Comment »Posted on Thursday 5 March 2009 at 7:56 pm by Jacob Aron
In Inventions & Technology, Space & Astronomy

Hopefully you didn’t notice, but yesterday’s post was of the “here’s one I prepared earlier” variety. I’m smack in the middle of the busy period that began a few weeks ago, with two essays due next Tuesday, so being able to fall back on pre-written posts is always nice.

The reason for that rather rambling intro is that today I was amused to stumble across even more astronomy software! Coincidences, eh? Robert Simpson, of the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Cardiff University, has been working on scripts for Google Earth, Google Sky and Twitter.

If you’re a Google Earth user you can import his data to show you the current location of satellites in orbit around Earth. This includes the International Space Station (ISS), the Hubble Space Telescope, and even space junk. If you spot some satellites of your own, you can input the time and place, and the software will calculate a trajectory for you.

Google Sky, the outer space aspect of Google Earth that is also available online, gets its own additions. Using information from the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope SCUBA data, Simpson’s add-on will overlay thermal maps of space dust on to the visible spectrum.

Finally, everyone’s favourite Web 2.0 application Twitter gets in on the action. Subscribe to one of the many Twitter feeds for cities from Amsterdam to Vancouver (and a few others I’ve never heard of) and you will be alerted when the ISS and other objects of interest are about to pass over. The feeds give around a 30 minute warning and tell you where to point your telescope. Cleverly, you’ll only get a tweet when the weather is good enough for satellites to be visible. Neat stuff!

I’m increasingly geeking out over the possibilities of Twitter and other web applications for communicating science, so I just had to take a break from essaying to point these cool toys out. I’m afraid you can expect slightly slimmer pickings over the next few days, though I will hopefully still be putting something up daily.

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