As you see from the post dates, this blog is no longer maintained.


Google Earth + Sky
The Google Earth Blog is full of news
about the new release of Google Earth
(4.2 Beta), which includes a way to look
at the sky above the Earth.

From the blog:

"Google has released a number of resources to help show off the new Sky feature:
There is a
a new web page devoted to the new Sky feature, A link to more information
about the sources of the imagery (which include NASA, the Sloan Digital Sky Survey,
and the Digital Sky Survey Consortium),
a video showing the Sky application in action.
oday's GE Gallery has six new interesting new tours designed to show off the new
of Sky. I particularly like the one showing the locations of all the new
extra-solar planets, and the one showing an animation of a star exploding.

Here is the video from the Google Earth Blog, (posted on YouTube).

"This video demonstrates the new "Sky" feature of Google Earth
4.2 just released on August 22, 2007.
It lets you look up at the night sky and zoom in on photographs
taken by powerful telescopes like the
Hubble Space Telescope. It also provides placemarks to cool
things you can see in the universe."

In it's story about the new Google Sky, the BBC writes:

Sky is not the first time Google has ventured into space.

In March 2006, the company launched Google Mars which allows users to explore the surface of the Red Planet.

Another service, Google Moon, lets users view the sites of the Apollo moon landings.

Both services use data from the US Space Agency Nasa, with which Google signed an agreement in December 2006."

Update 5 September 07: If you go to, and search for "google sky" , you will find about 180 videos about the site, including short tutorials about how to use it.

This one is from the Weather Channel:


The Solar System (Wikipedia for Children)

SOS Children launches Wikipedia for Schools


Volunteers at the English Wikipedia and SOS Children have today launched The Wikipedia Selection for Schools. The Selection is about the size of a 15 volume encyclopaedia with 24,000 pictures, 14 million words and articles on 4,625 topics. It includes the best of Wikipedia as well as many thousands of pages of extra material specifically selected to be of interest to children who follow the UK National Curriculum and similar curricula elsewhere in the world.

  • The selection is organised around National Curriculum subjects

  • The articles have been cleaned up and checked for suitability for children

  • Website:

  • Available for free as BitTorrent download (2.5GB compressed with full size images) or HTTP download (792MB compressed with only thumbnail images) or on DVD from SOS Children’s offices. See below for download instructions." post from SOS children will tell you all about the project - a free encyclopedia you can download for yourself at home, but also use online. Check out the "Solar system" page for a clear definition and description.


Living and Working in Space
Go to this page on the Futures Channels web site. and watch the 4 minute interview with NASA Chief Mike Griffin.

The Futures Channel is from the USA, "with the goal of using new media technologies to create a channel between the scientists, engineers, explorers and visionaries who are shaping the future, and today’s learners who will one day succeed them."

As you watch the interview, consider Dr. Griffin's viewpoint, and compare it to yours. What points do you agree with him on, and what questions might you put to him, if you could? Read down the page under the video player, and explore the links that interest you. Although the site is designed for Middle and Hight School kids, I think there is a lot here for curious Year 6 kids, too.

If you want to know more about Dr. Griffin, and what he studied in school, read his biography.


NASA Image of the Day

Nasa Image of the Day displays pictures from three websites :, Earth Observatory and Astronomy Picture of the Day.

You can switch between theses sites by clicking on the top right corner logo which indicates you where is from the next pictures to display.

By clicking on the left and right bottom arrows, you can browse the pictures archives from each website.

In addition, you can display the description associated with each pictures, by check the "description" box in the modules options.

And of course, by clicking on the picutre, you will open the Nasa's websites in a new window.

My thanks to Olivier Camard for making this post possible.


The Solar System in Google Earth

The Google Earth Blog has been writing about the work of James Stafford. First he created a a size comparison of every moon (natural satellite of a planet) in the solar system larger in diameter than 100 km - all 34 of them - viewable in Google Earth. Download the 34 moons KML file here (4.5 Mb). See the original release at his Barnabu blog. You can see it here at Google Video.

