Data sources

DATA Source URLs and Video Presentations

Allen Telescope Array Data

Waterfall plot

Scientist: Jon Richards

Raw data from the Allen Telescope Array, a radio-and-microwave-frequency telescope in the north of California.  The data at this site come in two forms: waterfall images, which are 768x129 pixel PNG images of the sky captured by the ATA; and signal files, which are JSON data.

Jon Richards talks about ATA data

Asteroid Mining Resources


Scientist: Franck Marchis

Asteroids are complex geophysical worlds, made of different types of material (ice, rock, metal), with a complex interior (differentiated, high porosity), and sometimes with companions (triple asteroids, binary asteroids).  To mine an asteroid, you'd combine:

  • ASTORB, which is a collection of ephemerides for all numbered asteroids, in one large file (documented on the containing page)
  • DAMIT 3D models.  DAMIT is a database of hundreds of asteroid models, and also some other information about the asteroids.  When browsing for asteroids, you're going to want to download the OBJ files, since those are readily importable.  The PNG links provide a visual overview.  A description of the other sorts of information to be found at the site.
  • RADAR 3D models are a small collection of asteroid models, generated by a different technique.  The actual model files are in OBJ format and can be found by going through "Browse" and then "data" links on the site.
  • VOBAD is a downloadable database of multiple asteroid systems.

Asteroid Shape Models

Asteroid models

Scientist: Michael Busch

Radar pulses sent from Earth reflected off these asteroids, and sophisticated software derived their approximate shapes!  There are a few dozen asteroid files linked from this page, and they're all in the .OBJ file format, which is easily convertible to other file formats, and is natively understood by many as well (including Unity).  Note that the models are to-scale, and some of them are gigantic relative to others!  The narrowbeam radar pulses that mapped these asteroids are among the clearest and most receivable signals that humanity is sending into space!

Michael Busch on Asteroid Shape Models

Cassini PR Photos

Cassini photos

Scientist: Mark Showalter

This page contains many curated photos with accompanying descriptions that are very educational.

Exoplanet Archive


Scientist: Doug Caldwell

A more detailed look at the data Kepler collects.

Gemini Planet Imager

Gemini summary image

Scientist: Franck Marchis

In November 2014, the Gemini Planet Imager Exoplanet Survey will start to look directly at exoplanets.  It uses interesting new technology to do this successfully.  Its first targets are a list of 650 stars with giant planets. An excel file of all 650 exoplanet targets is also available for download.  To find out more about each star in the list, plug the first column (the id of the star) into SIMBAD's quick search tool.

Franck Marchis


Horizons data

Scientist: Michael Busch

This website provides ephemerides for large and small bodies for user specified time spans, from various observer locations.  An ephemeris (plural: ephermerides) is a tabulation of computed positions and velocities (and/or various derived quantities such as right ascension and declination) of an orbiting body at specific times.  You can search for bodies by name most easily by using wildcards, e.g. "*Kleo*".

You generally want to pick "VECTORS" ephemeris type, as this puts the coordinates in a vector form in the International Celestial Reference Frame.

Kepler 3D Models

Kepler 3D

Scientist: Doug Caldwell

Models of the Kepler spacecraft in various formats, textures included.

Jason Rowe on Kepler models

Kepler Planets Found

Kepler Planets found

Scientist: Doug Caldwell

Kepler is a space observatory that looks for planets by pointing at exactly at the same location for years at a time and looking for temporary occlusion of stars, signaling that a planet has orbited between the star and Kepler's telescope. Kepler's trophies are all listed here, along with useful information on each planet.


Kepler Project Animations and Video


Scientist: Doug Caldwell

Artist concepts, videos, and illustrations from the Kepler project. They're ready to go. Just try not to spend all your time browsing the gallery.


Planet mapping

Scientist: Mark Showalter

Maps of the planets!  This is a good way of getting heightmaps, and it's also easy to get a corresponding texture for the same area.  For Mars, the heightmap data set is the "Mars MOLA Digital Terrain Map".  For the Moon, it's "Kaguya Laser Altimeter Topo" and "LOLA GDR Digital Elevation Model". The cluster of controls in the upper-left can change the resolution of the image you're downloading.



Scientist: Mark Showalter

Opus contains a lot of unedited pictures of ringed solar system bodies (and many that are not ringed).  To find interesting images, use the filters to narrow down the search a bit, then click "Browse results".  Clicking on an image will pop up a dialog with a larger image, and then the image can be saved using the browser's "Save image" functionality.  To change the search, click the "Search" button in the upper-left instead of using the back button.  The color of the thumbnail indicates the spectrum the camera captured; all images are grayscale.

Opus also has an HTML REST API that could be easily programmatically interpreted.  It uses the same query string format as the search tool to select the set of images.  Construct the urls manually, like:

An older version of Opus has the ability to make gif-like videos out of a series of pictures.  Here's a search page for movies.

Small Body Database

Scientist: Michael Busch

Tracking the movement of astroids? This database will give you orbital elements, physical parameters, and metadata for small bodies such as astroids. Orbital elements are discriptors of the movement of a body, like eccentricity, perihelion distance, and orbital period. You'll need java to access the orbit diagrams.