100 hours: Are you ready?

There are now less than nine days until the start of one of the biggest global events that will take place as part of the International Year of Astronomy. The 100 Hours of Astronomy starts on 2nd April and will be 100 non-stop hours of star parties, webcasts and much more.

The 100 hours starts with an opening ceremony at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, featuring one of Galileo's telescopes. On the same day (April 2nd) there will be a live Science Centre webcast including science centres from the US, South Africa, Ireland and Germany. From 9am UTC April 3rd things step up a gear with Around the World in 80 Telescopes; a live Ustream tour around many of the world's astronomical observatories in just 24 hours. The webcast will cover the entire planet (including the South Pole!) and even some telescopes in space. On the night of Saturday 4th April there will be star parties all over the planet. This is going to be huge so if you have a telescope you haven't used in a while, now is the time to dust it off and get ready to participate. Sunday 5th April is being called SunDay and aims to encourage safe viewing of our nearest star. If you have a safe solar telescope, you should dust that off too. If you have small children, they can even participate through the 100 Hours of Astronomy Junior programme.

You can find out what events are happening near you on the global events list and add your own events. You can also keep up with the latest news about 100 Hours of Astronomy and Around the World in 80 Telescopes via twitter, in the forum, via the blogs and send your photos to the galleries.

This is going to be very big. Are you ready?

Posted in astro blog by Stuart on Tuesday 24th Mar 2009 (19:38 GMT) | Permalink

Convert to local time in Firefox

Rocket launches and interesting events in astronomy attract global audiences. The main problem with these events is that the times are usually quoted in some time zone that is not the one I'm in. This leaves me trying to remember how many hours ahead or behind the quoted time zone is from the time zone I'm in. It gets even more fiddly when you have to take into account daylight savings. If only there was a solution...

A long time ago I made some JavaScript to display the timestamps on my blog posts in local time. Apart from some daylight savings bugs, the problem with that script was that it only worked on my site. Tonight, whilst waiting for the launch of NASA's Kepler mission, I thought I'd try to make that script more useful by turning it into a Firefox bookmark that could be applied to any webpage I happened to be on. It seems to work so I thought I'd share it.

In Firefox right click your Bookmarks Toolbar and select "New Bookmark". This should bring up a small window that lets you set a Name, Location, Keyword and Description. In Name enter something like "Local Time". In the Location box enter the contents of this file. Now, whenever you click the bookmark, any nicely formatted time on the page should be converted to your computer's local time.

Posted in astro blog by Stuart on Saturday 07th Mar 2009 (02:29 GMT) | Permalink

Look Up

I often find myself needing to get coordinates for various astronomical objects by name. There are several services out there to do this sort of thing already but all have different interfaces and cover specific types of astronomical objects. For instance NED covers extra-galactic objects and Simbad is mostly objects within the galaxy but doesn't include the solar system, recent supernovae or recent exoplanets. All I wanted was one place to go to look up anything.

I played about with this before but previously my emphasis was in generating the AVM microformat. Recently I decided to put the emphasis on simply returning the information and providing links to useful resources. I also fixed a bug in the software that talked to NED so that now works properly. After eliciting some ideas for a new name on Twitter, I finally settled on lookUP (suggested by timtfj) as it seemed quite appropriate. In terms of the interface, the main page has been reduced down to a large input box with a few examples underneath. The output provides the coordinates of the objects, the object type, and links to the object on Wikisky/Google Sky/Flickr. The only thing it still doesn't cover is comets because I can't find a nice service for those and don't really want to have to make my own.

If you find lookUP useful, please do let me know.

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Posted in astro blog by Stuart on Thursday 05th Mar 2009 (18:26 GMT) | Permalink
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