Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD) is a NASA sponsored site featuring some stunning space-related photography.
“A different astronomy and space science related image is featured each day, along with a brief explanation… by a professional astronomer.”
Clicking on the picture will download the highest resolution version available (for non-commercial use). All of the picture descriptions are liberally filled with relevant links to further reading.
This is not a fancy Web-2.0 site. This is firmly web 1.0 but with good accessibility, fast loading pages and the emphasis on content over presentation. Built from an engineering perspective – KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid) – it’s a site that sticks to its purpose, has no web technology that’s going out of date, nothing that breaks browser compatibility. It just works.
The Index page is categorised by Cosmos, Solar System, Space technology, People and Sky. Not content with that you can also run a search for photos. As the site seems to be run on a shoestring with the minimal amount of user interface chrome, you get different search boxes on different pages, the main search is simply a text box for searching everything, elsewhere you can run a title search or text search. There’s a Glossary page and an Educational Links page fulfilling the educational brief. AJS
Our example is the Picture of the Day for November 16, 2011, NGC 7822 in Cepheus (Image Credit Manuel Fernández Suarez
“Hot, young stars and cosmic pillars of gas and dust seem to crowd into NGC 7822. At the edge of a giant molecular cloud toward the northern constellation Cepheus, the glowing star forming region lies about 3,000 light-years away. Within the nebula, bright edges and dark shapes are highlighted in this
colorful skyscape. The image includes data from narrowband filters, mapping emission from atomic oxygen, hydrogen, and sulfur into blue, green, and red hues. The atomic emission is powered by energetic radiation from the hot stars, whose powerful winds and radiation also sculpt and erode the denser pillar shapes. Stars could still be forming inside the pillars by gravitational collapse, but as the pillars are eroded away, any forming stars will ultimately be cutoff from their reservoir of star stuff. This field spans around 40 light-years at the estimated distance of NGC 7822.”