Armchair Astronomy - April 2020

Original article appears in GuideStar April, 2020.

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By Don Selle

For me, amateur astronomy has been a road I regularly travel for continuous learning. If you have not already followed this road or would like a new learning adventure, the Guidestar can help.

In this issue, we introduce a new column – “Armchair Astronomy”  that will point you towards interesting opportunities to learn more astronomy. Think of it as an entry in your travel guide to astronomy learning.  

The resources may be free online university courses that you can take in the comfort of your living room, astronomy how to sites for amateurs or online databases where you can download and manipulate professional astronomy data.

vertical astrobites logo with textIn this issue, I would like to introduce you to to a unique website for astronomy learning called Astrobites

 Astrobites calls itself the “astrophysics readers digest”. From the website - “Astrobites is a daily astrophysical literature journal written by graduate students in astronomy since 2010. Our goal is to present one interesting paper per day in a brief format that is accessible to undergraduate students in the physical sciences who are interested in active research.”

“astro-ph is the astrophysics section of, where researchers post their latest work (often before official review and publication).  It is written by a “team of of graduate students at universities around the world” and is intended to help undergrads get familiar with current research in astrophysics. Each astro-bite summarizes a technical paper accepted for publication. These summaries are quite accessible and unlike popular science magazine or newspaper articles, they link back to the original paper on, which can be downloaded for free. In addition to the daily paper summaries, there are several sections that provide instructional articles, undergraduate papers and research, as well as career advice.

One of my favorite sections on the astrbites website is the “classics” section. Here are articles on key astronomical discoveries of the past, as well as “astrobite” paper summaries of classic technical papers, including links to the original paper. There are lots of opportunities here for not only learning about the basics of many astronomical subjects, but also resources to help you understand how we came to know what we know!

Here is a recent astrobite to get you started. But be sure to spend a little time to browse the site and you will understand what a good resource it is for we amateurs to learn more about the subject we love.

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