Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Site down

At the moment my website is currently unavailable. Don't worry though - it'll be back very very soon (hopefully by Friday 17th). There is a chance that it may go on and off sometimes over the next week or so seeing as it may be moving to a new host, but it definitely will be back. The new look to the site is still going well. Just about all of the pages about the planets are nearly updated with just Neptune and Pluto/Dwarf Planets to go. And then it'll be on with the rest of it!

Thursday, 27 November 2008

Bob's New(ish) Look!

If you've ventured into the Mars section of this website, you may have noticed that it looks a bit different to the rest of the site. Over the next few weeks, I plan to give the site a fresh new look, seeing as, despite the addition of a number of pages and a few tweaks here and there over the years, it still looks quite similar to how it looked when it first appeared on the Internet nearly nine years ago. So, the black starry background has gone and has been replaced by purple. Lots and lots of purple. Perhaps a bit too much. Let me know if you think it is better or worse than before. What I want to do is make the site look better and become easier to navigate. What I don't want to do is put people off it, so email me or leave a comment on this blog to let me know what you think of the new look!

Apart from attempting to make the site look more attractive, the main aim of the redesign is to make the site easier to navigate. Earlier this year, I changed the control panel at the top of the page to include links to different parts of the site. But, although I thought it looked good, I still felt something was wrong with it. So, the top control panel has been slightly changed. It still allows quick access to the main destinations (the planets, sun and the Moon) and "feedback" links (email, guest book and this blog), but all other links have been moved into more logical categories which will now appear on the left of every page. At the bottom of each page is a bar containing additional "gadgets". Currently, there is one there to translate the page into other languages and a search box. The space there also allows for future additions (such as a place to download a printable version of the page, seeing as yellow writing on a purple background doesn't print too well!). This means that the main content will take up the main body of the page, with all navigation links around it. The way it is now designed means that it should be easier to browse the website either chronologically or randomly, allowing for different learning styles.

This website was originally designed as an educational project assessing the Internet as a learning resource; its design was based around an educational theory about concentric learning which had something to do with the learner following their own path around an educational resource and not being told what to do. This meant that they were not given a set place to start or to finish their educational journey, and they didn't have to read from beginning to end (like a book) to acquire the information they need. The circular nature of the Solar System was ideal for the project. Originally, the learner was going to be presented with a picture of the Solar System with the various destinations as clickable links. Where the user clicked first was up to them. It would be their interest that would guide them to their first destination and then to their next. After completion of my project, I decided to continue development and maintenance of the site. For years, it has used its concentric approach, which is ideal because the nature of the Internet means that most visitors to the site don't actually visit the home page of it. They usually get here from a link in a search engine, and go to a page which, if the site was designed to be read chronologically, would be somewhere in the middle of it. Once they've visited, they either get the information they want and leave, or continue to browse seemingly randomly. But, this method doesn't suit all visitors. Like I said, most people enter the site at any of the pages (for some reason, the ten facts about saturn page seems to be the most popular). Hopefully, they like what they see and decide that they want to more of it. But they may not want to just browse randomly. Instead they may want some kind of direction. I believe that with the new links on the left hand side, if they feel that they don't know where to go next, or what they may have missed out on already, they can go on to browse in a more orderly and logical way.

All of the pages in the Mars section have been given the new look. I'll probably play around with them a bit more over the next few days until I'm happy with the look, and then I'll begin the process of updating the rest of the site. If you want to see the new look now, go to Mars and have a browse. Or, have a look at the images below. Which ones do you prefer? The first and third images are the old pages, the second and fourth are the new ones.

Thursday, 30 October 2008

Ten Facts About...

As I announced last weekend, this week sees the launch of a new website by the creator of Bob the Alien's Tour of the Solar System. Basically a spin-off of the Ten Facts About pages on this website, Ten Facts About... is a website of facts about a wide variety of subjects with ten new facts being added everyday. It's now ready to visit and can be accessed at - today's facts are about Pumpkins! Happy Halloween!

Saturday, 25 October 2008

New website!

Whoops! Not updated for a while again. This post is more of an advert for a new website I'm developing. Some of the most popular pages on Bob the Alien's Tour of the Solar System are the fact pages (the ones featuring ten or more facts about each of the planets). By far, they are the most visited pages every day, proving that visitors to my website want quick, straight to the point, information. More than likely, it's for a school project that requires you to find "ten facts about" a planet, and it's been left to the last minute! So, I thought I'd branch out a little and offer a website which provides ten facts about other subjects. The site, which will be called Ten Facts About... is fairly simple in its aims. Everyday, I will add ten facts about a subject. The subject matter can be anything (in the first month, I have facts ready for subjects such as pumpkins, the White House, Sonic the Hedgehog and Halley's Comet). The facts usually have some relevance to the day they get added. After publication, they will be put into a category so visitors can search for facts based on the date of publication or their category. The site will launch on 31st October 2008, and I will be back here on that day to provide the link to the site. Below is a screenshot of what a page from the website should look like. The example facts are temporary and will be replaced with the proper facts by launch.

