Astronomy and Space 

Educational Websites of Interest

Compiled by
Michael Burton
School of Physics, UNSW, 
December 2000.   
The Antarctic Fibre Optic Spectrometer (AFOS) telescope at the South Pole


Board of Studies, New South Wales

Everything you need to know about the Board of Studies, including all the syllabi, sample exam papers etc.

Department of Astrophysics, University of New South Wales

One of Australia's leading university research groups in astronomy, with particular strengths in star formation, cosmology, infrared astronomy, millimetre-wave astronomy and Antarctic astronomy.

School of Physics, University of New South Wales

One of Australia's premier physics groups, undertaking a wide range of research activities, including condensed matter physics, biophysics, environmental physics and astrophysics.

Astronomical Society of Australia

The society for professional astronomers in Australia.

Australian Institute of Physics

The society for professional physicists in Australia.

Anglo Australian Observatory

Australia's national optical / infrared observatory. Includes an excellent source of astronomical images taken by David Malin.

Australia Telescope National Facility

Australia's national radio observatory.

Hubble Space Telescope

Home page for the Hubble Space Telescope, including access to all the news releases, pictures and extensive educational resources.

NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration)

Starting point for a truly vast ranges of resources!  Of particular interest might be the link to Human Spaceflight.

Educational Resources

Amazing Space

A set of web-based activities designed for classroom use. Includes

  • The Truth about Black Holes,
  • Galaxies Galore — the building blocks of the Universe,
  • Star Light, Star Bright — light, colour and the stars,
  • Solar System Trading Cards — about the objects in our Solar System,
  • Hubble Deep Field Academy — train to be a scientist,
  • Astronaut Challenge — create a schedule for the servicing mission for the Hubble Space Telescope,
  • Galileo to the Hubble Space Telescope — a brief history of telescopes.

AstroCappella is a marriage of astronomy and music, developed by astronomers and professionally recorded by the Chromatics. It includes the following downloadable songs:

  • Cosmic Radio Show: about radio astronomy,
  • Doppler Shifting: what is the Doppler Shift and how do astronomers use it?
  • High Energy Groove: X-ray and gamma-ray astronomy, including black holes!
  • HST-Bop: about the Hubble Space Telescope,
  • Swift: about a Gamma-Ray Burst-chasing satellite,
  • Sun Song: about our star, the Sun,
  • Wolf 359: about taking a rocket to the nearest stars.
A free CD can be obtained by teachers containing all the songs. The web pages not only contain the words, which tell the story behind the subject matter, but also contain an activity sheet and include supplementary information, images etc.

Astronomy HSC

The CSIRO/ATNF astronomy course for HSC Physics teachers. Contains similar material to these lecture notes, but presented in a different form.

Astronomy Notes

Lecture notes for a complete astronomy course, together with images, from Nick Strobel of Bakersfield College. A quite remarkable resource. It contains the following sections:

  • Astronomy as a Science and a Sense of Scale.
  • Method for Finding Scientific Truth.
  • Astronomy Without a Telescope (Naked Eye Astronomy).
  • History of Astronomy.
  • Newton's Law of Gravity.
  • Einstein's Relativity
  • Electromagnetic Radiation (Light).
  • Telescopes.
  • Planetary Science.
  • Solar System Fluff.
  • Stellar Properties.
  • Our Sun and Stellar Structure.
  • Lives and Deaths of Stars.
  • The Interstellar Medium and the Milky Way.
  • Other Galaxies and Active Galaxies.
  • Cosmology.
  • Life Beyond the Earth.
  • Angular Momentum in Astronomy (Appendix A).
  • Mathematics Review (Appendix B).
  • Tables (Appendix C) (Astronomical and physical constants, planetary and stellar data)
  • Glossary (Appendix D).
  • Study Skills: textbook reading, homework & exams
  • Astronomy on the Web
Astronomy Picture of the Day

Updated daily with a picture of somewhere interesting in the Universe, with a brief description from a professional astronomer.

From Stargazers to Spaceships

An on-line book on astronomy. It contains a course on astronomy, mechanics, the Sun and spaceflight. Most of the material is non-mathematical, it contains lession plans, guidance for teachers, a timeline, a glossary, problems and some suggestions for hands-on projects.

