Open Questions:
Astronomy, Astrophysics, and Space Science

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See also: Black holes -- Gravitational waves

General astronomy

Solar system and planetary science

Extrasolar planets



Extraterrestrial intelligence

Stellar formation and evolution


Neutron stars and pulsars

Structure and evolution of the Milky Way

Quasars and active galactic nuclei

Gamma-ray astronomy

High-energy cosmic rays

The "Great Attractor"

Recommended references: Web sites

Recommended references: Magazine/journal articles

Recommended references: Books

Recommended references: Web sites

Site indexes

Open Directory Project: Astronomy
Categorized and annotated links. A version of this list is at Google, with entries sorted in "page rank" order.
CASS/UCSD Astronomy Education Directory
Excellent categorized list, with special emphasis on educational material, including astronomical images, outreach sites, tutorials, Web-based courses, and astronomy publications.
PAM Resources in Astronomy
Good quality, mostly unannotated list of links, maintained by the Special Libraries Association.
Yahoo Astronomy Links
Annotated list of links.
Galaxy: Astronomy
Categorized site directory. Entries usually include descriptive annotations. Has a subcategory for astrophysics.
Griffith Observatory Star Awards
"The Griffith Observatory Star Awards were established to recognize excellence in web sites that promote public awareness of astronomy. These are the best astronomy sites on the World Wide Web."
Related Web Sites of Interest
List at the Nasa/Ipace Extragalactic Database site. Has both professional and educational links. Emphasis on extragalactic astronomy.
Yahoo: Full Coverage: Hubble Telescope
Links for gamma ray bursts & Hubble Telescope sites

Sites with general resources

Astronomy Unbound
A virtual astonomy text provided by the University of Hertfordshire, UK. Covers most of the basic topics, such as stars, galaxies, and cosmology. Provides a mixture of locally written information and external links, and includes a glossary of astronomical terms.
Best of Physics Web: Astronomy and Astrophysics
Directory of best feature articles, news stories, and external links on astronomy, astrophysics, and cosmology at the Physics Web site.
Astronomy Education and Outreach
An excellent educational site, maintained by the Center for Astrophysics and Space Sciences at the Univesity of California, San Diego. Features a great astronomy tutorial by Gene Smith, and many external links.
Imagine the Universe!
A service of NASA's High-Energy Astrophysics Learning Center. Presents news, features, and tutorial information on astronomy, astrophysics, and cosmology. Includes a good list of resources (Web, magazines, and books). See the science page and the advanced science page for lists of the main topics. For frequently asked questions, see Ask a High Energy Astronomer.
High-Energy Astrophysics Science Archive Research Center
Home page of NASA's high-energy astrophysics research program (HEASARC). Information on planned research missions.
Students for the Exploration and Development of Space
An excellent general site dealing with space exploration and astronomy. Features include an images archive, The Nine Planets multimedia solar system tour, and a SETI page.
National Space Science Data Center
One of many NASA sites. Includes sections on astrophysics, solar physics, space physics, lunar and planetary sciences, and Earth sciences. There's also a catalog of spaceborne imaging and a photo gallery.
Space Telescope Science Institute
The main site for anything having to do with the Hubble Space Telescope. One of the main sections is HubbleSite. There's also a section on public information, which includes a press release archive, image galleries, and animations.
NED: NASA/IPAC Extragalactic Database
Very large collection of data, literature references, and tools for extragalactic astronomy. Key features include a database of extragalactic objects, a knowledgebase called Level 5 of articles on extragalactic astronomy and cosmology, a glossary, and external links.
StarDate Online
A good site dealing with general astronomy, maintained by the University of Texas McDonald Observatory. Content includes news, FAQs, image gallery, glossary, resource list (mostly books), and general information on galaxies and stars.
A portal to space information and news stories.
Astronomy Magazine
The site is mostly about the magazine, but there is a section of recent news.
Sky and Telescope Magazine
Good section of current news and archived news stories. The collection of links is quite extensive.
The Astronomy Cafe
Excellent general astronomy site by Sten Odenwald. Has a good collection of articles on astronomy and cosmology. Also includes a question/answer feature called Ask the Astronomer
A Wormhole in the Cosmos
Elementary information on such topics as black holes and supernovae. Also contains a glossary, some links, and a message board for asking questions.
The Chandra X-Ray Observatory Center
General information about the Chandra X-ray observatory satellite. Includes photo galleries, infomation on x-ray astronomy, and discussion of various x-ray sources, such as supernovae, black holes, galaxies, and quasars.
Center for Theoretical Astrophysics
At the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Emphasis on general astrophysics and relativity. Site contains some video animations on relativistic phenomena, and external links to other astrophysics and general relativity sites and related lecture course sites.
Large site with extensive collection of news and external links. Topics covered include astrobiology, earth sciences, future technology, space missions. Other features include an events calendar and photo gallery.
BBC Science - Space
Variety of resources related to astronomy, space science, space exploration. Includes news, tutorials, pictures.
Stars and Galaxies
General news and information on discoveries in astronomy associated with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
Frequently Asked Questions in Astronomy
General Q & A from the Usenet sci.astro newsgroup. Includes sections on astrophysics, extraterrestrial life, stars, galaxies, clusters, and quasars, and cosmology. Also has general information on astronomy and useful external links.
Mysteries of Deep Space
Part of the Space Today Online site. Contains information and external links on galaxies, stars, and associated topics.

