Astronomical Data to Inspire Your Curiosity!
Whether you are a student looking for an interesting science fair topic, or a teacher planning a classroom activity for your students, the starting point for any astronomical investigation is information and data. Scientific questions always lead to some kind of analysis of data in order to find an answer. The better your data is, the more interesting and complex question you can try to answer with it. Generally you have two choices, and both are used by scientists: you can either perform observations or experiments to generate your own data, or you can use existing data assembled through the efforts of other scientists.
This archive provides a sampling of various kinds of data that can lead to answering very interesting questions. All you have to do is provide the question, and then work with the data to come up with your own answers. How you choose to analyze the data, or which data set or combination of them you choose to work with, is entirely up to you. SpaceMath@NASA, through its hundreds of math problems has provided many examples of how data can be investigated to extract new information. Among these 'worked' problems you may come up with new questions for you to research using these data sets.
All of the data sets listed below are in Microsoft Excel format. To work with these data sets you will need to understand how to use Excel to manipulate the columns of data, re-sort them, and perform calculations and to plot the data. There are many How To guides for using Excel, so you will need to learn the basics of this software before beginning your project.
The main rule of science is: "don't let data intimidate you". You have to be aggressive with it and not be afraid to manipulate it, replot it in many different ways, and understand its limitations and quality. Be aware that when scientists assemble a new data set, they do so with specific limitations that they state up front. For example, a particular catalog may only contain all of the objects in its sample if they are brighter than a certain limit. The catalog may not actually contain all of the possible objects. As another example, a list of the known planets outside our solar system may only be a complete list up to a particular date which covers the last entry. A big part of working with scientific data is to understand how the data was acquired and the limitations of the data in terms of both accuracy and completness.
1.0 - The Sun and Space Weather
The sun is our nearest star, but we continue to learn more about it every year!
1.1 - Sunspot Numbers This table gives the monthly-averaged sunspot numbers from January 1749 to July 2011. [3 columns, 3153 months, 189 kBy] To download, click [Here]
1.2 - Coronal Mass Ejections This table gives the CMEs that were discovered by the SOHO spacecraft between December 1996 and May 2006. [9 columns, 9843 events, 4.7 MBy] To download, click [Here]
1.3 - Solar Proton Events This table gives Solar Proton Events that were detected by satellites between April 1976 and January 2005. [7 columns, 217 events, 46 kBy] To download, click [Here]
1.4 - X-Class Solar Flares The X-class solar flares detected between July 1996 and September 2005. [3 columns, 121 events, 33 kBy] To download, click [Here]
1.5 - Aurora Events in Northern hemisphere of Earth This table gives the numeric brightness of aurora sighted between February 1997 and December 2006.[2 columns, 151 events, 21 kBy] To download, click [Here]
1.6 - Merged Daily Solar Storm Data This table merges the solar storm events by date for the period from January 1, 1996 to December 31, 2003. [18 columns, 2928 days, 702 kBy] To download, click [Here]
2.0 - Rockets, Satellites and Spacecraft
The technology we use to get around in space is complex, and fascinating.
2.1 - Satellites in Geosynchronous Orbit This table gives a complete list of the satellites located in geosynchronous orbit around Earth through the end of 2007 [8 columns, 329 satellites, 61 kBy] To download, click [Here]
2.1 - Satellite Anomalies from Space Weather This table gives a list of satellite anomalies recorded by a selection of satellites between February 1963 and September 1994. The reporting of these anomalies by the satellite owners was purely voluntary, and not all satellites are included in this listing. [6 columns, 5036 anomalies, 582 kBy] To download, click [Here]
3.0 - Exploring our own solar system
Spacecraft have visited every planet in our solar system, including asteroids and comets. Some have even landed on the surface of the moon, mars and one of Saturn's moons.
3.1 - Major Solar System Bodies This table gives a complete list of known major solar system bodies. [15 columns, 11 Bodies, 19 kBy] To download, click [Here]
3.2 - Minor Solar System Bodies This table gives a complete list of known minor solar system bodies larger than 1 kilometer in radius [8 columns, 329 satellites, 61 kBy] To download, click [Here]
4.0 - The Search for planets outside our solar system
Are we alone in the universe? Since 1995, astronomers have discovered nearly 2000 planets orbiting thousands of stars. It looks like our universe is starting to get a bit crowded!
4.1 - Kepler Objects of Interest This table gives a list of the objects discovered by NASA's Kepler satellite in its survey of 157,436 stars. The collection of objects, thought to be planets, is current as of August 2011. [8 columns, 1234 objects, 2.6 MBy] To download, click [Here]
4.2 - Exoplanet Catalog This table gives a list of the discovered exoplanets using ground-based techniques. It is current as of August 2011. [8 columns, 1234 objects, 2.6 MBy] To download, click [Here]
5.0 - Stars and the Milky Way
Our Milky Way galaxy is huge, and contains nearly a trillion stars by some estimates. What are they? Are any like our sun?
5.1 - Star Catalog This table lists basic information for the 31,858 stars in the sky that are brighter than a visual magnitude of +7.5, or closer than 50 parsecs, based upon the Yale Bright Star catalog, the Gleise Catalog, and the Hipparchos Catalog [13 columns, 31858 objects, 2.9 MBy] To download, click [Here]
5.2 - The New General Catalog This is an online image gallery of all 7840 objects in this catalog of star clusters, nebulae and galaxies. Click [HERE]
5.3 - The New General Catalog This table lists basic information for all 7840 objects in the 'NGC' catalog. Many of the objects are galaxies, stars and nebula. [8 columns, 7840 objects, 2.6 MBy] To download, click [Here]