The science dealing with objects and phenomena located beyond Earth. In particular, this applies to observations and data. At its core, astronomy is the physically informed cataloging and classifying of the contents of the universe in order to better understand what is out there.

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Standardising shadow length on sundials

The sundial is fundamentally flawed in that the length of each hourly shadow changes with the seasons. If the base of the sundial was engineered to move cyclically on an anual basis however, the ...
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1answer
95 views

Are we looking at single stars, or solar systems?

When looking at the night sky, the stars we can see just look like single dots. Are they alone in space- each one a single object? Or, when we look at a star, are we actually looking at a distant ...
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2answers
108 views

What is meant by the velocity of a star?

I recently read somewhere that among other things like size, radius, distance from earth, luminosity, age, etc of a star, velocity was another variable. What is exactly meant by the velocity of a ...
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1answer
42 views

Earth precession

I got a bit confused while studying the tropical and sidereal years. I noticed that the Earth's precession is in the opposite direction than that of a top's precession, when their rotational direction ...
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28 views

Information Brought by Electromagnetic Waves

Is it possible for a Technologically Advanced Civilization to watch in "Real Time" events of the Earth History? Let me be more specific: Let us suppose a civilization who resides on a sphere in the ...
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0answers
42 views

SOHO solar observatory, comet numbers and composition

SOHO discovered its 3,000th comet, cementing its standing as the greatest comet finder of all time. Prior to the 1995 launch of the observatory, commonly known as SOHO, only a dozen or so comets ...
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3answers
5k views

How does the central peak in moon craters form?

The central peak in many of the moon's large craters are visible with a telescope and they seem a little odd to me. Can someone explain how they form.
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2answers
31 views

How to measure the spectra of the stars

I recently made a mini spectrometer using a CD. I have used that to measure the spectrum of the Sun, moon and various artificial light sources. My question is how can I use it or modify it to measure ...
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0answers
25 views

Size of meteor-made crater [duplicate]

I am reading "What if" piece https://what-if.xkcd.com/20/ and I am very interested in how can one ever estimate the size of a crater? How can you ever know, it must depend on energy of a falling body ...
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1answer
108 views

Can the Earth be seen to transit the sun from the outer planets?

Transit of Mercury as seen from Mars The Curiosity rover on the planet Mars observed the planet Mercury transiting the Sun, marking the first time a planetary transit has been observed from a ...
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1answer
124 views

Are there rogue planets between Sun and Proxima Centauri?

Would we be able to detect (via emitted radiation, or its gravity) a rogue planet between us and Proxima Centauri? How big would that planet need to be?
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4answers
10k views

What is the farthest-away star visible to the naked eye?

My girlfriend and I were watching Cosmos, and something Carl Sagan said got us wondering what the farthest-away visible star is. Obviously "visible to the naked eye" is a fuzzy concept that might have ...
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3answers
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Why are there no stars visible in this photograph?

Pluto and Charon, photo taken by New Horizons on July 8, 2015 from a distance of 6 gigameters. it's hard for me to believe there were no stars behind the twin dwarf planets in the field of vision. ...
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4answers
6k views

Why is 1 AU the distance between the Sun and the Earth?

Why 1 AU is defined as the distance between the Sun and the Earth? (approximately if you like to be precise) An astronomical unit (abbreviated as AU, au, a.u., or ua) is a unit of length ...
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1answer
54 views

NED vs. SIMBAD: Which is more accurate?

I'm doing some research on M33. NED lists the luminosity as 6.27. SIMBAD gives it as 5.27. First, it looks odd to me that the difference is exactly 1. Second, I've seen other differences comparing ...
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1answer
108 views

SDSS spectra FITS format: what do the rows mean?

This might be in the FITS Header, but I couldn't find it. I am looking at the FITS files for SDSS 1D spectro images from DR7 using the SDSS Data Archive Server at das.sdss.org (there might be an ...
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1answer
527 views

How is “little $h$” measured in cosmology? The dimensionless parameter from the Hubble constant, $H_0$

Hubble's law has been well-know for close to a century now. It is written as $v = H_0 d$ where the Hubble constant $H_0$ is the constant of proportionality between recession speed $v$ and distance ...
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2answers
151 views

What is the definition of $[\alpha/H]$?

The notation $[A/B]$ denotes \begin{equation} [A/B] = \text{log}_{10}\Big[\frac{\text{(number of A atoms/number of B atoms)}_{\ *}}{\text{(number of A atoms/number of B atoms)}_{\ \odot}}\Big] ...
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1answer
582 views

Where can I find the list of the planetary motion equations?

The planetary motion equations are written in the ellipse equation format, i.e. $$x^2/a + y^2/b = 1.$$ Can anyone please tell me where I can find the list of all the planetary motion equations, ...
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2answers
5k views

How many stars are in the Milky Way galaxy, and how can we determine this?

I have heard multiple estimates on the quantity of stars within our galaxy, anything from 100 to 400 billion of them. The estimates seem to be increasing for the time being. What are the main methods ...
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2answers
87 views

Why do so many galaxies in clusters have a near zero velocity?

I'm looking at a velocity chart of the Coma Cluster: And the question occurred to me: why are there so many galaxies that have a zero velocity (relative to the core of the Coma Cluster which is ...
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1answer
276 views

Correlation between large-scale galaxy structure and CMB fluctuations?

During a relatively non-technical astronomy seminar the other day, the speaker displayed the famous WMAP full-sky image as an aid to describing what the CMB is, the scale of its fluctuations, etc. ...
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1answer
108 views

The James Webb Telescope, why are there 5 levels of protecting foil?

