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The Bad Astronomy and Universe Today Forum (BAUT), now known as the Cosmoquest Forum, is a large internet forum/message board dedicated to astronomy and space exploration. It was originally created by the merger of the forums of two popular websites: Phil Plait's Bad Astronomy and the Universe Today astronomy and space exploration news site. In July 2012 it underwent another merger and re-branding, this time with the forum of the Cosmoquest citizen science and astronomy outreach project. Content from before the re-branding will stay accessible for the foreseeable future, though old links have to be replaced (see #Fixing broken links).
At the time of the first merger, it was still considered the official forum of both Universe Today and Bad Astronomy, though after a certain point Phil Plait no longer participated due to lack of time. After his move to Slate, the last remaining thread was broken - his blog no longer links to the forum and the subforum dedicated to Bad Astronomy and Plait's other works is rarely frequented.
Moderation and structure
The forum is heavily moderated, which makes it a noticeably nicer place to be than many other large forums. Of course, this in turn causes accusations of "excessive moderation" and censorship (and it seems that some cranks consider "banned from BAUT" to be a badge of honor). To prevent off-topic flame wars, there are a few "forbidden" topics, most notably religion and politics (with the exception of "space politics").
BAUT is split into many sub-forums. The "Space Exploration" section contains comments about past and recent spaceflight, as well as tons of bickering about NASA's policy and other similar topics. There's a section where laypersons can ask questions about space and astronomy (much, much saner than the astronomy section at Yahoo! Answers), a "Life in Space" section, a section on general science and technology, and a section for discussing "bad astronomy in the media." The "Against the Mainstream" section serves as a dumping ground for the crank threads that inevitably appear on such forums. It operates on special rules that require proponents to support their claims and answer direct questions. The same rules are used in the "Conspiracy Theories" section, which is a mother lode of information on space-related conspiracy theories. The locals are generally people who know their stuff. For example, there you can find Jay Windley, the webmaster of Clavius.org and pain-in-the-ass for all Moon hoax believers.
They were brought to our attention by a thread on the credibility of Michio Kaku. (Well, actually, at least one RationalWikian was a regular lurker there before that.) They also liked our Scientific evidence of evolution being a hoax page.
An upgrade to the forum software (around 2009?) changed the way forum thread URLs were formed and many links to older threads, on the forum itself and elsewhere, were broken. To confound things further, the merger with Cosmoquest's forums also changed the domain. Redirects from the old domain were available for a while, but that's no longer the case. So it's possible to find broken links, on and off the forum, to old forum threads in two different formats that are nevertheless salvageable (which is really convenient e.g. if you are trying to hunt down a rebuttal to a specific point from an old link). The problem is easy to fix, though - a few elements of the URL just need to be replaced. For example, here is a broken link in the old URL format:
Here is the same link in the new format, but on the old domain - the sub-forum name in the old URL (e.g. "conspiracy-theories") has been replaced with "showthread.php":
And here's a working link to the same thread on the new domain:
Bad Astronomy and Universe TodayCosmoquest Forum main page