Science and Engineering in Derby and Derbyshire
There are lots of reasons that you might be interested in looking at the sky. Perhaps you’re planning a career in astrophysics. Perhaps you’re waiting to see your first space phenomenon. Perhaps you’re hoping Gene Roddenberry got it right and you can spot some live action first contact. Whatever your motivation sky spotting, night or day, can keep your eyes occupied for hours. There are problems though. Firstly, despite many campaigns light pollution is still an issue. If you live in a residential area chances are your view of Andromeda is likely to be diminished by street lights. Secondly, and more pocket pressing, it can be expensive. If you have good eyesight, and live somewhere with few street lights, you could probably make out a few objects by eyesight alone. Sometimes though, the thing you want to see is just a touch past what human eyes can resolve, a telescope would be great, but have you seen the price of those things? A decent one is not pocket money. Fear not though! Here we have some great online tools that save you from spending several thousand pounds on a telescope, without missing anything…
The Bradford Telescope…Belonging to the University of Bradford this is actually in Tenerife . There are both day and night cameras and time lapse for those of us with not-so -great internet connections. They also have a searchable image gallery so if you want to check what something looks like, because you’ve spotted it, or someone mentioned it, you can.
The Harvard-Smithsonian Telescope page has a series of telescopes that can be controlled over the internet. The public access telescope is run in conjunction with NASA and you can select a specific planet or object to observe.
European Southern Observatory keeps its main telescopes in Chile (which the observant amongst you will note is southern but not very European). They are currently building the amazingly named ”The European Extremely Large Telescope”. Their images are currently videos and image banks rather than live telescope action, but a really useful resource.
Similarly NASA’s site is predominantly about what they do on their missions and photographs of previous exploration, including the remote Mars work. Though you aren’t likely to find much if you want to go star spotting it is a great resource for information about space science in general. It also happens to be a fabulous site for those of us who like to lust over space shuttles.
The Canadian Space Agency observatory is closed until August, as it is currently too sunny in Canada. In the meantime though they have footage of the broadcasts from the last astronomy season, and are worth bookmarking ready for August.
The Microsoft Research Worldwide Telescope requires you to download an application to your computer to view the images, but once you have you are able to watch a range of narrated tours. Since it is a collaborative tool if you happen to have the right equipment and see yourself as the next Chris Lintott or Heather Couper you can upload galactic tours yourself.
On the subject of Dr Lintott if you’re more interested in getting involved in ongoing space science his Galaxy Zoo may be just the thing for you. It’s a project of the organisation Citizen Science, and asks people to help classify the shape of galaxies. This shape classifying is used as part of bigger research and the website is run in conjunction with several universities.
If you have a burning desire to see what’s up past the clouds, but no wadge of cash burning a hole in your pocket then these sites may well be exactly the thing for you.
They can also be used as great introduction tools for younger members of your in house laboratory. Staying up late enough to see the stars is all very well and good as an adult, but a cold garden at 11pm is a bit of a challenge when you are six-year-old star spotter. Online telescopes can provide a great introduction for the astronomers and astrophysicists of the future.
If you know of any other star-gazing resources please do let us know in the comments!