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Universe Today Turns 10

Article Updated: 24 Dec , 2015

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Hey everyone, I just wanted to inform you of a little anniversary. I started up Universe Today exactly 10 years ago today, on March 23rd, 1999. Since very few of you know the actual story of Universe Today, I thought I’d regale you with it on this 10-year anniversary.

I was living in Vancouver at the time, working as a project manager in an Internet company. We were helping clients develop websites, but I felt that I didn’t have enough personal experience developing and maintaining a website to really give good advice. I was thinking I should run a website on the side about a topic I was passionate about… but what subject?

On one business trip I stopped at a Barnes and Nobles, browsed through the books section and picked up The Case for Mars by Bob Zubrin, and Pale Blue Dot by Carl Sagan – I gobbled them up, front to back in a single sitting. I had always been interested in space and astronomy, and was out every clear night as a teenager with my 4″ telescope. I realized that this was the topic that I was most interested in, and I was excited enough about the subject matter that I could keep the website going with my busy job and total lack of spare time.

oldestlogoI started brainstorming domain names; unfortunately space.com was taken. I started mashing together spacey names with other words, and then checked to see what was available. In the end, Universe + Today was open, so I went with that. I hacked together a site with my terrible HTML skills and even worse graphic abilities, but I knew that the purpose of the site would be the articles updated on a daily basis.

Here’s a link to the Wayback Machine to show you what the site used to look like. And here’s a link to the first article, reposted in WordPress.

My goal for Universe Today was to teach myself about space and astronomy… by teaching others. Each day I went though all of the breaking news, wrote a quick summary, and then linked out to the originating sources. And this was how things went for years and years. Over time, I learned more and more about space and astronomy, and was able to put this knowledge back into the website. I covered lunar eclipses live, interviewed astronomers and astronauts, and eventually learned how to write longer and better articles.

The website’s traffic and number of subscribers continued to grow. About 3 years ago, the advertising revenue from Google and other advertisers was enough that I could work on Universe Today full time – thanks to a hardworking wife who understands that we need to do what we love to be truly happy (she works in a toy store). Over the last few years, I brought on a team of writers to help get the news out faster and better than what I was doing alone. I’m indebted to Nancy, Ian, Nick, Tammy, Mark, and our newest team member, Anne.

10 years from when I started Universe Today, we’ve now got almost 45,000 RSS subscribers, and receive close to 2 million page views a month. I’m able to pick the brains of an astrophysicist twice a week with our Astronomy Cast podcast. I’ve met professional astronomers, astronauts, and Nobel laureates. I’m a member of a wonderful community of space bloggers, and call many of them my best friends.

It’s funny how a hobby can turn into so much more.

Who knows where we’ll all be in 10 more years? I know what I’ll be doing, though – working on Universe Today; covering the New Horizons close encounter with Pluto, the launch and first images from the James Webb Space Telescope, and reporting on astronauts returning to the Moon.

I can’t wait to tell you all about it.


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George Brickner
Guest
George Brickner
March 23, 2009 12:59 PM

Congrats!

Funny thing, in the TV series Babylon 5, the newspaper was called “Universe Today” as a spoof of “USA Today.”

Ian O'Neill
Member
March 23, 2009 2:30 PM

Oh wow! This is amazing! So happy to be on board this great space adventure with you Fraser smile

To the next decade!

(Is it too early to *volunteer* to cover New Horizon’s fist images of Pluto’s surface? wink )

Cheers! Ian

Luis Saldarriaga
Guest
Luis Saldarriaga
March 23, 2009 1:05 PM

Happy birthday Universe Today. Be sure yours is the first web page I consult every day.
My best wishes.
Luis_S

Davin
Guest
Davin
March 23, 2009 1:11 PM

Congratulations on the great journey Fraser and happy anniversary!

Anne Minard
Member
March 23, 2009 11:55 AM

Happy anniversary!

watchful stone guardian
Guest
watchful stone guardian
March 23, 2009 11:59 AM

I’ve been a fan since a buddy of mine pointed me in your direction about three years ago. Now I read the site every lunch hour.

Keep up the good work!

wsg

Todd Coolen
Member
Todd Coolen
March 23, 2009 2:59 PM

Well done. Congratrulations…. and thank you,

Todd

Nancy Atkinson
Guest
March 23, 2009 12:16 PM

Thanks for sharing the story, Fraser, and happy anniversary! I’m sure glad you had this great idea!

Brian Ventrudo
Member
March 23, 2009 12:25 PM

What a great story!

I wish you well for the next 10 years of Universe Today. It’s a great resource for those of us interested in astronomy and space.

-Brian

sofista
Member
March 23, 2009 12:32 PM

10 years up and running it’s a lot of time… and work.

Congrats!

Maugrim
Guest
Maugrim
March 23, 2009 12:47 PM

Thank you for bringing us this awesome site – here’s to another 10 years!

DrFlimmer
Guest
DrFlimmer
March 23, 2009 12:51 PM

Happy Birthday from a new reader wink

Sci-Fi Si
Guest
March 23, 2009 1:10 PM

Congratulations Fraiser! You dersrve success, thank you for this site apart from google this is the website I visit most often smile

It’s good to hear you’re well again and I’m looking forward to the next 10 years of Universe Today too.

Happy Birthday Universe Today! Yay!

garrafa
Member
garrafa
March 23, 2009 1:13 PM

Congrats for 10 years of great work !!!

Ethan Siegel
Guest
March 23, 2009 1:31 PM

This is great, Fraser! Thanks for sharing this with us, and happy birthday to UT!

Jon Hanford
Member
Jon Hanford
March 23, 2009 1:31 PM

Congrats, Fraiser and may UT live long & prosper. Your site was one of the first I regularly frequented for accurate astronomical info. Keep up the good work and kudos to all the contributors to this column!

tegwilym
Member
March 23, 2009 1:34 PM

Congratulations!
Even better that you can make this your “real” job. I wish I could do something like this. I guess I’ve kind of started by being a JPL Solar System Ambassador, president of the local Astronomy club, have a backyard observatory with 12″ Meade out there, Collection of a bunch of autographed books, models flown artifacts…and I recently started a blog page (click my name). Total space geek, but my job is secured by Microsoft and their problems. CTL-ALT-DEL, reboot and tell me if it does it again. (But I go home to Ubuntu, since I know better!).

Tom

George
Member
George
March 23, 2009 1:36 PM

Congrats Fraser! I greatly enjoy the combination of this site (for the latest news) and forum (to learn more about related things). Just SUPER!!

BUT, I want more….
It’s been 10 years. How ’bout some highlights from a fellow amateur?

What is your…
top things learned
biggest surprises
most comical
most concerning
favorite event
etc.

Wolter
Member
Wolter
March 23, 2009 1:39 PM

Congratulations and keep up the good work.

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