Astronomy on your Google homepage

Google have been offering a personalised homepage facility for quite some time now and I've been using it for a few weeks. It's handy, but I've generally been disappointed with the range of items you could add to it.

Today, in the Google Blog, I noticed this article. It mentions the Google Homepage API. After a quick read of the Developer Guide I couldn't resist having a go at knocking up something astronomy related.

A short while later I had my own little "Hello, World!" program up and running in the form of a Phase of the Moon display. It's nothing clever, it simply makes use of the UNSO Virtual Reality Moon Phase image.

With some luck there'll be some astronomy-loving programmers out there who'll start to add some astronomy modules to the Homepage Content Directory.

A word of warning about my test module: I can't guarantee that it'll always be available — I might take it down at some point in the future. Also, if you have your own Google homepage and you decide to try it out, don't be surprised to find that you see slightly different versions of it from time to time (some that don't look very good); it seems that there's some sort of caching system going on and different versions can get served up now and again (I found this happening a lot while I was playing with the code — despite turning off the cache for that module in the developer module).

Update: After reading the API discussion group I see that I'm not the only person seeing the caching problem I mention above. I've also noticed that my Moon module looks pretty awful in Microsoft Internet Explorer. In FireFox (which I use) and Opera it looks just fine. No, I'm not surprised.

File Under: Google Homepage, Phase of the Moon, Google Homepage Developer API, Google Astronomy Hacks.


Ian Musgrave said...

That looks rather cool. Google homepage looks to be more flexible than the Yahoo home page, which I gave up using a while ago.

There's lots of cool things you could potentially do, like serving up a random image from the deep sky plate catalog for example, moonrise and set. Hmmm. Could be fun

Dave Pearson said...

Indeed, there's a fair bit that could be done. I've had an idea for at least one more item which I'm going to try and knock up a little later on today.

One thing I don't like about the Google homepage is it's weather display module — for some odd reason it only does temperatures in F whereas I'd prefer to see C or both F and C.

Thanks to this new facility (and thanks to Weather Underground) I was able to quickly and easily roll my own weather display.

Randy Ray said...

I don't seem to find this in their directory. Have you submitted it to them?


Dave Pearson said...

No, I haven't. I'm not sure why now. I seem to recall seeing a couple of things in the submission process that I wasn't happy about and decided against it.