"Fourteen scholars from the University of Nottingham unravel the mysteries of the "strange squiggles and symbols used by scientists" in Sixty Symbols, a site that explores physics and astronomy concepts using short (ten minutes or less) entertaining videos. The symbols are nicely rendered, and they are used as links to the videos. A symbol's name appears when mousing over the symbol. The name of the Web site reflects the original intent of producing 60 videos, but now the goal is to produce 120 videos (there were 74 at the time of this review). If a concept being explored does not have a corresponding symbol, then a new symbol is created. The videos are not lessons or lectures but rather "fun chats with men and women who love their subject and know a lot about it."
Clicking on a symbol opens a pop-up browser window where one can play the video using a YouTube embedded player. This window redisplays the symbol with its name along with a witty comment. Paging through all the videos is possible in the pop-up window by using the previous and next links. Ads appear at the beginning of each video. Both image and sound quality are very good. Users can subscribe to an RSS feed to learn about newly added or updated videos. If a symbol is not currently explained, visitors can make suggestions for adding it. Site developers also welcome comments about each video; they can be submitted at the YouTube channel http://www.youtube.com/sixtysymbols. Companion Web sites include Test Tube: Behind the Scenes in the World of Science http://www.test-tube.org.uk/ and the Periodic Table of Videos http://www.periodicvideos.com/ (CH, Feb'09, 46-3256)." Choice June, 2010.
"Asteroid Watch, part of the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory site, made its debut in July 2009 with a stated goal to "provide the public with up-to-date and accurate information about asteroids" and to "report and monitor orbits of near-earth objects." Taken solely on its own, the narrow scope and recent release makes for a site that is unique but does not offer great depth of information. The site exists to provide basic facts about the origin of asteroids and comets, to track how close they come to Earth, and to report about space missions.
An easily navigated bar across the top provides links to pages with images, downloads/interactives (e.g., Asteroid Watch Widget), an overview of asteroid information, the top ten asteroid facts, spacecraft missions that are in process or due to begin in the next couple of years, asteroid news, and videos. The image page, which had eight images featured at the time of this review, includes a box with links to Photojournal, a searchable database containing numerous images of various astronomical objects, and a NASA Images and Space Gallery. Registration is not necessary for the site. General searching is done via a simple box, with no limiters available. Results are retrieved from all Jet Propulsion and many NASA sites, and appear to total 30 hits for each search. Readers may receive updates via RSS feeds, e-mail alerts, and Twitter. The site worked equally well in Internet Explorer and Mozilla Firefox. Asteroid Watch will be of interest to students, space buffs in the general public, and high school science teachers." Choice January, 2010.
Unlike most planetarium software, Celestia doesn't confine you to the surface of the Earth. You can travel throughout the solar system, to any of over 100,000 stars, or even beyond the galaxy.
All movement in Celestia is seamless; the exponential zoom feature lets you explore space across a huge range of scales, from galaxy clusters down to spacecraft only a few meters across. A 'point-and-goto' interface makes it simple to navigate through the universe to the object you want to visit.
Celestia is expandable. Celestia comes with a large catalog of stars, galaxies, planets, moons, asteroids, comets, and spacecraft. If that's not enough, you can download dozens of easy to install add-ons with more objects.
"ComPADRE, part of the National Science Digital Library http://nsdl.org/ (CH, Sup'05,42Sup-0494), is a partnership of the American Association of Physics Teachers, the American Astronomical Society, the American Institute of Physics/Society of Physics Students, and the American Physical Society. ComPADRE's goal is to steward high-quality digital resources in physics/astronomy education. The site's collections provide tips, techniques/manuals, and equipment for the laboratory experience; classifieds for equipment sought; resources and support for K-20 instructors/teachers; and simulations, curriculum, and computational tools. The collections also offer resources for education research; a community portal for undergraduates, including summer research and scholarship opportunities and textbook reviews; and Web-, monograph-, and journal-based resources for learning and exploring physics/astronomy. Each collection has its own look and internal navigation.
The collections can be browsed from the main Web page by categories: K-12 Teacher, College Faculty, Student, Educational Research, and Interested in Physics. One can search the entire site using a simple keyword search or conduct an advanced search, which allows limits based on subject, cost, resource type, and target level and role. Individual resources within each category note the intended academic levels and audience, and similar materials are identified and linked together. Not all resources are freely available, but access rights and restrictions are clearly noted. Users who create accounts on the comPADRE site may rate and comment on the various resources and participate in discussion boards. They can also make folders in a personal filing cabinet to store bookmarks to resources. ComPADRE is an important Web portal/database for both teachers and learners, and it more than fulfills its goal of offering high-quality resources in physics/astronomy." Choice, July 2009.
