A Great Website for Anyone Interested in Astronomy
If you are interested in astronomy or space exploration there is a website that you might find interesting. The site is called SolStation. It is filled with information about all the nearby stars out to just over 100 light years away. One of the most notable features of this site are the 3-D star maps that show the exact orientation of the nearby stars in relation to our own sun. In each of these maps you can rotate the map, zoom in and zoom out with your mouse and you can even click on a star and go to a page containing all kinds of information about the star, its mass and size relative to the sun, its location in the night sky, its relative magnitude, its surface temperature, its age, and even information if it does or might have planets.
Another great feature is the orbit animations. As mentioned, clicking on a star in the 3-D map will take you to an information page, but for a good number of stars you will first go to an animation. In the case of binary stars, it will show how the two stars orbit about each other, their orbital distance, orbital period, orbital eccentricity, and much more. It even shows the possible habitable zones for possible earth like planets. From here you can then click on the star in the chart and go to the information page. Some of the orbit animations actually show extrasolar planets that have been discovered. A prime example is Epsilon Eridani with its possible three planets and two asteroid belts. However, if you are more interested in what is closer to home, you can view our own sun and its planets. Then click on each planet and view the animations of its moons. Particularly interesting is Jupiter and Saturn where all the orbit animations become cluttered with Jupiter alone has 41 moons shown. Luckily there is a zoom feature that lets you get closer.
Other than the actual site there is a link on the page that takes you to the real solstation. It is a simple animation that you can rotate and zoom in and out. It is a ringed space station with different labeled areas, such as navigation, transport. accomodations. If you double click on any of the labeled areas it will take you to another web page with all sorts of information on that topic. For example, if you click on transport you will be taken to a page with hypothetical and actual information on space transportation systems from interplanetary to interstellar.
Overall, a general guide about some of the links on the website are:
Nearby Star: A 3-D map of stars located within 47.2 light years from our sun.
Bright Star: A 3-D map of bright main sequence type located within 100 light years of our sun.
Stars: Contains all the links and information about all the stars within 100 light years of our sun. Also has information about our own solar system.
Orbits: This is a subset of the stars in the above mentioned link. It exclusively shows orbit animations of binary pairs and extrasolar planets that have been discovered. It even has orbit animations of our own solar system and the moons of our planets.
Habitability: A link to all sorts of information on habitable zones of different stars with different masses and different spectral types. It includes what types of stars can support life, can habitable zones exist around binary stars, and how planets evolve.
Life: Examines the possibility that life once existed or still exists on other planets in our solar system. Obviously it also speculates about life on other planets in other star systems.
Transport: As already mentioned above this is the link to information about hypothetical and actual information on space transportation systems from interplanetary to interstellar. This is the same link in the 3-D solstation.
X-Objects: Yes, solstation does go beyond 100 light years. This link takes you to information about our galaxy all the way to the local universe.
Visualizations: This link will take you to the orbit animations at solstation but it also has links to more animations at other websites. It also includes websites displaying space art.
TTA: This is a link to the site “Digital Waterfalls 2009” located in the UK. It contains futuristic art rendered in 3-D using the freeware POV-Ray and Bryce.
Solstation: This link was already mentioned above. It is the actual solstation in 3-D.
Core: This is a link to a space science fiction role-playing game.
Cherryh Maps: This is a comparison of the maps from C.J. Cherryh’s fiction and the actual maps from solstation.
Astronomy Expert: This is a link to a nice astronomy site in the UK.
There is much more information than I have mentioned. You can spend quite a bit of time exploring Solstation. There are some bad links but they number just a few. In summary, this is a great site for anyone interested in astronomy.
Finally two notes, if you are using a one button mouse while using a Mac, press the apple key on your keyboard while using your mouse on the 3-D maps. This will allow you to rotate the map. The second note is the star Zeti Reticuli. Look at its information page and then look at the nearby stars and any orbit animations available. It’s pretty interesting.
SolStation.com is a subsidiary of the Sol Company