New Kids on the Blog

July 3, 2008 — Leave a comment

I was recently made aware (thanks to an email about a post on the .Astronomy Conference website) of some new astronomy blogs that have popped up over at the Discovery Channel. I knew that Chris has started writing for his new blog at Discovery Channel but hadn’t realised there were six new blogs over there all about space. This is in addition to the already prolific astronomy news blog Free Space (which has just started Twittering BTW).

So I thought maybe you’d all like to know a little about what this new litter has to offer, and who the runt is, if there is one.

What’s Up Astronomy (Alan Dyer)

This guy covers the bulk of practical, amateur astronomy. He discusses what you can see in the night sky; he talks about planetariums; and he takes some nice photographs. This is great, practical stuff and I have already subscribed. A bit like the astronomy column in a newspaper, the What’s Up blog fills that factual, observer niche that we all want to read about once in a while. Unless we’re cosmologists.

Space Across the Pond (Chris Lintott)

I like Chris’ style and so I generally enjoy his stuff regardless of topic. He also has the knack of writing for the internet: short, snappy and to the point. I wish I could always stick to that ethos.

Chris is described in his Discovery bio as covering astronomy “as seen from Europe”, which truthfully I find a bit odd. Yes there are lots of Americans in the world, but this is the internet. Also, isn’t the European perspective really quite similar to most others when it comes to space? Astronomy is a fairly international game. I don’t read the Mars Phoenix Twitter feed for the Martian perspective. Anyway, I’m nit-picking. The blog is good and the name hardly matters.

Twisted Physics (Jennifer Ouellette)

To clarify: Jennifer is said to have a black belt in jujitsu and live with “a tall cosmologist name Sean”, so I’m not going to be very mean here am I? The posts here are a little more in-depth and ‘feature’ like than most of the others. The authors writes very well and covers interesting and unusual topics. a bit like the sort of stuff Wired would cover. I could learn to like this blog and will keep an eye on it. Its not Digg material, which is a shame. But other than Bad Astronomy, very little thoughtful stuff seems allowed to get far on Digg.

Cosmic Ray (RayVillard)

Going back to titles (I really am a pedant) this one is a pun. How do I feel about puns? I LOVE them! Cosmic RAY… get it? Ray is director of news for the Hubble Space Telescope. I’m not sure what that means, but I had thought that it would produce a Hubble new bias on his blog. It doesn’t, and this is a good sign. The blog is very readable and I’ll have to read it for a bit to see if I like it.

Next Generation (David Chandler)

Not sure what to say about this one. It is described to new visitors as being about student astronomy, which made me keen to read it. I’m a student and thus it seemed like he would be talking about the kinds of things student astrophysicists and astronomers are up to. But whilst this is true, there are also non-student related posts thrown in. Not a problem in of itself but when you start to think that this is one of six blogs that are part of the same collective, you wonder whether it is overkill. However at least half of the posts present are student-related and these are very interesting. Check out the post about Caesar’s path to Britain as a good example.

Space Disco (Dave Mosher)

This blog is written by the same guy that, I think, is producing the whole lot. This makes me think of it as a sort of editorial. As such it is more personal and I guess the word is ‘fun’. It looks perhaps at lighter topics with titles like ‘Supernovae Taste like Stawberries’. I like the style and the content of this one and so I have subscribed.

In general I would say that they are all well-written and professionally put together. These are journalistic blogs. Perhaps it is partly for this reason that I wish they were not all separate. What I’d really like to see – and this is my principle wish for this family of blogs – is that they all combine into one big website.

I’d like to see a main page elsewhere, perhaps at a root address of /space, which presents the latest posts from all the authors in a kind of online astronomy magazine. I want a combined RSS feed and therefore organised coverage to avoid overlapping stories. With all those great writers, covering that wide-range of topics, I would subscribe unfailingly. There would also be room for an irreverent UK PhD student in amongst the posts of that magazine, if you ask me (ahem!).

So in conclusion: go and read. Try these blogs out. Ultimately they will all speak for themselves over time. They look at the outset to be of a high quality and as such do well at raising the bar for astronomy blogs once again.

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