Then, Mr. Stafford changed the Earth into the Sun (by adding an image overlay) and scaled down the Moons relative to the size of the Sun and added all the planets as 3D models. The result is a a true-to-scale comparison of the main bodies of the solar system. You can download it here: Google Earth Solar System (7 Mb).
Read about it at his page, (, and at the Google Earth Blog page (

You can watch it here, or go to


How many satellites are there in space?

As I've been gathering information for this blog, I've begun to wonder just how many satellites there are in space? These web pages have helped me find some answers:
I started here at the Science Canada forum. (Be sure to read all the way to the bottom - the page has been updated.)

That page led me to this one, SATCAT Boxscore which is updated daily. It lists the number of satellites by country. (You'll need to know country abbreviations for it to make sense (for example, CH = Switzerland; US = United States) Fortunately, if you click on "Source" you'll come to this page which will tell you everything you need to know!

This Wikipedia page shows a Timeline of artificial satellites and space probes. It was updated fairly recently, and links out to information about everything listed!

But is there a short answer? I went to one of my favorite science sites, "The Naked Scientist" (I listen to their podcast every week!) and found this answer:

"We've obviously got one natural satellite, our Moon. But we've actually launched around 8000 artificial satellites up into orbit around the Earth. However, that's not all there is orbiting around the Earth. As well as these 8000 solid lumps of whole satellite that are up there, we've got lots and lots of little bits of junk swirling around. Now that can be anything from a nut and a bolt that's been lost to astronaut gloves that have been lost during space missions. This stuff can actually be quite a problem, because as it's up there whizzing around at kilometres per second, if it hits another satellite it can seriously damage it and blow some more bits off. So all the time this stuff is accumulating, but there's no easy way to go up and remove it. Eventually all of it will slow down and fall into the Earth but it's up there for a long period of time."

"The Naked Scientists are a media-savvy group of physicians and researchers from Cambridge University who use radio, live lectures, and the Internet to strip science down to its bare essentials, and promote it to the general public. Their award winning BBC weekly radio programme, The Naked Scientists, reaches a potential audience of 6 million listeners across the east of England, and also has an international following on the web." You can subscribe to the podcast through iTunes, or at the website.


Snowball Fight in the Solar System

"One of the most surprising objects observed in X-rays are comets. X-rays are normally associated with the hottest things in the Universe, such as black holes. Comets, however, were described by Fred Whipple as being "dirty snowballs". So how does a snowball make X-rays? "

You can download this video here: Snowball Fight in the Solar System

Star (X-ray) Light, Star (X-ray) Bright

"Remember the line from the children's saying that goes: "Starlight, star bright, first star I see tonight"? Looking at the light from stars is exactly how astronomers can learn about them."

You can download this video here: Star (X-ray) Light, Star (X-ray) Bright

Dawn, Mission to the Asteroid Belt

"NASA\'s Dawn mission is getting ready to launch on an unprecedented tour of two residents of the asteroid belt. This mission will be the first to orbit two different bodies in our solar system. " "Dawn's goal is to characterize the conditions and processes of the solar system's earliest epoch by investigating in detail two of the largest protoplanets remaining intact since their formations. Ceres and Vesta reside in the extensive zone between Mars and Jupiter together with many other smaller bodies, called the asteroid belt." (NASA)

You can also download this video here: Dawn, Mission to the Asteroid Belt

Technicians at Launch Pad 17-B prepare the Dawn spacecraft (within shown fairing) atop the Delta II rocket for its launch toward the asteroid belt.Click here to go to the NASA Dawn Mission home page, and here for a mission overview. Updates on the Mission status are here. It is scheduled to launch in September.

Black Holes: Tall, Grande, Venti

"Long before astronomers found evidence that black holes existed, these exotic objects have captured imaginations. In the 21st century, scientists not only have proof that black holes are real, they continue to make startling discoveries both about individual black holes examples and about their populations across the Universe."

You can also download this video here: Black Holes: Tall, Grande, Venti

How Chandra Does What It Does

"NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory, in orbit since 1999, studies the high-energy Universe, where black holes, exploding stars, and mysterious matter hold sway. "

You can download this video here: How Chandra Does What It Does

Peering into the Heart of the Milky Way

"Humanity has long sought to learn about the Milky Way, our home galaxy. Even after the advent of optical telescopes, the Milky Way's center remained mysterious because gas and dust blocks most visible light along our line of sight. Fortunately, X-ray telescopes like Chandra can detect higher-energy radiation that penetrates this veil of galactic debris."