Anyway, that's my little advert out of the way. Although I will be doing that website, that doesn't mean I'm giving up with this one. Bob the Alien's Tour of the Solar System will still be updated and maintained, and is due to get a proper facelift early in 2009 seeing as it's hardly changed for the last eight years!


Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Bob's back!

Hi everybody. Feels like it's been a while since I updated. Then again, it has been a while. As I said in my previous post, summer is traditionally a very quiet time of year for my website, so I don't tend to update much of it. I have been working on a few things behind the scenes (mainly the forthcoming "On this Day" section) and have been playing around with graphics to make them look shiny, but not used the new shiny graphics yet. I added a few new pages: page two of Missions to Mars in the Mars section, and a page about Early Astronomy in the Astronomy section (which I've noticed doesn't have any links to apart from the front page - I'll have to fix that next time I redesign the main navigational panel!). Now that schools are back and visitor numbers tend to increase again, you should see more activity on the site.

So, what's been happening in the world of space over the summer? Water has been confirmed to exist on Mars. The Phoenix lander analysed a sample of soil it had dug up and found out that one of the particles contained in it was water. Scientists at the time claimed that had "touched and tasted" water on Mars which is something of a bold claim seeing as they are sitting comfortably in their science labs on Earth, nowhere near the Martian water! And although they haven't found enough water to quench the thirst of any passing alien, the fact that water does still exist there confims for definite that the planet had a wet history, and greatly increases the chances of life having survived or still suviving there. Ooooh, exciting stuff!

Other events included a space shuttle going to the International Space Station to fix the toilet. That happened in the early part of summer. So, an astronaut onboard the space station called NASA and said, "You know that space shuttle you're sending up to us. Well, can you send up a plumber too?" You can imagine the bill afterwards - "That'll be $40 parts and labour, $1,000,000 call-out fee." Talking of the space shuttle, NASA has announced that it's successor, Orion, won't be ready to fly until at least 2014. The fleet of existing space shuttle are due to be retured in 2010, which leaves a four year gap for manned space travel. Astronauts can hop onboard the Russian Soyuz rockets which also make regular journeys to and from the International Space Station, but there may be a chance that the retirement date of the space shuttle will be put back.

Other news - objects like Pluto, which became known as Dwarf Planets a couple of years ago, may get reclassified as Plutoids. Ceres, an object in the asteroid belt, which also became classified as a Dwarf Planet at the same time as Pluto, may become an asteroid again, seeing as it doesn't really fit in with the Plutoid category. I'll wait until some official announcement before having to change my Pluto section again. Grrrrrr, grumble, grumble.

Hmmmm, that's all I can think of for now, but I'll update again soon now that I'm back from my summer break (I didn't actually go anywhere, I just didn't do anything with my website!) .

Bob the Alien

Sunday, 27 July 2008

It's summer! The sun's out and school's finished for a few weeks. As usual, it's a very quiet time of the year for my website, so I don't tend to do much exploring of the Solar System during it and take it easy instead. I've added a couple of new pages: One page showing a map of the Moon and the landing sites of space probes and astronauts ( and another comparing the Inner and Outer Planets ( And that's about all that's new for now!

Monday, 9 June 2008

Quick update

Looks like this page is getting some visitors now seeing as my poll has gote some votes (unless it's one person voting 13 times!). Think I'll try to extend the days remaining to vote on it. I've just added my new control panel to most pages, meaning that this page is now easier to find, so it makes sense to add give future visitors a chance to vote on the poll. That's it for this entry though. I'll have a more in depth update later this week!


Monday, 26 May 2008

Phoenix on Mars

It's time for the third entry to my blog - not sure if anybody reads it (still nobody has voted in my little poll to the right - oh well!), but I thought I'd update it anyhow. I thought that today I'd write a little about the new space craft that NASA have sent to Mars.

Phoenix was launched back in August 2007 to set off on its journey to the red planet. This journey has been largely trouble-free and uneventful (well, as trouble-free and uneventful as a trip of over 200 million miles can be, which I suppose is a good thing). It landed safely at its destination near the north polar region of Mars on 25th May 2008. Its suitcase was packed with several gadgets and gizmos which Phoenix (sounds more like an Gladiator than a space craft) will use to probe the soil of Mars. As is customary for all space tourists, Phoenix has also taken its camera to Mars and will be sending back regular snapshots of the view to the people of Earth. The main purpose of Phoenix, and probably of any space craft sent there, is to look for signs that Mars can and did (or even better, still does!) support life. It is now widely believed that Mars was once a wet planet. Its oceans have since dried up, but there is still hope that water is present beneath the surface of Mars. Phoenix will use its array of expensive scientific equipment to try to detect this water. If unsuccessful, it is programmed to do a rain dance to see if that helps. Or maybe not. The landing site of Phoenix is the most northerly of any probe to land on Mars. It is in a region known to contain water ice (the bit that looks like snow on pictures of Mars) and is thought to be a likely spot for life to be able to exist.