Surveys, overviews, tutorials

Eric Weisstein's World of Astronomy
Extensive collection of encyclopedia-style articles.
Article from Wikipedia. See also Astrophysics, Theoretical astrophysics.
High Energy Astrophysics
A ScienceWeek "symposium" consisting of excerpts and summaries of articles from various sources. Topics covered: pulsars, quasars, high energy cosmic rays, gamma ray bursts, relativistic jets.
Stars and Galaxies
Lecture notes, handouts, and other material from a college astronomy course by Martin Weinberg. Touches on relativity and cosmology.
Notes on Astronomy and Astrophysics
College-level course material by Andreas Albrecht.
Stars, Galaxies, and Cosmology
Material from a course at the University of Tennessee, by Mike Guidry and others. Many of the lectures are especially worthwhile, particularly the ones on galaxies, galaxy clusters, and cosmology. There are also useful external links on many pages.

Ask an expert

Galaxy: Ask an Astronomer
Categorized site directory. Entries usually include descriptive annotations.
Ask a High Energy Astronomer
Good service provided by NASA's High Energy Astrophysics Science Archive Research Center. Questions may be submitted by email. Questions that have already been answered are archived under a number of topics.
SIRTF's Ask an Astronomer
Maintained by the Space Infrared Telescope Facility. Contains general information on infrared astronomy as an archive of previously answered questions. New questions may be submitted by email.
Ask the Space Scientist
An archive of questions and answers provided by Sten Odenwald, in the areas of astronomy and space science.
Curious About Astronomy? Ask an Astronomer
Very good Q and A site maintained at Cornell University. Covers all areas of astronomy, as well as some general physics, relativity, and other topics. There are also some selected external links.
Ask an Astronomer at Lick Observatory
Maintained by graduate students at Lick Observatory. There is a large archive of previously answered questions arranged by topic.
Cosmic and Heliospheric Learning Center
A service provided by NASA. Questions are handled mainly in the areas of cosmic rays and solar astronomy.
Stanford SOLAR Center -- Ask a Solar Physicist
This resource is aimed at pre-college students, for questions related to solar astronomy.

