The traditional print publishing industry requires long production cycles before any book or publication can see print. This situation has become more acute for authors like myself who publish books on annual software releases. I hope to use this blog to publish information, updates, addenda, ruminations, and other "mid-cycle" missives. I hope you enjoy it.

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Wednesday, May 6, 2009


Welcome St. Linus fourth grade!

I did a presentation at my children's school today on this terrific piece of software called Celestia. The software is free and provides a complete simulation of the solar system and in fact the entire known universe. You jump aboard your virtual space ship and can literally fly anywhere! It gives you some astounding views and a REAL sense of just how BIG the universe is. Very cool. i highly recommend it. It may not run on every computer, it does require some horsepower and decent video card, but its free, so download it and try it out!

I gave the kids a bunch of web links and as promised, here they are:

Astronomy Web Sites:

The free space simulation that lets you explore our universe in three dimensions. Celestia runs on Windows, Linux, and Mac OS X.


The Celestia Motherlode
A repository for various add-ons like textures, models or celestial objects for Celestia.


Celestia Educational Activities
You can just download the free version of Celestia and start to explore, but I HIGHLY recommend Frank Gregorio's excellent educational resources. Basically the presentation I did today was one of his lessons. Whether you are teaching an astronomy class, or just prefer a self-guided tour, you can't go wrong with these resources. You can download them individually or purchase a CD from Frank at nominal cost which installs everything you need.


Interesting diagrams of the solar system


Google Earth
Amazing free interactive model of the earth with high quality aerial satellite photography, 3D buildings, the sky, the oceans and more.If you haven't heard of Google Earth, really, where have you been?


NEW - Google Moon
Online only, similar to Google Earth, but showing the moon.Very cool.


Sky and Telescope
Probably the premier Astronomy magazine


Interactive sky chart from Sky and Telescope. Use it to see what objects are in the night sky where you live on any day and time.Print a chart and take it with you in the backyard.


Microsoft Worldwide Telescope
I haven't explored this much yet, but it looks very cool. Check it out.


NASA Image of the Day
Vast archive of photos from NASA missions, Hubble and you name it!


Scale model of the Solar System on the web
An interesting model of the solar system. Don't scroll too fast, you might miss it...


Build a Solar System
This tool lets you plug in the desired size of the Sun, and it tells you how big and how far apart everything else needs to be. Neat. In the session, I showed the kids a schematic based on this tool of creating a Solar System model at St. Linus. The long dimension of the St. Linus campus is 1,300 ft (from 103rd to 105th). If we place the Sun at the corner of 105th and Lawler, the Sun would be about the size of a softball (3 1/2" in diameter) and Pluto (yes I know it is no longer a planet, but I still like to include it - poor Pluto) be the size of the haed of a pin and would be right at the corner of 103rd and Lawler. WOW!


Powers of Ten
Forgot to show this one to the class, but it has always been a cool one. I think it was Charles Eames in the 60's that did a movie on this concept. This website has lots of items devoted to the idea. Amazing how similar things at the micro and macro scale start to look... Hmmm, divine design?


World's Largest Solar System Model
One more - I mentioned the Solar System Model in Peoria, IL. It is listed in the Guiness Book! Here is the link:

Well, that's all I have for now. It's a big universe out there. Enjoy it!


Laurel Kornfeld said...

Please DO continue to include Pluto, as it IS still a planet. Please don't blindly accept the controversial demotion done by four percent of the IAU, most of whom are not planetary scientists. Their decision was immediately opposed by hundreds of professional astronomers led by Dr. Alan Stern, Principal Investigator of NASA's New Horizons mission to Pluto. This debate is far from over, and the IAU view is just one interpretation, not fact. For more on why Pluto is a planet and worldwide efforts to reinstate its planet status, please visit my Pluto blog at http://laurele.livejournal.com

Paul F. Aubin said...

Hello Laurel:

Thank you for the post. I didn't expect anyone other than my children's classmates to visit this post, but that is the power of the Internet! I will visit your blog and keep up-to-date on the matter. I will also forward this info to the teacher at my kid's school a followup to the presentation. Thank you.