Just in case there is life on Mars, and a passing alien happens to bump into Phoenix, scientists have very kindly provided Phoenix with a DVD to be given to any curious Martians, or future human visitors, as a gift. This action-packed DVD, with the highly original name The Phoenix DVD, should hopefully play on all Martian DVD players, providing the DVD is region-free. Contained on the DVD are various multimedia snippets related to the role Mars has played in art and literature in culture on Earth, including the text of H.G. Wells' The War of the Worlds and a copy of the radio broadcast of this story which terrified America. It's not known whether the Tom Cruise film of the story is also included on the DVD. Messages from people of Earth to Martians or any other visitors to Mars are also contained on the DVD, as are the names of a quarter of a million Earthlings. Taking a DVD to Mars isn't a new idea, as both the Spirit and Opportunity rovers, which are still roving Mars, also had DVDs with them. But, what will they take next on future missions to Mars??? Blu-ray or HD-DVD? And when will the first branch of Blockbuster open on Mars so Martians can rent out other Earthly masterpieces?

Phoenix's primary mission is expected to last 90 Martian days (sols), which is just over 92 days on Earth. Scientists hope that it will go on to last into Martian winter, where up to three feet of carbon dioxide ice may form at the region of Phoenix's landing. Because of the intense cold on Mars during winter, Phoenix is not expected to make it through the whole season and is likely to give up at some point during winter. If only those scientists had thought to pack an extra pair of socks and a thermal vest! However, 1997's Pathfinder lander and its Sojourner rover lasted longer than expected, and Spirit and Opportunity, which both landed in January 2004 and were expected to last same 90 days as Phoenix, are still going strong(ish), so who knows, Phoenix may exceed expectations again.

On this blog, I'll keep updating any developments and discoveries from the Phoenix mission and one day, when I get around to completing my Missions to Mars 2 page, it'll get a mention on there too!

Monday, 19 May 2008

2nd post

This is my second entry, seeing as I successfully managed to save my first one! I've played around with the colour scheme on this page - not sure whether I like it or not though but it's definitely more colourful than it was. I've also added a poll to find out how many people believe in aliens. I've had a poll asking the same question on my website since it was launched back in 2000, but at some point it stopped working and I haven't bothered to remove it (in fact, I may do that after I've done this). From what I remember, about 70% of people who completed it said they believed in the existence of aliens. Nobody appears to have voted on the poll on this page, which probably means that nobody has visited this page. So I'm probably talking to myself. In that case, I'll ask myself how I'm doing. "Hi Bob! How am I?" "Really? That's great to hear, I'm good too."

Anyway, other than playing around with the colours on this page and putting on a poll, only for nobody to use it (!), I've also been busy updating my website. Over the last few years, more and more sections have been getting added to the site, such as a chronology of space exploration, Ask an Alien and, erm, I can't remember what else, but there are some other new sections that have been added anyway. However, the main control panel used for browsing the site at the top of most pages (the one below)

hasn't been updated for a few years, so the only way of finding the new sections is from the main screen, which a lot of people don't go back to once they are on their tour of the solar system, meaning that nobody gets to visit these new sections which I spent weeks and weeks and weeks creating! Soooooo, I've created a brand new control panel and placed it on some pages to test it.
It can be seen at the top of all of the pages in the Mars section ( and some others too, and will gradually be on all pages, but if you can't be bothered to go there, here's what it looks like.

Nice, isn't it? Well, I like it anyway. As well as designing a new control panel with new links, I've also been putting together some other new pages, which aren't yet completed but the test versions of the pages are on the site. There's a section about astronomy and astronomers ( which I feel like I've been developing for years. The Space A-Z ( is being expanded, so it now contains more than three words and has a page for each letter of the alphabet (suppose it's better than it being a Space A-B!), and I'm also putting together a section called On this Day in Space. Basically, you'll be able to pick any day of the year, and find out what space events happened on that day. The section is nowhere near finished yet, but you can see some test pages at which lists events from April 6th. Pages up to April 12th are also available, but the rest of the year hasn't been uploaded yet.
So, that's an update on what's currently happening on my website. I'll be back soon!
Bob the Alien

Thursday, 15 May 2008


Hi! Welcome to Bob's Blog written by your favourite extra terrestrial, Bob the Alien! This will be replacing the Space News page on my website ( which will be quite handy seeing as it never got updated anyway. So, any developments in the world of space exploration will now appear, and so will my thoughts about them. Any updates to my website will be added here too!

This is the first time I've ever tried to write a blog (doing well so far, aren't I?), so I'm going to save this and have a look around to see what else you can do on this blogger thing!