"This online exhibit, one of several published by the Center for History of Physics, a division of the American Institute of Physics, is coauthored by Norriss S. Hetherington, director of the Institute for the History of Astronomy at Berkeley, and W. Patrick McCray, a historian of science. Cosmic Journey's unusual design presents independent, parallel histories of tools and ideas. Each story is vividly told through biographies and portraits of the men of science, and illustrated with images of their machines and conceptions.
The Ideas section covers the essentials of cosmological history, including the work of Greek scientists/philosophers, Copernicus, Newton, as well as lesser known figures of the 20th century. The Tools section combines observation, ideas, and technology, moving from the naked eye to early telescopes, through space telescopes, spectroscopy, and nonoptical cosmology. A small Resources section provides a useful list of additional educational Web sites and books. Sites of this quality in the history of astronomy are few and far between. Compare the largely inactive site at the University of Bonn, Astronomiae Historia/History of Astronomy http://www.astro.uni-bonn.de/~pbrosche/astoria.html (CH, Dec'01, 39-2168), which often appears on a short list of such sites and is listed among the exhibit's resources." Choice, September 2009.
"The Galaxy Zoo files contain almost a quarter of a million galaxies which have been imaged with a camera attached to a robotic telescope the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, no less). In order to understand how these galaxies — and our own — formed, we need your help to classify them according to their shapes — a task at which your brain is better than even the fastest computer."
"In this International Year of Astronomy (see http://astronomy2009.us/home/, CH, Jun'09, 46-5578), marking the 400th anniversary of Galileo's first use of a telescope to view the sky, HubbleSite is a useful resource for learning more about our skies today. The award-winning site is chock-full of information and images about the Hubble Space Telescope and astronomy for every audience, including children, educators, and the general public, as well as museums/planetariums. Tabs across the top of the screen make navigation easy: Home, Newscenter (with an archive back to 1990, when Hubble first sent pictures back to Earth), Gallery, Hubble Discoveries, Hubble Telescope, Explore Astronomy, Education and Museums (great educational tools here), Reference Desk, and The Future: Webb Telescope. A box for searching the entire site appears in the upper right corner of the screen. The site is maintained by a dedicated, talented team at the Space Telescope Science Institute (STSci), home to the Hubble and its successor, the James Webb Space Telescope, by contract with NASA.
A constantly changing Site Highlights box in the center of the page has an obvious pause button, so users can view the images and text at their own pace. Stargazers is a "monthly guide to constellations, planets, cosmic events, and more." Additionally, this section features Watch Tonight's Sky (Northern Hemisphere vantage point), a particularly enjoyable show. The home page links to a blog and other related sites; Hubble is also on Twitter. Hubble's spectacular revelations will continue into the future, though the servicing missions are over. STSci will continue to share with a worldwide audience the "grace and beauty of the universe, because the discoveries belong to all of us." In Internet Explorer, the SVG viewer must be downloaded and installed as a plug-in in order to view some of the images." Choice, November 2009.
HyperPhysics is an exploration environment for concepts in physics which employs concept maps and other linking strategies to facilitate smooth navigation. For the most part, it is laid out in small segments or "cards", true to its original development in HyperCard. The entire environment is interconnected with thousands of links, reminiscent of a neural network.
This dictionary is a section within the larger Imagine the Universe! Web site run by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center to "provide educational materials and resources to students, teachers, and the general public who wish to know more about the wondrous Universe." The material is maintained by a group of NASA astronomers and programmers. The Imagine Team includes project leader Jim Lochner (PhD in astrophysics), curator/webmaster Meredith Gibb, and the "Responsible NASA Official" Phil Newman. All current and former contributors and their biographies are available on the Web site. No scope is defined for the Dictionary, but coverage includes definitions of physics, mathematical and astronomical concepts, acronyms, units of measure, scientific laws, famous scientists and mathematicians, national/international astrophysics and astronomy projects/programs, mathematical equations, and more. The format mimics an encyclopedia with dictionary-length descriptions. Some entries include highlighted words whose definitions appear with a mouse rollover and are hyperlinked to the definition within the Dictionary. Associated hyperlinks lead to pictures of scientists, relevant Imagine the Universe! articles (under the Science tab), and associated external project and program Web sites. At the time of this review all links were functional. Dictionary content was last updated at the end of 2004, but hyperlinked materials had recent dates. Given the basic nature of definitions, the date of last update is somewhat irrelevant. Navigation is extremely easy and intuitive, and the help function is useful regarding potential issues with browser compatibility and computer settings. Users may offer suggestions via a Feedback tab. From Choice, Feb. 2011.
"The Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics at Los Alamos National Laboratory is committed to promoting and supporting high quality, cutting-edge science in the areas of astrophysics, space physics, solid planetary geoscience, and complex dynamical earth systems. These focus areas are selected based on their breadth of scientific challenges facing the international scientific community, as well as on the strategic need to extend Laboratory scientific excellence."
