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Website Reviews

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CAS LiveLinks

Links relevant to what’s in the news now . . .


In this section:

Universe Today
Space Weather
Heavens Above

Below are a selection of website reviews. The reviews provide a little more detail and opinion than our simple links page. If the reviews seem biased towards those with a good rating, they are. Lets face it you don’t want to waste your time reading about a bad site, and I don’t want to waste my time writing about one. We all know a bad site when we see one !

More reviews

Universe Today

Universe Today is one of a few space news sites on the web. The main aim of the site is to provide all the main developments in space science and astronomy each day. Each day around 3-4 articles are added to the site, except for weekends when the website operator, Fraser Cain, takes a well earned rest !

Updates don’t take place until early evening UK time due to the time zone in the US, but you still get accurate, timely (and free) space news. You can opt for e-mail updates, and can even put the news direct on your own website, as we have done in our news page.

The page layout and navigation is very simple, each article has a small photo to illustrate it, and appropriate links to news sources are provided. Printer friendly pages are good and clear.

There’s even a weekly ‘what’s in the sky’ bulletin, and other none news articles.




Space Weather


Space weather’s aim is to provide “news and information about the sun-earth environment”. What that means to you and me is information about solar activity and particularly how that might affect the Earth. Unless you’re worried about communications satellites or electricity distribution grids, the most obvious effect will be aurora or ‘northern lights’.

You will need to know a bit about the technical details to get the best from this site. It’s not obvious at first glance what the ‘Solar Wind’ and ‘X-ray Solar Flares’ under current conditions mean. However, there are explanation links under each. There’s also a current picture of the sun,and any large sunspot groups are obvious. There are images of the far side of the sun as well.

If there is a large solar flare on the Earth facing part of the sun, then the solar wind carries charges particles to the Earth which interact with the upper atmosphere and cause the spectacular auroral displays we see. Early warning of these events vastly increased your chance of seeing aurora. This makes the website (and other similar ones) worth keeping an eye on.

There are plenty of links to other solar related sites, and a different picture each day (some of the aurora photos are stunning!). However, the site navigation is a bit confusing for beginners, to my mind anyway. The site is well worth persevering with.



Heavens Above

This is a simple site both in aim and design. The site will provide you with a wide range on information on what is visible in the sky at your location.

That’s the key to this site, you need to ‘log in’ with details of your exact location to get the best out of it. You can do this by selecting from a database of locations (Cockermouth is there for example), or your latitude and longitude if you prefer. Once you’ve done that you can bookmark the page for your specific location and return as often as you like.

That done, you can now get lists of when bright satellites will be passing overhead at your location. You’ll be able to see when the International Space Station (ISS) is overhead. To help with you observing you can click on a particular ‘pass’ and get a basic sky map (see second screenshot). You can find out when Iridium Flares (satellites which flare up to brighter than any star in the sky for short periods) as visible.

If you want information on more natural heavenly bodies, there’s up-to-the minute information on planets, consellation maps, finder charts for significant comets, asteroids and much more.

The site style is very basic compared to modern sites, but that doesn’t matter, and makes the site faster. There’s an annoying banner advert at the top of the page, which I find distracting. But these sites have to raise funds to keep going, so it’s something we can all live with.

All in all this is a great site, with more than enough information to keep you coming back again and again.






This review is a bit of a departure from the astronomy theme, but the site is such a good idea and I'm sure will be useful.

Wikipedia is an online encyclopedia. Nothing new there, but the difference that Wikipedia is 'open source'. Put simply that means that anyone can create an article, and anyone else can alter or add to existing articles created by others. That might sound like a recipe for chaos, but it actually works very well. For someone to create an article they must be interested in, and presumably knowledgeable about a subject. Others interested in that subject will look at the article and correct any errors and omissions. Rules are in place to prevent the use of articles as advertising and unsuitable content..

The whole thing is very much 'work in progress', having said that there are around 900,000 articles already. Topics in the news get particular focus, and because they can be easily updated online, are always pretty much up to date. This includes space missions like Cassini-Huygens for example.

The home page shows a variety of ways of looking at the information, including a topic of the day, articles related to the current date (this day in history type things) and topics curently in the news. You can even follow a link to a random article.

The quality of articles does vary. The best articles are illustrated with public domain (copyright free) pictures and illustrations and include a number of links to other articles in wikipedia and other relevant websites. The site layout is very clear, and pages print very well for off-line reference.

Back to the astronomy and space theme. You will find loads of relevant and up to date articles on astronomy and space exploration, as this is an area which is well supported on the web. As well as good information the site provides a useful starting point for further links. As such it's one of the first places I visit when researching any subject. Give it an go, and if you're feeling brave create and article yourself.




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