Building a Portal to the Universe

Posted By Pamela on Aug 5, 2008 | 12 comments

As those of you who have been reading for a while probably know, I am one of the worker bees behind the International Year of Astronomy. While I’m going to continue to teach next year, I’m taking a reduced course load so I can focus on attacking the world with astronomy content one website at a time.

One of the projects I’m involved in is the Portal to the Universe. This new website, slated to launch in beta on December 1, 2008, seeks to be a one stop shop for finding out what’s new and what’s being talked about in astronomy. It is not going to produce the content, however. It’s going to help distribute other people’s (your?) content in new (and hopefully more effective) ways.

Specifically, we’re going to do 4 things:

  1. Highlight press releases coming out from all around the global astronomy community and cross-link them with blog posts, news articles, and potentially other new media related to the press release. This means, you’ll see a press release’s title and opening sentence or two on the Portal, and below it you’ll see links out to all the online buzz about that press release.
  2. Index all astronomy RSS feeds we can identify (blogs, twitters, podcasts, vodcasts, images of the hour/day/week)
  3. Index all nifty astronomy widgets that can be embedded in websites or iGoogle home pages
  4. Create a giant phone book of astronomy (clubs, departments, centers, observatories, etc…)

I want to state for the record: we will not be scraping your feeds; we will be linking in titles and maybe the first 100 words to help drive people to your site. I want to see our collective audiences grow, as more voices are heard in a global astronomy dialogue.

Now the thing is, trying to find all the above content is not easy. I’m not talking about just trying to identify all the blogs in the US, but rather trying to identify all the astronomy related RSS feeds of all types in the world.

If I haven’t contacted you yet, I may not have been able to find you through Googling and looking at people’s blog rolls, or some other means (or you just did a really good job hiding your email address on your site).

Can you contact me? I want to include your content. I want to link to what you have to say. I want you to be a part of the Portal to the Universe, and I want to help you share your content with the world.

Here is my need: If you are a content provider, can you please email me at with the following informing:
Site Name, Site URL, RSS URL, Byline, Tagline, if your site is clean/explicit/somewhere inbetween, and information on what type of feed it is (Blog, images, twitter, video, etc). For office purposes only (where the office is the IAU IYA Secretariat), we also need to know who the correct contact person is, and what their email address is.

And here is my request: If you are a content provider, can you please put out a request on your feeds, your Facebook, and your twitter, to help me find the hidden content providers – the grad students telling their stories of the stars and the research scientists silently slaving over their blogs – so that I can help get their voices heard in the Portal to the Universe.

My fantasy is for every feed owner to get at least three different “Have you emailed Pamela Gay about your feed yet?” emails from a friend, a fan, and a fellow feed burner.

Can you help make a girl’s fantasy come true?


  1. You might want to note that your “Portal to the Universe” link in the second paragraph is brokwn.

  2. Will you have a section for amateur astronomy clubs?


  3. Is PTTU going to be multilingual?

  4. Hi John and Robert,

    The PTTU will include as complete a directory of global amateur astronomy clubs as we can create and will allow users to submit info for new clubs, and send in requests for updates. We will also be collecting astronomy widgets, like embeddable versions of the Clear Sky Clock, that can either be collected on a customized page on the PTTU or embedded in your personal homepage.

    Initially the PTTU will be English, but it is being designed to allow easy skinning to foreign languages, and we will be looking to add additional languages over time.


  5. I plead exhaustion… I see that you did mention the clubs in the text of your original post. I’ll have the name and web site for our club on the way. I’ll have to check what other of the items we also have and include them.


  6. Would our site work?

  7. Hi Rich – Yup! Can you email me?

  8. Will you have a section for amateur astronomy clubs?
    Amateur astronomy clubs are as we can create and will allow users to submit info for new clubs, and send in requests for updates.


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