At a dedicated press conference held at the European Week of Astronomy and Space Science (EWASS) yesterday, the International Year of Astronomy's Portal to the Universe - a one-stop-internet-shop for astronomy news - opened its doors to the public.
The latest Cornerstone project of the IYA, Portal to the Universe has been long awaited by journalists, scientists, teachers and members of the public alike. As well as collating astronomy news from a variety of sources, including the European Space Agency, the Royal Astronomical Society and the world's major telescopes for example, feeds from blogs and podcasts are also posted on the site along with live or near-live images of the Sun, spacecraft positions and telescope observations.
"It is clear that even in such a well-defined field as astronomy, there is much more 'information confusion' than you might think," says Project Manager Lars Lindberg Christensen. "There is a real need in the community for this kind of site, where astronomy content is gathered in one place and is easily accessible. The International Year of Astronomy 2009 seeks to bring the Universe down to Earth, and this Portal is an excellent way of achieving this. This website will provide a single entry point to stars and galaxies".
Thanks to technology such as RSS feeds, the Portal will act as a semi-automatically updating central repository of astronomy information from sources across the world. Data will be indexed and archived, providing a legacy that will long outlive the International Year of Astronomy itself.
"This release is just the beginning," says Christensen. "The project will develop with, and around, the community's needs, and lots of new features are planned, including adding resources such as educational materials, addresses for all astronomy stakeholders such as amateur clubs, planetariums and observatories."
The Portal to the Universe team encourages everyone to participate and submit RSS feeds for relevant news, images, videos, podcasts and so on. Astronomy Now has signed up; get more information on how to join at http://www.portaltotheuniverse.org/