RSS feeds for Astronomers


One of the major advances in web surfing during the last decade is RSS. Using RSS to consume the web is way more efficient than email subscriptions and traditional browsing since the content comes to you without cluttering up your email inbox. In this post, I point to a couple resources to help you get started with RSS and list the most relevant feeds available for astronomers, including astro-ph.

Getting Started with RSS

(If you’re already familiar with basics of RSS and Google Reader, you can skip ahead to the astro-ph section.)

Start small and simple: choose a reader, subscribe to a feed, and see how it goes. You can switch readers, (un)subscribe to feeds, and customize once you’ve figured out how RSS feeds integrate into your workflow.

I’m not going to do a lot of hand-holding in this post since there are essentially infinite browser+RSS configurations and I’m confident in the web-savviness of this blog’s readership. A brief list of the best feed readers are listed in Unclutterer’s Primer to RSS Feeds.

I highly recommend Google Reader. A screenshot of my reader is below and here’s a short Getting Started Guide. In GReader, I use “stars” to mark items that I want to come back to later, including astro-ph articles. Also, not surprisingly, the search function in GReader is excellent. Finally, the mobile GReader for the iPhone is quite good and there’s also a regular mobile site for less fancy phones.


Clicking on the RSS icons on webpages and in the Safari and Firefox navigation toolbars are among the easiest ways to identify and subscribe to feeds. In Firefox, clicking on a feed link will let you set the default reader to use when adding new subscriptions. (It’s not as straightforward with Safari.)



If you’re viewing this post in a browser, you should see one of these icons in the navigation bar. Click on the icon and subscribe to AstroBetter!


First and foremost, RSS is great for reading astro-ph. In RSS, each article is an individual item that can be saved or starred individually. Also, there are several subscription options.

I use myADS to create a customized astro-ph feed that is sorted based on keywords I’ve provided. Setting up myADS is not super-intuitive but it’s worth a little bit of effort to get it working so that the most relevant articles to you show up at the top of the list! The only drawback to the sorted myADS feed, after the inital setup, is that the abstracts aren’t included so you have to click through.

Update Aug 26, 2009: myADS arxiv feeds now include the abstracts.

If you want to stick with, they provide a variety of feeds:

Journals’ Table of Contents

While you can subscribe to the journals’ RSS feeds directly, I prefer to get them from the ADS. (I use the bibtex entry they generate to add the article to my BibDesk library…but more on that will have to wait for another day.) On the Table of Contents Service page, click on the journal you’re interested in, either scoll down to the RSS link at the bottom of the page or click the RSS icon in your browser’s navigation bar. Here’s one to get you started:

Astrophysical Journal

(Hm, as of 2009-5-18, the AJ feed is not being updated. I pinged ADS and they responded that it would be fixed this weekend.)

For that matter, any custom ADS query can be subscribed to via RSS. I subscribe to a query on myself so I am notified when anything new comes out with my name on it. If you find yourself doing the same query on a regular basis, an RSS feed might be a good idea.

News and Policy

Here are some blogs that are crucial for staying in the know about science funding in the federal budget and with NASA missions. I’ll link to both the sites and the feeds.


Now, if all that work stuff didn’t convince you of the usefulness of RSS, here are some other feeds that might change your mind:

Checkout the blogroll on the right side of the main page for more blogs you might like.

Share your favorite feeds and RSS tricks in the comments.

3 comments… add one
  • A May 18, 2009 @ 14:37

    I’ve been surprised at the random places where I find RSS feeds. For example, ESO has an RSS feed just for its press releases. (As far as I know, NOAO doesn’t have an equivalent feed – they still run everything through email lists.) I’ve also found at least one conference where they pushed out scheduling and logistical updates via RSS feed.

    In the interest of drumming up support for good blogs, a few other RSS feeds to consider:

    Palomar Skies – Scott Kardel’s public outreach blog for Palomar Observatory, which includes a lot of posts on astronomy history and on light pollution.

    Cosmic Variance

    Uncertain Principles – Blog written by a solid-state physicist, Chad Orzel. Good for a change of perspective compared to all the astronomy blogs floating around.

    The Rumor Mill Wiki – Because hitting F5 every thirty seconds is so 2005.

    And finally, since all good art is drawn in stick figures:

    Pro Football, in Pictures

    The Order of the Stick

  • Stefano M Jul 10, 2009 @ 18:27

    This is a really interesting tool for astro-ph:

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