Great Debates in Astronomy

Classic debates in astronomy on major issues. A useful reference not only for the subject at hand, but for the history of science, and also for understanding the working of the scientific method. Debates include:

  • The Scale of the Universe (1920); Curtis, Shapley.
  • The Distance Scale to Gamma-ray Bursts (1995); Paczynski, Lamb.
  • The Scale of the Universe (1996); Tammann, van den Bergh.
  • The Nature of the Universe (1998); Peebles, Turner.
Imagine the Universe

A service from the high-energy astrophysics group at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. The site is dedicated to a discussion about our Universe; what we know about it, how it is evolving, and the kinds of objects and phenomena it contains. Just as importantly, it also includes discussion on how scientists know what they know, what mysteries remain, and how we might one day find the answers to them.

Java Applets

This is a demonstration page of various physics and astronomy Java applets from the University of Oregon Physics Department. They recommend a minimum size of 800x600 to view these resources. The Java applets which are referenced have been certified to work under Netscape version 3.0 (and higher) on a Windows 95 platform or in the SUN/Solaris OS. Java under Netscape on a Mac still exhibits problematical behaviour. Please be patient when loading the applet pages - if funny behaviour occurs under Windows95 try flushing Netscape's Cache. Note that hitting the reload button will often cause the applet to be repainted incorrectly. This behaviour is beyond their control. In this case it’s best to go back to the demo page, flush the cache, and click on the applet link again. Referenced animations are all in MPEG format so an MPEG viewer is required to view them.

NASA tracking software J-track allows you to see where any satellite is at any time!  It works using java applets, so should work on your machine once you download the database. In particular, you can find out where the Hubble Space Telescope, the Mir space station, the Space Station and the Space Shuttle (during missions) are right now, watch their progress across the surface of the Earth and see when they will next be visible from your location.  The 3D version is particularly useful for illustrating orbital mechanics, by observing the distribution of satellites used for specific purposes (eg astronomy-IUE, HST, ROSAT, Chandra; communications, iridium, military-GPS; weather-GOES). Satellite location over Earth map

Mouse controls:
Click on craft Change orbital data in lower right 
Ctrl+Click on craft Toggles on/off ground trace
Shift+Click on craft Goes to web page about craft
Click+hold on map Display first visible at longitude 3D distribution of satellites

 Mouse controls: 
Shift+Click Zoom In
Ctrl+Click Zoom Out
Click on satellite show trace
Click in list show trace
Drag rotate in 3d


Origins Program (NASA)

The Origins Program is funded by NASA for the scientific study of the long chain of events from the birth of the universe in the Big Bang, through the formation of galaxies, stars and planets, the chemical elements of life to the profusion of life on Earth and possibly elsewhere. This link is the public gateway to the program. There are fact sheets on the following:

  • How did the galaxies form?
  • What is the key to the formation of stars?
  • When do stars form planetary systems?
  • Do other planets like the Earth exist?
  • How did life begin on Earth?
  • What diverse forms of life should we search for?
  • Why should we care?
There are on-line tutorials for:
  • A timeline for the universe,
  • Searching for life elsewhere in the universe,
  • Infrared astronomy.

Physics Demonstration Resources Online

A directory of Physics resources that are available on-line.  A mixture of catalogues of physics demonstrations that institutions use, to web-based online experiments. 

Project Astro (Astronomical Society of the Pacific)

Astronomers and educators as partners for learning. Project ASTRO began in 1993 as a pilot project in California, pairing professional and amateur astronomers with the classroom. It combines the expertise of educators and scientists in a long-term collaborative. The partners are trained together in workshops that emphasise hands-on activities with family and community involvement. Some sample classroom activities include:

  • Picture an astronomer,
  • Cosmic calendar,
  • Your astrology defence kit,
  • Remember the Egg.
Project CLEA (Contemporary Laboratory Exercises in Astronomy)

Project CLEA develops laboratory exercises that illustrate modern astronomical techniques using digital data and colour images. They are suitable for high schools. Each CLEA laboratory exercise includes a dedicated computer program, a student manual, and a technical guide for the instructor. The CLEA labs run under Windows on PC's, or on Macintosh computers (but work best on PC’s). The exercises can be down-loaded for free. Of particular interest may be the following exercises:

  • The flow of energy out of the Sun,
  • The Hubble redshift-distance relation,
  • The large scale structure of the universe,
  • The revolution of the moons of Jupiter.
Others include:
  • Radio astronomy of pulsars,
  • Astrometry of asteroids,
  • Rotation of Mercury by the Doppler effect,
  • Photo-electric photometry of the Pleiades,
  • Spectral classification of stars,
  • Eclipsing binary stars,
  • Height of Lunar mountains.
Relativity on the World Wide Web

Appears to have closed down or move. New address unknown.