Recommended references: Magazine/journal articles

Star Seeker
Michael D. Lemonick
Discover, November 2001, pp. 38-45
The Sloan Digital Sky Survey is an ambitious project to produce the most detailed 3-dimensional map ever of astronomical objects. To be completed by 2005, it aims to catalog everything from asteroids to the most distant quasars.
The Next Generation Space Telescope: Predicting the Past
Marcia Bartusiak
Astronomy, February 2001, pp. 40-45
The Next Generation Space Telescope (NGST) may be launched and operational by 2009. It will be able to collect infrared light with as redshift as high as 20, corresponding to a time just 200 million years after the Big Bang. Astronomers are now trying to guess what the NGST may find.
Invisible Universe
Ron Cowen
Science News, October 21, 2000, pp. 266-268
The Chandra X-ray observatory has, since its 1999 launch, made important discoveries about such things as supernova remnants, midsize and supermassive black holes, and active galactic nuclei.
Stars and Strips Forever
Richard Kron, Sharon Butler
Astronomy, February 1999, pp. 48-53
The Sloan Digital Sky Survey, just beginning, will create a catalog of extragalactic objects visible in the northern hemisphere up to 1.5 billion light years distant. The visual and spectroscopic data collected will provide a database of astrophysical information that should be useful for the next 50 years.
Fast Forward: A Look at the Next 25 Years
Richard Talcott
Astronomy, August 1998, pp. 52-59
A panel discussion among 9 eminent astronomers features speculation on astonomical questions which may be answered in the next 25 years.
25 New Citizens of the Cosmos
Rex Graham
Astronomy, August 1998, pp. 60-65
Most of the "top 25" discoveries in astronomy of the past 25 years have settled important old questions while raising at least as many new ones.
When Galaxies Were Young
Anne L. Kinney
Astronomy, May 1998, pp. 44-49
The Next Generation Space Telescope is scheduled for launch in 2007. The research it will be involved in covers many of the open questions of astronomy and cosmology.
The New Gamma-Ray Astronomy
Neil Gehrels, Jacques Paul
Physics Today, February 1998, pp. 26-32
Two satellite-based gamma-ray instruments known as Granat and the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory have made new discoveries relating to nucleosynthesis sites, galactic black holes, blazars, and gamma-ray bursters.
Beyond Hubble
David H. Freedman
Discover, February 1998, pp. 50-56
Four new orbiting telescopes are planned for the next 15 years: the Next Generation Space Telescope (a general-purpose optical telescope), the Space Infrared Telescope Facility (infrared telescope), the Space Interferometry Mission (detection of extrasolar planets by interferometry), and the Terrestrial Planet Finder (direct observation of Earth-size planets).
NASA's Next Space Observatories
Ray Jayawardhana
Astronomy, January 1998, pp. 46-49
The Advanced X-ray Astrophysics Facility (AXAF) will be used in the search for black holes and in the study of many other phenomena visible in the X-ray portion of the electromagnetic spectrum. The Space Infrared Telescope Facility (SIRTF) will help study the dynamics of stellar and planetary formation through observations in the infrared.
Gravity's Rainbow
Marcia Bartusiak
Astronomy, August 1997, pp. 44-49
Gravitational lensing, an effect predicted by the general theory of relativity, is not just another curiosity, but may be of great observational value in studiying dark matter and distant objects in the early universe.

Recommended references: Books

J. Craig Wheeler -- Cosmic Catastrophes: Supernovae, Gamma-ray Bursts, and Adventures in Hyperspace
Cambridge University Press, 2000
Wheeler offers a good book for general readers on some of the more spectacular astrophysical phenomena. The core of the book deals with supernovae, but it begins with general information on stellar formation and evolution. It also deals with the aftermath of supernovae -- neutron stars, pulsars, and black holes. The most violent events of all, gamma-ray bursts, are also discussed.
F. Combes, P. Boissé, A Mazure, A. Blanchard - Galaxies and Cosmology
Springer-Verlag, 1995 (translation), 1991 (original)
Technical but largely non-mathematical survey of topics such as galactic structure and morphology, quasars, active galactic nuclei, and large-scale structure of the universe.
Martin Harwit - Astrophysical Concepts
Springer-Verlag, 1988
A respected textbook with mathematical details of a variety of astrophysical subjects, including stellar struture and evolution, quasars, galaxy formation, and life in the universe.


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