Monday, March 20, 2006

Stargazing Without Stars

Stargazing Without Stars
by Dave Adalian

The rain we’ve been getting for the last two months is great if you’re a farmer or a frog. But if you’re an amateur astronomer eager to see the night sky the constantly cloudy skies are enough to make you want to do an anti-rain dance.

Time spent waiting for the rain gods to grow tired doesn’t, however, have to be time spent away from the stars if you’ve got an internet connection.

Amateur astronomy is a hobby for those of us who think all things scientific are pretty nifty, in other words geeks, and the internet falls squarely in our zone of interest. That means there are tons of astronomical websites available to keep the soggy stargazer busy on cloudy nights.

If you’re looking for the latest news of the night sky, you can point your browser to any one of dozens of news services. Among the more popular are the home of Astronomy Magazine,, and the home of Sky and Telescope Magazine,

Services like and will put the latest in space exploration and astronomy news in your email in-box on a daily basis when you sign up at their homepages.

For discussing the latest news about the heavens with fellow astronomers there are some great online forums. is a popular message board, and a host of similar discussion groups are available at Some of the more popular groups there include Astronomer, Starry Nights and WannaBeAstronomers, a group for those just dipping their toes into the Milky Way.

Also at Yahoo! Groups is CenCalAstro, a group of Tulare, Kings, Kern and Fresno county amateur astronomers who post news of local sky watching events.

If you’re looking for help planning a stargaze once the weather clears, head to, where you’ll find printable maps of the night sky for the current month, along with lists of recommended targets for the naked eye, binoculars and telescopes, as well as tips for making the most of a night’s viewing.

You can also find out what artificial lights will be up in the night sky at, a site that alerts readers about what satellites--including the International Space Station, the space shuttle when it’s aloft and the Hubble Space Telescope--will be visible and when.

Finally, if you just like to look at pretty pictures, then the Astronomy Picture of the Day is the place for you. Check it out at


This column originally appeared in the Visalia Times-Delta on Thursday, March 23, 2006.