You can down load this video here: Peering into the Heart of the Milky Way

Giants of the Universe Probe Cosmic Questions

"Clusters of galaxies are the largest structures in the Universe that are held together by gravity. Because of their immense size and mass, galaxy clusters are extremely useful as tools to probe a variety of questions about the Universe as a whole as well as properties of the clusters themselves."

Supernovas: When Stars Die

"When a star explodes, it leaves behind a debris field of stellar material and high-energy particles known as a supernova remnant. Astronomers use Chandra to study these remnants that can produce intense X-ray radiation for thousands of years. Supernova remnants are responsible for seeding cloud that formed our Sun, planets, and ultimately us with elements like nitrogen and oxygen."

You can down load this video here: Supernovas: When Stars Die


Star Witness News - The Carina Nebula

The Feature News Story in April 2007 story on the Amazing Space news page presents a zoomable photo of the Carina Nebula. Using zoom and pan tools on the page, you can explore the nebula in great detail.
"The Carina Nebula contains several stars that are among the hottest and most massive known. Each star is about 10 times as hot and 100 times as massive as our Sun. "

You can download PDF of story and photos.
(IMAGE CREDIT: NASA, ESA, N. Smith (University of California, Berkeley), and The Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA))



Sarepta is a special service provided for schools by the Norwegian Space Centre.

"SAREPTA is a space-related website for students and teachers in upper primary and secondary schools. SAREPTA offers resources for project tasks on weather and climate, ice in the Arctic, studies of ocean currents, Sun-Earth interaction, satellite navigation and satellite communication, as well as information on rockets, the International Space Station and space shuttles.

You find a wealth of factual articles, examples and suggestions for teaching and learning activities, links and not to forget a huge archive of actual satellite images. Access to the satellite images requires registration, and are largely granted members of the education community."

When you come to a page where you must log in to continue (for example, to see the image libraries), our username is cdnpyp
and the password is cdnpyp

Sarepta is provided by the Norwegian Space Agency,
and National Centre for Space Related Education,

European Space Agency - Kids

The European Space Agency web site's pages for kids feature tabs for "Our Universe", "Life in Space", "Liftoff", "Useful Space", and "Earth", along with Lab, News and Fun sections.
It's only one tiny part of the ESA web site, which has many, many, sections full of news, pictures, videos, etc.
Be sure to visit these pages many times.


The Hubble Site - Black Holes

The flash animation introduction to this page gives an easy to understand definition of a black hole. The site describes itself this way:
"Black Holes — Gravity's Relentless Pull is an exciting, in-depth exploration of the astronomy and physics of black holes. The site was created in a collaboration between astronomy, education and Web professionals. It offers astronomical images, animations, interactive experiments (some with audio), and an encyclopedia of accurate, up-to-date information.

Black holes are probably the most extreme objects in the Universe. The site shows that even the most mysterious of things can be understood through scientific inquiry. It also explains many basic concepts about physics, astronomy, and science in general, including light, gravity, and the scale of our Universe. Exploration of the site is sure to fascinate and to instill an interest in science. No specific prior knowledge about astronomy or physics is required."

The home page of the Hubble site is also worth exploring. The Black Hole page can be found through the "Explore Astronomy" section.

Print out the Solar System

On this web page you can download a picture:
"Intention: print it out, study it, or use it to make a scale model of the solar system.

Images from NASA.
Copyable under the Creative Commons license: not for commercial use; please attribute authorship to Jef Raskin."

A similar page is available at the European Space Agency site: download
it here .
"A printable PDF booklet with images of each planet which can be used to make a Solar System mobile."