A starting point for learning about Relativity, with a comprehensive listing of sites on the subject.  Broken down into three main sections:

  • Popular science sites
  • Visualisation sites (ie animated graphics)
  • Tutorial sites


Science Education Gateway

The Science Education Gateway is a collaborative NASA project, which brings together the expertise of NASA scientists, science museums, and educators to produce Earth and space science curricula for classroom and public use via the World Wide Web. This SEGway web site is designed to help teachers locate and identify the resources they can use best and that fit their local curriculum and National Science Education Standards. Web-projects are divided into three main categories, each containing several web-based tutorials:

  • Space Science,
  • Sun / Earth,
  • Solar System.
Solar System Exploration

Lesson plans from NASA JPL (some need to be down-loaded in PDF format) regarding the Solar System. These may help you find ways to integrate the study of Space Science into the curriculum. The lesson plans are classified by grade level, subject area and type of study, in the form of a look-up table or "quilt".

  • Outer Planets Solar Probe Lessons
  • Pluto Express Curriculum Guide,
  • Mathematics of Microgravity,
  • Field test version of the Cassini Teacher Guide,
  • Navigating the Solar System,
  • Galileo Education Modules: Exploring the Mysteries of the Solar System,
  • Lesson plans archived by the JPL Educational Affairs Office,
  • Project SPACE Activities Library,
  • Connecting in Space: Docking with the International Space Station,
  • The International Space Station Crew Return Vehicle, X-38,
  • Amateur Radio in Space,
  • Stages of Exploration.

Royal Greenwich Observatory Information Leaflets

Click on "Astronomy Fact Files". An excellent source of concise information about a wide variety of astronomical topics (even though the Royal Greenwich Observatory is no more!).  The notes are divided into the following sections, each containing many leaflets within them. Some of the topics are:

  • Space Exploration
  • The Planets
  • Comets, Meteors and Asteroids
  • Stars
  • The Universe
  • Telescopes
  • Timekeeping
  • The Royal Observatory
  • General Astronomy

The Astronomy Café

Ask the Astronomer! Sten Odenwald will attempt to answer your question on astronomy. There is also an archive of questions that he’s answered. There’s a good chance he may already have answered yours! Get your pupils to send him a question!

The Nine Planets

The Nine Planets is an overview of the history, mythology, and current scientific knowledge of each of the planets and moons in our solar system. Each page has text and images, some have sounds and movies, and most provide references to additional related information.

Treasure Trove of Science

Eric Weissen’s encyclopaedia of science, with particular volumes for physics and for astronomy. A comprehensive reference source.

Welcome to the Planets
This is a collection of many of the best images from NASA's planetary exploration program.

Books and Magazines

As a result of the huge demand for Astronomy-for-Poets type courses at US universities and colleges there are a number of superb textbooks on astronomy, updated almost annually, which contain fantastic images, associated CDs and other teaching resources. They are generally written at a descriptive level, with mathematical equations placed inside text boxes. Such books will make an excellent reference source and can be used by a wide range of students and educators. Some suitable books, and web addresses for further information, include:

  • Discovering the Universe W.J. Kaufmann & N.F. Comins (Freeman) 
  • The Universe W.J. Kaufmann & R.A. Freedman (Freeman)
  • Astronomy — the Evolving Universe M. Zeilik (Wiley)
  • Exploration of the Universe G. Abell. D. Morrison & S. Wolff (Saunders) 

  • Voyages through the Universe A. Fraknoi, D. Morrison & S. Wolff (Saunders / Harcourt-Brace)
  • Horizons Exploring the Universe M. Seeds  (Brooks Cole) 
  • Foundations of Astronomy M. Seeds  (Wadsworth)
  • Fundamentals of Physics - Extended D. Halliday, R. Resnick, J. Walker (Wiley)

  • (still the best Physics Textbook.  Designed for 1st Year Physics at University, but an excellent book to use as a reference for yourself)

Sky and Telescope
Sky and Space
Australian Geographic
New Scientist
Scientific Amercian


Further Information

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