sci.astro and groups in the sci.astro.* hierarchy are newsgroups for the discussion of astronomical topics. This post documents the topics generally accepted as appropriate as well as guidelines for posting in these groups. New readers (as well as more experienced ones!) are encouraged to review this material with the hope that it will maximize their use and enjoyment of the astronomy newsgroups.

This post is an extract of the material found in the sci.astro FAQ. The FAQ is posted on a regular basis to the newsgroup sci.astro. It is available via anonymous ftp, and it is on the World Wide Web at the sci.astro Web site and the Internet FAQ Archives. There is also a partial list of worldwide mirrors (both ftp and Web). (As a general note, many other FAQs are also available from rtfm.)

The material in this document was contributed by Philippe Brieu <>, Walter I. Nissen, Jr. CDP <>, and Steven Willner <, with editing by Joseph Lazio <>

What are the astro newsgroups about?

There are eight groups in the sci.astro hierarchy:


Astronomy discussions and information


The Search for ExtraTerrestrial Intelligence (SETI)


Amateur astronomy equipment, techniques, info, etc.


Issues related to the Flexible Image Transport System


Processing Hubble Space Telescope data. (Moderated)


Discussion of planetariums


Forum in astronomy/astrophysics research. (Moderated)


Visual observing of artificial satellites

By default, everything that is related to astronomy/astrophysics and is not covered by one of the other sci.astro.* groups is acceptable for posting in sci.astro. If something belongs in one of those groups, then it does not belong in sci.astro and should not be (cross)posted there. In particular, this includes all amateur observations, hardware, software, and trade (see sci.astro.amateur).

The sci.astro hierarchy is not the appropriate forum for

These are science groups, not religion, sociology, or philosophy (even of science) groups.

In addition, a number of topics related to astrophysics are better suited for other groups. For instance, elementary particle physics should be discussed in sci.physics.particle (but discussions of astronomical consequences are welcome in sci.astro). Likewise for photons and the speed of light (sci.physics). Finally, all space related issues (e.g. spacecraft and faster than light/time travel) have a home in the* hierarchy (but astronomical results from space missions are welcome).

What are the guidelines for posting on astro newsgroups?

Is this post about the science of astronomy? Will many of the thousands and thousands of readers here, people interested in the science of astronomy, find it of personal benefit? Has somebody else recently posted a similar article? If your query or comment is unique and concerns astronomy, post; otherwise, either there is probably a better newsgroup for your post or your question has already been answered.

If you will follow this group for a month or so before posting here, you will greatly reduce the likelihood that you will participate in making the newsgroup less productive and friendly and then end up regretting it. If you are new here, it is likely that any question you have has already been asked. If so, its answer is probably in one of the FAQ files. Check out the newsgroups news.answers, sci.answers, and news.announce.newusers, or ask your local help file or administrator to point you toward the FAQs. Alternately, it may be in a Usenet archive such as DejaNews. If you become really frustrated, pick on one of the more helpful posters here and send e-mail (not a post) politely asking for some help. Conversely, if your question is novel and not in a FAQ, readers will likely be intensely interested in considering it.

Certain topics repeatedly come up and lead to lengthy, loud-mouthed discussions that never lead anywhere interesting. Often these topics have extremely little to do with the science of astronomy. Experience also shows that when messages are cross-posted to other groups, followups very seldom are appropriate in sci.astro.

If you do ask a question, please consider writing up the answer for a FAQ file. New entries to the FAQ are always welcome!

Finally, there are a number of common rules for all newsgroups. If you are a new Usenaut, please visit the newsgroup news.announce.newusers for an introduction to the Usenet.

How do I subscribe to sci.astro*?

(This question has been answered offline enough times that I thought it would be worthwhile to include it here. The FAQ is distributed widely enough that people may happen upon it through non-Usenet channels.)

In order to access sci.astro (or other astronomy newsgroups), you need an internet service provider (ISP). This could be a large commercial provider, like AOL or Prodigy in the U.S., or a more local one (check your phonebook under "Computer Networks" or "Internet"). If you're enrolled at a college or university in the U.S. (or overseas?), talk to your computer center; many colleges and universities are now providing free Internet access to students. If you don't have an ISP, you'll have to choose one. If you're interested in reading the sci.astro* groups, as you search for an ISP, you'll want to ask the various contenders if they provide access to Usenet and specifically to the sci. hierarchy. If they don't, or can't tell you, that's a bad sign.

If you already have an ISP, you'll have to read their documentation or talk to their technical help. Some ISPs provide Usenet access through a Web browser (like Mosaic, Netscape, or Internet Explorer), others provide access through a dedicated news reading program like tin, rn, or GNUS. There are many different possibilities.

T. Joseph W. Lazio
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