Astro Pléiades - Claude Nicollier
"High above Vevey towers the mountain known as Les Pléiades. Here, there is a thematic trail called Astro Pléiades that focuses on the cosmos, the planets and our sun system, dedicated to Swiss austronaut Claude Nicollier. Four different stations contain information that are of interest to those interested in space. And of course, the beautiful landscapes leave nothing to be desired for." For detail descriptions of the trails, and travel information, see My and "On s’éclipse volontiers une journée loin du monde connu pour partir à la découverte de l’infiniment grand dans le parc de Claude Nicollier."

wpher56 has a slide show of photos taken at Les Pléiades at Webshots

Marly Planet Path

The Marly Planet Path is described on My
"Take a walk through our solar system? Thanks to the planet path in Marly, you can do just that! The path begins at the sun, which has a diameter of 1 metre. The path runs alongside the Gerine river and passes through beautiful countryside all the way to the observatory (approximately 5 km away), where you will find the most distant planets, Neptune and Pluto. This informative outing can be combined with a visit to the observatory." Travel and contact information are updated there.

INTEGRAL Space Data Center and the Geneva Observatory in Versoix

The University of Geneva Observatory
If you are thinking about a career in the space sciences, you will be interetested in this web page:

"The Observatory of Geneva is located at the site of Sauverny (town of Versoix, Canton of Geneva), where the buildings of the Department of Astronomy of the University of Geneva (Observatory of Geneva) and the Astrophysics Lab of the EPFL (Federal Polytechnic School at Lausanne) are set up.

These two institutes work closely together at the scientific level and constitute the main gravity centre for astrophysics in French-speaking Switzerland as far as teaching, research and the service to the public are concerned.

The ISDC (Integral Science Data Centre) is located at Ecogia, which also belongs to the town of Versoix. The centre is linked to the Observatory of Geneva and deals with the processing of the data provided by the satellite INTEGRAL (INTErnational Gamma Ray Astrophysic Laboratory) of the European Space Agency (ESA)." (INTEGRAL is a gamma-ray mission of the European Space Agency (ESA) launched on October 17, 2002. The INTEGRAL Science Data Centre (ISDC) is receiving all data from the spacecraft within seconds and is providing INTEGRAL data and the analysis software to the scientific community worldwide.)

"On the two sites of Sauverny and Ecogia, a group of approximately 143 people are employed, including scientists, PhD candidates, students, technical staff (computer and electronics specialists, mechanics), as well as administrative staff..."

"The European Space Agency's gamma-ray observatory, Integral, has spotted a rare kind of gamma-ray outburst. The vast explosion of energy allowed astronomers to pinpoint a possible black hole in our Galaxy."This X-ray image was obtained by ESA's XMM-Newton satellite during the night of 22-23 September 2006, and shows the intense X-ray emission of the X-ray nova IGR J17497-2821. The X-ray nova was first spotted by ESA¹s Integral gamma-ray observatory. Credits: ESA/EPIC/ISDC

The Observatory in Versoix welcomes visitors. Be sure to read the information on this page for schedules, reservations, etc.

The Planetery Footpath in St. Luc

The Planetary Footpath in St. Luc

Not too far away, in St. Luc, in the Valais, there is a Planetary Footpath leading to an observatory. The St. Luc tourism web page describes it this way:
" Enjoy this 6 km long path situated between 2200 and 2500 m above sea level while facing the prestigious “4000” of the Valaisan Alps. You will encounter the 9 planets of the solar system built to scale on works of art. The solar system has been reproduced on a smaller scale all the way along this path, that way, with every step forward, you will move a million kilometres forward through the cosmos. Without noticing it, you will move three times faster than the speed of light. Leaving from the sun, you travel a distance all the greater that the object is remote from the sun. Whilst stopping along this celestial path, you will learn about the planets’ dimensions , their characteristics and above all be able to discover and admire the beauty of one which is only a stone’s throw away – planet Earth! Beyond the simple enjoyment of fresh air and magnificent mountain scenery, we offer you a chance to approach in a more concrete way one of the most astonishing sciences : astronomy." L’Observatoire François-Xavier Bagnoud (OFXB)

St. Luc is about a 2 hour drive from Geneva. (You can also go on the train and
Post Bus.) Click here for a map.
Visitor information is available here at My "
Nature lovers can access the path on foot all year round, via St. Luc or Chandolin. Stargazing evenings are organised for the public several times a year and these provide the opportunity of observing the sun and the moon."



