May 3, 2002

Astronomy Website Redesigned

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Cornell’s forum-like astronomy website, “Ask an Astronomer,” just finished its reconstruction this Wednesday.

“Ask an Astronomer” is a service provided by Cornell’s astronomy department and is currently maintained by a team of seven astronomers, most of whom are graduate students.

“All of us do this voluntarily, in our own time, fitting it in around our other work,” said Karen Masters grad, one of the students involved.

The website was first created in 1997 by Dave Kornreich, who was then a graduate student at Cornell. In just a short period of time, the website rapidly grew in popularity.

The astronomy team decided to update the website this past September.

They now receive about 60 to 70 questions a week.

“The previously answered questions were very out-of-date and we thought it might be helpful if we put more information on the site to help circumvent some of the most basic questions,” Masters said.

The website welcomes anyone who wishes to submit a question pertaining to astronomy. Previous questions include, “why aren’t there any green stars?” and, “how do you find the temperature of the Sun?”

“I like how the major topics are grouped into categories,” said Jason Chiang ’05, a student who has taken astronomy classes at Cornell. “The website is easy to navigate. The explanations that the graduate students give are nice and thorough so that even an amateur would understand them.”

“It’s great how you can ask them any random astronomy question. It’s even a pretty cool yet informative way to waste time if you’re bored,” said Kim Sopko ’05. “I don’t take astronomy so I like how the website is structured in a way that I could still understand what’s going on despite my lack of knowledge on the subject.”

Although the reconstructed website provides easier navigation and more updated answers to the posed questions, several students suggested some possible improvements.

For example, Chiang said, “It would be nice if some pictures or graphics accompanied the answers.”

In an overall reflection of the service, Masters said, “we really enjoy answering interesting questions and we’re excited that this website is now available to the public.”

Archived article by Jennifer Chen