The universe is back in fashion. The closures have made millions of us star lovers, whether we’re looking up at the night sky to see some constellations from our backyards or staring at the moon through our windows. For some, the increased time alone has led to an explosion of interest in the night sky and our collective place within it. I watched this bloom with my own eyes, as I saw the rise in the number of my articles on stargazing for beginners, on NASA missions and on space science.
Two summers later, I’m still doing my best to bring you the best of what’s going on in an easy-to-understand daily article about exactly what you need to know, what to see and how to interpret the latest research by astronomers.
During my research, I came across some websites that beautifully summarize the size of the space and what exactly is happening inside it right now. Here are seven websites that will launch your web browser into outer space:
Do you know that picture in your head of the planets in a line from the sun heading out into space? It’s an illusion created just to show how far the planets are – on average – from the Sun, but it has nothing to do with what’s really going on in our star system. Signal planets today, a drone’s view of exactly where each planet is, and it will be day in and day out on its clockwise flight. Look at this location then get up early and look east and see the planets you can see… the solar system will suddenly make sense to you.
Sometimes a crew of three is on the International Space Station. The full list is seven, of course, but a visit by four space tourists changed that temporarily. Then there is China’s Tiangong Space Station, which currently has three astronauts on a very long mission. Each astronaut currently in space receives the name, nationality, occupation, and number of days spent in orbit. And no, they don’t count the billionaires who visit space for 30 seconds in the Blue Origin capsule.
What begins at Planck and ends with the entire visible universe? An interactive tool for exploring the size and scale of objects in the universe, this 3D model defaults to representations of teapot, hummingbird, and buttercream, and allows the user to swipe inward to make it smaller and swipe out to go into the universe visible through stars, our Milky Way galaxy and the distance to the Hubble field the deep. You heard the phrase “space is big”, right? Well, it’s really…
A former planetary scientist at NASA and now at the Japan Space Agency (JAXA), Follow Dr. James O’Donoghue on Twitter If you want to know how the solar system should really work. Your reward will be a great YouTube-based animation that shows everything from the size of the planets, the speed they orbit, and the reason for the seasons.
What is the launch date of the next SpaceX missile? A regularly updated list of planned orbital missions from space airports around the world, this is the website to bookmark to keep abreast 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 a total solar eclipse is a life wasted. These transient events occur approximately every 375 years in the same place on Earth, but fortunately the “Great American Eclipse” that went from coast to coast in 2017 will be followed on April 8, 2024 when it was a very long time 4 minutes + “total” would pass From Mexico through Texas and the Midwest and over Niagara Falls to Canada. No eclipses will match the “Great North American Eclipse” until 2045 – and this awesome simulation from eclipse chaser Dan McGlone will show you exactly what to expect on the big day. Get planning!
There are plenty of free apps and software out there that act as virtual planetariums and allow you to determine what’s going on in the night sky (the free Stellarium is great!). However, this website from Time and Date successfully distills that into a single web page that defaults to where you are. You’ll wake up and set times for the moon and planets, comment on the visibility of where you are and a virtual map of the night sky that you can scan. It is much less difficult than planetarium software and stargazing apps.
I wish you a clear sky and wide eyes.