With role-playing, site visitors train for a mission.

Astro-Venture is an educational, interactive, multimedia Web environment highlighting NASA careers and astrobiology research in the areas of Astronomy, Geology, Biology and Atmospheric Science. Students in grades five through eight are transported to the future where they role play NASA occupations and use scientific inquiry, as they search for and build a planet with the necessary characteristics for human habitation."

What's Vacuum?

What are you sitting on, atoms? molecules? But what are they made of? Watch this great video and get a new perspective on the Solar System.

See other related videos at from astrophysicist Dr. Jean-Marc Perelmuter, at

Relativity visualized: Space Time Travel

Visualization of the theory of relativity.
This web page has "online papers, images, movies and paper models by the physics education group, Ute KrausTheoretische Astrophysik Tübingen The theory of relativity holds a certain fascination for many students (and for the interested public as well). At the same time it is often regarded as abstract and difficult to understand.

Part of the difficulties in understanding relativity are due to the fact that relativistic effects contradict everyday experience. Motion, for example, is a familiar process and everybody "knows from experience" that it entails neither time dilation nor length contraction. A flight with half the speed of light could correct this misjudgment but is not on offer.

A possible alternative are simulations. Images, films and virtual reality let us in a sense experience relativistic flights, gravitational collapse, compact objects and other extreme conditions."

Some of the pages on this site are only in German, but don't let that stop you! Many are in English, and all have illustrations. (Use Altavisa's Babelfish or Google Trashlations to help you get an approximate idea of what the German text says.)

For example, go to Step by Step into a Black Hole,

or watch the video of ""Through the city at nearly the speed of light"

Andromeda, Beauty and the Beast: Spitzer's Hidden Universe

"In Greek Mythology, the Princess Andromeda was sacrificed to appease a sea monster's appetite. But astronomers are learning that the Andromeda Galaxy is less the spiral beauty and more the voracious beast..."

In this video, Robert Hurt, of the Spitzer Science Center, explains images from the Hubble Space telescope.

Because the school blocks and, you will have to watch these videos from the California Institute of Technology (CALTECH) outside of school. You can see the other videos in this series "The Hidden Universe Showcase" ( at the links below, or subscribe to the video podcast versions through iTunes or on the Spitzer web site.

Large Magellanic Cloud: Spitzer's Hidden Universe

Pillars of Destruction: Spitzer's Hidden Universe

Seeing the First Light: Spitzer's Hidden Univers

Night and Day on an Alien World: Spitzer's Hidden Universe

A Stellar Census of the Sword of Orion: Hidden Universe

Planetary Life After Death: Spitzer's Hidden Universe

You can hear audio podcasts at the Astronomy Media Player from astronomy sites around the world.

Ask an Astronomer

At this web site from the California Institute of Technology (CALTECH) you will find a list of questions that have video answers available. To view a segment, simply select your connection speed after the format you wish to view the answer in. (Windows Media is more common for PC users, and QuickTime is more common for Macintosh users. However, players exist for all formats on all platforms.)

A video podcast version of these videos is available. iTunes users can subscribe directly. Users of other RSS aggregators can bookmark the RSS feed.

"How do stars live and die?"

"Why do we see spiral arms in some galaxies?"

"Can you feel a solar wind?"

"Why doesn't the moon fall down?"

Space Travel 101

This is a ThinkQuest site - created by students for students:

"Welcome Welcome to Space Travel 101: Fundamentals of Space Travel! Learning about space travel can be fun and educational. This website brings both of these elements together. The purpose of this site is to explain how space travel is possible and introduce missions that, despite the dangers, have continued to be conducted.

Here, you will learn the essentials of spacecraft and missions:
- Where a spacecraft gets energy
- How a spacecraft moves in space
- How astronauts can survive in space
- How a spacecraft re-enters Earth
- The dangers of space travels
- Different types of missions
- Different types of spacecraft

After you have explored all the topics of space travel, we invite you to our interact section. This section incorporates information from the site to test your knowledge of space travel. We have included games such as crossword puzzles, slide puzzles, word searches, and quizzes!"