. Fundamental to how we understand stars.
Star Clock is a program you can run on your PC that shows stellar evolution as a function of time on the Hertzsprung-Russell diagram. I used it when plotting my novel Spider Star.
Awesome page about the Galactic Center and the supermassive black hole that lives there.
Galaxy Zoo: A hands-on way of learning about galaxies.
Ned Wright: Ned is a professor of astronomy at UCLA. His website has very nice tutorials with good animations and FAQs about cosmology, as well as a “cosmology calculator” that lets you get quantitative.
Wayne Hu: Another nice set of tutorials, with excellent illustrations. Specialty is here the cosmic microwave background (CMB) radiation.
exoplanets.org: A nice compilation of information about exoplanets that have been discovered.
How to Design a Solar System. Nice little webpage walking through building an alien solar system, from stars to planets.
Horizons by Michael Seeds. This is the textbook I use in introductory astronomy and which I give to Launch Pad participants.
Be patient if the department server is cranky.