Tag Archives: National Air and Space Museum

Free Virtual Tours, Online Collections, and Other Free Resources to Explore on the Internet

Peter Lobner

This post contains links to many free virtual tours and other online resources that may be of interest to you.  Also check out the long list of recommended external links on the introductory webpage for Pete’s Lynx, here:


This is a great time to explore. Happy surfing!

1. Google Arts & Culture portal:

Here you’ll find virtual tours and online collections from many partner museums and other organizations.  So many, that I suggest that you try finding something of interest in the “A-Z” view.  There are 145 “A’s” and 8 “Z’s,” with more than 2,500 other museums and collections in between.  Start at the following link: https://artsandculture.google.com/partner

Also check out the Streetview tours of famous sites & landmarks here: https://artsandculture.google.com/project/street-view

2. MCN’s Ultimate Guide to Virtual Museum Resources, E-Learning, and Online Collections

On 14 March 2020, MCN (formerly the Museum Computer Network) posted “The Ultimate Guide to Virtual Museum Resources, E-Learning, and Online Collections,” at the following link:  http://mcn.edu/a-guide-to-virtual-museum-resources/

This is a very extensive list of free online resources and their links. MCN notes, “This list will be continually updated with examples of museum and museum-adjacent virtual awesomeness. It is by no means exhaustive….. Every resource is free to access and enjoy.”

3. Library of Congress (LOC)

The LOC has a wide range of digital collections that are easy to access here:  https://www.loc.gov/collections/

4.  Other museums & historic places:

Here are some additional virtual tours to supplement what you’ll find on the Google Arts & Culture portal and MCN’s extensive list of links.

5. Drone video collection:

6. Video and photographic tours:

While you’re browsing these, you’ll find many similar YouTube videos and photos from other sources on the sidebar of your screen.

7. TED Talks:

More than 3,300 talks to stir your curiosity:  https://www.ted.com/talks

8. Internet Archive:

Check out the Internet Archive, which is a non-profit library of millions of free books, movies, software, music, websites, and more.  The main website is here:  https://archive.org.  Direct links to some of the specific parts of the Internet Archive are here:

9. Open Culture: 

The best free cultural & educational media on the web, with more than 1,500 free online courses from top universities, 1,150 free movies, 700 free audio books, 800 free eBooks, 300 free language lessons, 15,000+ free Golden Age comics from the Digital Comic Museum, and more:  http://www.openculture.com/freeonlinecourses

Also visit these related websites:

10. Libraries: 

11. Maps:

12. Additional resources:

Other authors have provided similar information in the recent articles listed below.  Many of the museums listed in the following articles are accessible via the Google Arts & Culture portal.

Kepler Observatory has Built an Impressive Record for Detecting Extrasolar Planets

Peter Lobner

Updated 18 May 2016 and 30 October 2018

Kepler observatory Source: NASA

NASA’s Kepler extrasolar planet (exoplanet) hunting observatory was launched on 7 March 2009 into an Earth-trailing orbit around the Sun. From this vantage point, Kepler has a continuous, unobstructed view of the selected target areas in the “northern” sky, above the ecliptic plane (plane of the solar system).  Kepler has a very narrow field of view, which is about twice the size of the scoop of the Big Dipper as we see it from Earth (about 1/400th of the sky).

NASA’s Kepler mission website is at the following link:


The Kepler mission team primarily uses the “transit” method to detect exoplanets. NASA explains the transit method as follows:

 “When a planet passes in front of a star as viewed from Earth, the event is called a ‘transit’. On Earth, we can observe an occasional Venus or Mercury transit. These events are seen as a small black dot creeping across the Sun — Venus or Mercury blocks sunlight as the planet moves between the Sun and us. Kepler finds planets by looking for tiny dips in the brightness of a star when a planet crosses in front of it — we say the planet transits the star.

Once detected, the planet’s orbital size can be calculated from the period (how long it takes the planet to orbit once around the star) and the mass of the star using Kepler’s Third Law of planetary motion. The size of the planet is found from the depth of the transit (how much the brightness of the star drops) and the size of the star. From the orbital size and the temperature of the star, the planet’s characteristic temperature can be calculated. From this the question of whether or not the planet is habitable (not necessarily inhabited) can be answered”.

The following figure illustrates the effect on brightness of a planet transiting across a star.

Kepler transit methodSource: NASA Ames

Kepler originally used four reaction wheels to orient the spacecraft to observe specific regions of the sky.  After failure of a second reaction wheel in 2013, Kepler no longer was able to maintain a desired orientation with sufficient accuracy.  The mission was stopped and the spacecraft was put in “safe mode” until a modified mission plan, dubbed “K2” or “Second Light” was tested and then implemented in May 2014.  This K2 mission plan defined new target areas that could be observed using the two remaining reaction wheels and thrusters to orient and stabilize the spacecraft.  Measured pointing accuracy in the K2 configuration has been shown to be almost equal to the pointing accuracy with three reaction wheels.  The K2 mission is expected to continue through the end of 2016.

The Kepler mission team announced discovery of the first Earth-sized planet in the habitable zone of a star in April 2014.  This planet, named Kepler-186f, orbits a red dwarf, the most common type of star in the Milky Way, about 500 light years from Earth.

You will find current information on the confirmed and candidate exoplanets discovered by Kepler at the following link to the NASA Kepler website:


In March 2015, NASA’s Kepler team won the National Air and Space Museum 2015 Trophy for Current Achievement.  Read more about this award at the following link:


 Update – 18 May 2016:

The 10 May 2016 issue of The Astrophysical Journal includes an article entitled, “False Positive Probabilities for all Kepler Objects of Interest: 1284 Newly Validated Planets and 428 Likely False Positives,” by T.D. Morton et al. This paper reports the results of the first large-scale demonstration of a fully automated transiting planet validation process that calculates the probability of an observation being a false positive. A remarkable aspect of this work is that the automated validation process was applied to every Kepler Object of Interest (KOI). The key results reported in this paper are as follows:

  • Out of 7,056 KOIs, the team determine that 1,935 have probabilities <1% of being astrophysical false positives, and thus may be considered validated planets.
  • Of these, 1,284 have not yet been validated or confirmed by other methods.
  • 428 KOIs are likely to be false positives, but have not yet been identified as such by other means

You can download the complete paper at the following link:


Update – 30 October 2018:

NASA announced that the Kepler Space Telescope ran out of fuel today and no longer could orient itself to study cosmic objects or transmit data to Earth.

“As NASA’s first planet-hunting mission, Kepler has wildly exceeded all our expectations and paved the way for our exploration and search for life in the solar system and beyond,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. “Not only did it show us how many planets could be out there, it sparked an entirely new and robust field of research that has taken the science community by storm. Its discoveries have shed a new light on our place in the universe, and illuminated the tantalizing mysteries and possibilities among the stars.”

You can read the NASA press release here:


The complete Kepler and K2 missions are described in detail on the NASA website: