Last week, The New York Times soft-launched a new feature called The New York Times Astronomy and Space Calendar, which previews some of the notable upcoming astronomical events. There’s a neat twist to this: you can sync it to your personal calendar on your computer or phone.
The Times’ calendar features a light range of upcoming events: meteor showers, notable anniversaries, and major events such as the August 21st solar eclipse. Each entry comes with a short blurb about the significance behind the event, as well as links to the Times’ coverage of each event.
The calendar isn’t comprehensive, and that’s by design, says Times Senior Staff Editor for Science editor Michael Roston, who was one of the calendar’s creators. He explained that while there are plenty of other science and astronomy calendars out there, such as the Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s Space Calendar, “we wanted to produce something that was curated with a more casual space and astronomy fan in mind.”
One example he highlighted is SpaceX’s flurry of activity. There’s a launch tomorrow, but that’s not on the calendar. Roston explained that their focus us more on adding events that are of interest to the casual astronomy fan, and not to overwhelm the calendars of subscribers. So, when SpaceX eventually launches its Falcon 9 Heavy rocket that will likely pop up on the calendar, while some of the more routine satellite and commercial launches will be left off.
The project, Roston says, is “intended to be a new format for service journalism,” used as a conduit for the Times’ reporting on the field. Ben Koski, the Deputy Editor for Interactive News, also worked on the project, and explained that they are starting out slow, opting to launch with Google and Apple calendars, but they’ve since added on a WebCal link for other users. The project launched last week, and the pair say that they’ll integrate the feature into articles in the near future.
I synced up the calendar to my devices on Friday, and I’m pleased to see entries for the Persied meteor shower alongside more mundane reminders for dentist appointments and bills. I never studied astronomy in college, but it’s a topic that I’m endlessly fascinated by, and it’s a field that I follow, professionally and personally, and what I appreciate about this project is that it’s a simple way to work a bit of astronomy into your regular day. It’s a good demonstration that you don’t have to have a science degree to enjoy the universe: sometimes, you just need a heads-up that something cool is about to happen.