The MESSENGER Web Site (MESSENGER stands for MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging) offers a window into NASA's "mission to conduct the first orbital study of the innermost planet" with amazing illustrations and clear descriptions of the program and associated science. The site is sponsored by NASA, the Carnegie Institution for Science, and Johns Hopkins University's Applied Physics Laboratory. The home page includes real-time clocks displaying the time elapsed since the beginning of the mission, time until completion of the next orbit around Mercury, etc. Navigation is extremely easy and intuitive, with numerous sections that allow visitors to determine their depth of investigation.
Sections cover descriptions of the mission time line, spacecraft design, instrumentation, biographies of team members, and more. The searchable Gallery provides access to a vast assortment of images, photographs, animations, and movies. There are simulated flybys of Mercury, Earth, and Venus, including clear instructions on how to explore Mercury via Google Earth. The News Center has current updates on the mission, links to worldwide news sources, radio and video interviews with team members, and RSS subscription newsfeeds. The Education and Public Outreach section contains resources for students, teachers, and the public, including history and basic science. Questions are answered via FAQ lists; one can also e-mail engineers and scientists directly. Unlike many websites produced for laypersons, there are examples of how the research data results, dating back to the first MESSENGER mission in 1999, have been shared through team meetings, published articles, and presentations at scientific conferences. And for inspiration, the site presents artists' visual and poetic expressions. A unique, reliable, authoritative, dense, and up-to-date resource on the mission and the planet. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Primary and secondary school students and educators, lower-and upper-division undergraduate science education students, and general audiences. -- J. M. Scaramozzino, California Polytechnic State University
"What an incredible array of images from NASA, made available to the public by the Internet Archive (IA) http://www.archive.org/, a nonprofit library. The goal of NASA Images is "to increase our understanding of the earth, our solar system and the universe beyond in order to benefit humanity." NASA and IA entered into an agreement in 2007 to create this service, but IA receives no financial support from NASA. The project is currently funded through a grant. Some of the most spectacular photos on the site are taken by the Hubble Space Telescope. They include images of galaxies far beyond ours, the aftermath of a massive star's death, the world's first view of the Earth from the moon, and much more. Other spellbinding images are "Earthrise" from Apollo 8 (one of the most important photos of the millennium), the first groups of astronauts, including the original Mercury Seven astronauts, and on and on.
NASA Images is attractive, uncluttered and easy to navigate. Major sections include the Universe, the Solar System, Earth, Aeronautics, and Astronauts. There is also Spaceflight Timeline and a link to NASA's Web site, a treasure trove of information. The site is powered by Luna Imaging of California. In Luna, one can create or edit presentations that can easily be exported (with permission) to PowerPoint or Keynote. Luna maintains the aspect ratio of images in a slide and includes a zoom feature. For the most part, images on this site are not copyrighted, and may be used for educational or informational purposes. The help link is context sensitive. By simply registering for an account, users can save their work and preferences. This site is a great gift to the citizens of the world." - D. Landry-Hyde, Texas A&M University--Corpus Christi, from Choice Online
[Visited Sep'11] One does not get more authoritative then NASA when looking for Hubble images of birthing stars or pictures of astronauts taking small first steps. The NASA Multimedia Page is organized in sections by type of media: Images, Videos, Podcasts, and NASA TV, playable on numerous platforms. Various RSS feeds and blogs are also available. This overwhelming source of links to NASA media could allow for hours of random perusing. The TV channels alone, four of them, come 24/7, and the image files seem infinite both in subject and number. Hidden away under the Images section are pictures from NASA Image Exchange; this section provides an advanced search interface for accessing multimedia from a large contingency of NASA organizations, including databases of their major research and space centers. It will be important for NASA to ensure that there are clear links between source material from other NASA organizations and relevant parts of the NASA Multimedia Page.
The National Science Digital Library http://nsdl.org/ (CH, Sup'05, 42Sup-0494) has organized NASA multimedia computer files much more effectively for the purposes of curriculum development. However, the National Science Foundation's search results for astronomical multimedia files are significantly inferior to NASA's content. One drawback to the NASA site is its constant use of black backgrounds and dark blue buttons, which is very hard on the eyes; this reviewer did not even see some links until the mouse rolled over them, exposing further textual explanations. Overall, the large volume of materials combined with the constant updating of content in all the many formats makes the NASA Multimedia Page unique and valuable to science students, teachers, journalists, and hopefully, policy makers. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All libraries. -- D. E. Cleary, York College
"Portal to the Universe, created by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization and the International Astronomical Union, claims that it wants to be a "one-stop-shop for astronomy news." The site features international astronomical news through images, videos, blogs, audio/video podcasts, and RSS feeds. Besides news, users can view a variety of types of graphic data. These include live telescope observations, positioning of key spacecraft, a calendar of upcoming near-Earth objects, views of sunspots, details about extrasolar planets, and various pictures of the day. Capitalizing on Web 2.0 functionality, the site allows professionals and amateurs to contribute space-related RSS feeds through press releases, blogs, podcast, and images. The site archives, provides standardized metadata, and indexes the outputs to create an ongoing collection of astronomy news for future research.
