TOURBUS: Tuesday, October 1, 1996
DRIVER: Bob Rankin
Astronomy on the Internet
(or "Geeks in Spaaaaaaaaace!")

Today's Bus ride comes to you courtesy of my brother Tom Rankin, a Computer Programmer by day for IBM, and an amateur astronomer by night. Tom is Vice-President of the Mid-Hudson Astronomy Association, (, and author of its web page. You can visit Tom's home page at or e-mail him at

Tom also does astro-photography, and has captured what he thinks is the trail of Comet Hyakupasta. But I've closely examined the film and well, it looks suspiciously like the home page of today's sponsor...

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---Snip--- An Introduction to Astronomy on the Internet

The sources of Astronomy information on the Internet are too numerous to even list in the space I've been given. Many Universities, observatories and other organizations, both amateur and professional, exist on the Web. This became very obvious when Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 crashed into Jupiter a few years ago. Data came pouring in almost instantly from all over the world, (even Antarctica!), and flooded the net with great images of the impact. There were movies, simulations, graphs, images and text, each describing this monumental event in a unique way. I noticed a few of the same images on TV one night that I had already seen on the Net! The same type of thing happened when Comet Hyakutake appeared in the sky last March.

Astronomy can be conveyed with either images or words. Both are effective means of communication, and the Internet is perfectly suited for bringing pictures and data together onto one screen for an even greater impact. This article will tell you where to get both graphical and text-based Astronomy Information on the Internet. I'll include some links, and I'll leave some for you to discover yourself. There's plenty of search engines for you to explore, and you'll probably find even more that way than just by reading my article.

Here are some Internet resources for Astronomy that I use regularly:


There are several newsgroups worth following, my favorite being sci.astro.amateur. As the name implies, here is where amateur astronomers can exchange information and ask questions to enhance their understanding of astronomy. Recently, we were discussing the Lunar Eclipse. Since the eclipse was largely clouded out where I live, I was interested in knowing how it appeared to other people. If you're more interested in cosmology, try sci.astro. (Warning! This group is filled with people who try to 'sell' their own peculiar ideas to anyone who will listen. This frequently creates a very low signal-to-noise ratio in this news group, but there is some good to be gleaned from it, if you know who to ignore). To keep up with what's going on in the various space programs, try There are other newsgroups in the and sci.astro hierarchy; I'll let you check them out for yourself if you're interested.

World Wide Web

Some of the hot spots on the Web for Astronomy right now are:


There are thousands of astronomy software programs available on the net. Check the FTP and shareware sites and search for 'astronomy'. One of my favorites is called SkyMap, which is shareware. It even has a Home Page. I'll leave finding this one to you, but I know that Yahoo, at can direct you to it. ---Snip---

Thanks, bro! See you all next time! --Bob

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