The Internet provides you with a doorway to the virtual Universe. As an aid to your preparations, the following Web sites are recommended. One of the really neat things about the Internet is that you can still view the sky on cloudy, windy, rainy days. Check these Web sites. You're going to be surprised.
The STScI Digitized Sky Survey (http://archive.stsd. edu/dssi) The Digitized Sky Survey comprises a set of all-sky photographs conducted with the Palomar and UK Schmidt telescopes. The Catalogs and Surveys Branch (CASB) is digitizing the photographic plates to support HST observing programs but also as a service to the astronomical community, including amateur astronomers. Images of any part of the sky may be extracted from the DSS, in either FITS or GIF format.
Centre de Données Astronomiques de Strasbourg (CDS) (http://cdsweb.u-strasbg.fr/) The Strasbourg Astronomical Data Center (CDS) is dedicated to the collection and worldwide distribution of astronomical data and related information. It is located at the Strasbourg Astronomical Observatory, France and hosts the SIMBAD astronomical database, the world reference database for the identification of astronomical objects.
The CDS' goals are to: collect all of the useful information concerning astronomical objects that is available in computerized form - observational data produced by observatories around the world, on the ground or in space; upgrade these data by critical evaluations and comparisons; distribute the results to the astronomical community; and conduct research, using these data.
United States Naval Observatory, Flagstaff Station (USNO) (http://www.nofs.navy.mil/) One of the most generous and dedicated professional astronomers, when it comes to sharing his time with amateurs, works at the United States Naval Observatory, Flagstaff Station (USNOFS). Dr. Arne Henden has been assisting amateur astronomers for many years.
This facility allows you to extract catalog data from the USNO-A2.Û and/or ACT catalogs and plot up finder charts from these lists. In addition, they have available the raw images from scanning the major photographic surveys. You can overplot the catalog data onto the images, as well as overplot your own additional markers.
USNO-A2.0 contains entries for over a half billion stars (526,230,881, to be exact!) that were detected in the digitized images of three photographic sky surveys. USNO-SA2.0 is a subset of USNO-A2.0 which is a lot easier to handle on a small computer because it contains only a tenth as many stars as the parent catalog (54,787,624 stars in all).
HIPPARCOS/TYCHO (http://astro.estec.esa.nl/Hip-parcosf) This site could, with little argument, be considered a gold mine of recoverable variable-star data. Hipparcos is a pioneering space experiment dedicated to the precise measurement of the positions, parallaxes and proper motions of the stars. The intended goal was to measure the five astrometric parameters of some 120,000 primary program stars to a precision of some 2 to 4 milliarcsec, over a planned mission lifetime of 2.5 years, and the astrometric and two-color photometric properties of some 400,000 additional stars (the Tycho experiment) to a somewhat lower astrometric precision.
The Hipparcos and Tycho Catalogs contain a wealth of information in a user-friendly format. Available in both printed and machine-readable form, these catalogs can be exploited by both professional and amateur astronomers.
Astrophysics Data System (ADS) (http-J/adswww. harvard.edu/ads_articles.html) The Astrophysics Data System (ADS) can be thought of as your own private professional publication library. This service provides free and unrestricted access to scanned images of journals, conference proceedings and books in astronomy and astrophysics.
Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) (http://xxx. Ianl.gov/) The Los Alamos National Library (LANL) pre-print service will allow you to read professional research articles before they are actually released in the various journals such as The Astrophysics Journal, Publication of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, The Astronomical Journal, and many others. This is a great service and should not be ignored but be warned, these are professional research articles and the content of the articles are written at the professional research level.
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