The Portal is graphics heavy, so it could take a few seconds or more to load various files. Tabs on the top of the home page include News, Podcasts, Blogs, Participate, and Links, but this main page appears as an explosion of graphical information that is a little hard to sort through. Searching the site can be confusing and sometimes frustrating. There are three search options: Google Custom Search, Advanced Search (hidden under Press Releases in the News section), and Search and Filter. The Advanced Search option seems to search more than press releases, but it did not allow access to the hits found. The Search and Filter function allowed access to the hits, but the filter function was not found. Each of the three search options gives a different set of results. Overall, the Portal is a good site for obtaining astronomical information, but the organization and searching of the pages need improvement." Choice, November 2009.
"ScienceBlogs provides access to more than 70 blogs by selected leading bloggers from a wide variety of scientific disciplines. The scope is quite broad; topics range from women in science to bisphenol A. ScienceBlogs was launched in January 2006 by Seed Media Group, which also publishes the scientific magazine Seed. Seed Media Group was founded in 2005 by Adam Bly (formerly, National Research Council of Canada). Bloggers are selected 'based on their originality, insight, talent, and dedication.' Selected bloggers include professors in scientific disciplines, a freelance science journalist, and more. ScienceBlogs staff do not edit the bloggers' work.
Excellent site organization enables users to easily browse or search for blogs, which are organized by ten channels of content: Life Science, Physical Science, Environment, Humanities and Social Science, Education and Careers, Politics, Medicine and Health, Brain and Behavior, Technology, and Last 24 Hours (most recent posts). Special features include Top 5 Readers' Picks, direct links to the science news section of The New York Times online, RSS feeds including 'ScienceBlogs posts analyzing peer-reviewed journal articles,' e-mail notification of specific blogs or channels, Page 3.14 Editorial Musings, Ask a Science Blogger, and ScienceBlogs Weekly Recap (a newsletter that can be mailed to users' inboxes). The site loads fairly quickly and features only a few advertisements." from Choice, May 2009.
"The Astrogeology Research Program is a team of over 80 research scientists, cartographers, computer scientists, administrative staff, students, contractors, and volunteers working to support the efforts to explore, map, and understand our solar system. Fields of particular interest are mapping, planetary geologic processes, remote sensing and monitoring, and scientific analysis, which leads to answers about our neighboring planets."
"This guide is not meant to be a comprehensive or scholarly introduction to the complex topic of the role of women in astronomy, but simply a resource for those educators and students who wish to explore the challenges and triumphs of women of the past and present. It's also an opportunity to get to know some of the key women who have overcome prejudice and exclusion to make significant contributions to our field. To be included among the representative women for whom we list individual resources, an astronomer must have had something non-technical about her life and work published in a popular-level journal or book. This explains why so many talented women are not covered; their work is mainly known through journals that students cannot read. Suggestions for additional non-technical listings are most welcome, however."
"Microsoft Research's WorldWide Telescope (WWT), launched in May 2008, allows the public free access to telescopic data. The WWT, a collection of images and data created from information received from several major physical telescopes or telescopic projects, like Hubble, Spitzer, Chandra, Tycho, and Fermi, creates a virtual telescope through Microsoft's Visual Experience Engine. WWT can run as a Web client or be installed as a Windows client for PC and Mac; the Windows client takes a few minutes to load. The site is in beta testing, so features may change over time. Site visitors can see a wide variety of images, including stellar phenomena millions of light years away.
Navigation can be confusing initially. Tool bars at the top and bottom of each page control the image being viewed. WWT offers guided tours and mini documentaries by top scientists discussing topics such as black holes, planets, or nebulas. In addition, users can conduct searches by object name or specific fields (e.g., declination, radius, object type) and create and store collections of images. One can view the solar system, including specific constellations, in real time. The quality of views may vary since information is gathered from different sources. Site visitors have the option of downloading more sophisticated software tools to directly control their research. There is no information on how often WWT is updated. The obvious competitor in the market offering free space information is Google Sky http://www.google.com/sky/, which provides many images, but without the ability to fine-tune settings as WWT offers. WWT is useful to a wide audience, ranging from children just beginning their exploration of the universe to dedicated researchers with focused information needs." Choice August, 2010.