From simple curiosity, does anybody know why there are around 5 layers of solar radiation reflecting foil on the James Webb Telescope, rather than one or two? Is it to save weight, or (probably) ...
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1answer
70 views

How to start using IDL in 2015?

Unfortunately it looks like I have to run a bit of old astronomy software on IDL. I keep running into statements that "I need to buy a license" in order to run IDL. Is this true? How can I ...
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0answers
47 views

What is the definition of the “stellar angular diameter” in stellar astronomy?

(Following the definitions here: http://arxiv.org/pdf/astro-ph/0509535.pdf ) What is the "stellar angular diameter", as measured by astronomers specializing in stellar astrophysics? Using the ...
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57 views

Using stellar spectroscopy to measure stellar parameters, why is it log g?

Stellar spectroscopy can in principle measure the stellar surface gravity, radii, effective temperature, and stellar rotation. Why is it that surface gravity g is ...
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1answer
72 views

What is Drake equation?

I was reading an article on aliens, where I found something called Drake equation. I tried to understand it, but just couldn't get it in my head, as I belong to class 11. So, can anyone explain me it ...
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2answers
6k views

Why are gold mirrors yellow?

Why are golden mirrors yellow? Do they add a yellow component to the spectrum or absorb non-yellow components? If they absorb, then why are they used in telescopes being imperfect? If they add a ...
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1answer
208 views

How to calculate tide times?

How do I calculate the time of the tides at a given location? I'm not interested in the amplitude of the tides, just the times when they occur.
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1answer
32 views

Definition of a Supercluster

A group of astronomers in September 2014 redefined what classifies a supercluster. Before this, the supercluster where the Milky Way resides was the Virgo Supercluster. Now, the Virgo Supercluster ...
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1answer
66 views

Best telescope for value per dollar? [closed]

recently I'm thinking of buying a telescope for recreational purposes. I'm looking for telescopes that have the highest performance/cost ratio, and I'm willing to spend around $200 on this. Anyone ...
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0answers
52 views

Thomas precession and neutron star accretion discs

Assuming, based on this wikipedia article Accretion Discs That accretion discs surrounding neutron stars are composed of a gas and / or plasma. That the accretion disc material can achieve a ...
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1answer
46 views

How to begin using SDSS data?

SDSS has gone through so many updates, it's difficult to find out how to access the data today in 2015. How can I use SQL and Python to access SDSS data, e.g. the photometry and spectra of quasars, ...
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1answer
99 views

If the Sun were smaller but had the same surface temperature, would it still have the same luminance?

Let's assume we have two stars that have the same surface temperature but very different size. I understand how luminosity depends on surface area so the two stars will have different luminosity, but ...
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2answers
165 views

If planet orbits are in the shape of an ellipse and the sun is a focus, where and what is the focus? [duplicate]

I've studied ellipses. I've studied physics. But when it comes down to the elliptical orbits of the planets is where I get confused. Ellipses contain two foci — and in the orbits of our solar system ...
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0answers
20 views

How do exoplanet surveys precisely measure stellar properties?

All measurements in exoplanetary studies (e.g. the Kepler study) depend on how precisely we know the properties of a star. For instance, the planet mass and radius is known only as well as the star's ...
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2answers
2k views

What planets are visible to the naked eye from Mars?

Here on Earth we are blessed with being able to see some other planets, Mars & Venus etc, with the naked eye on a fairly regular basis thanks to the distance between the planets. What about from ...
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4answers
79 views

Navigating to a distant star

Suppose I have a space ship that can travel at $0.9c$, and I'm going to a star located at 20 light years or so from the Sun. From a practical point of view, if I keep pointing the nose of my space ...
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4answers
608 views

Shapes of galaxies

I've heard most of galaxies are spiral or ellipsoid shaped. Is it true? If true, then why they form in such shapes? How did arms of the spiral galaxies form?
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8answers
9k views

Why can't we see light travelling from point A to B?

Let's say we have a cloud of dust which is a lightyear across and someone shoots a beam of light from point A to B , why it is not possible for an observer far far away to see the light while it ...
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2answers
45 views

How do we tell the CMB apart from other radiation?

Say I want to observe the CMB and the CMB only. I point my device (telescope in some frequency range) at the sky and start looking. How do I know it should be in the Microwave spectrum? How do I ...
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3answers
4k views

Are Hubble Telescope Images in true color?

Like many others, I have marveled at the images made available from the Hubble Space Telescope over the years. But, I have always had a curiosity about the color shown in these images. An example is ...
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5answers
2k views

Does the Moon's core still contain significant heat?

On earth, using earth-sheltering techniques can significantly reduce the temperature fluctuations on a structure. Would the same statement be true as well on the Moon? Does the Moon's core still ...
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0answers
76 views

Why do TiO bands dominate M dwarfs?

I'm new at understanding stellar classification and the spectral classification of stars. What is the exact reason TiO molecules (titanium oxide) dominate the spectrum for M dwarfs? How did this TiO ...
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1answer
284 views

Why is the Hubble Space telescope able to see farthest in the universe?

What determines how far a telescope can see in the universe? How does recording data for a very long time (~10 years) help? If we could build a telescope which work at microwave region, will it be a ...
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1answer
96 views

Is there uncertainity of position of the perfectly homogenous radiating body?

I heard the standard interpretation of Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle: Just the measurement affects the position of the body because always you want to see a body (=to measure the position), you ...
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1answer
133 views

Detecting molecules in space?

http://www.forbes.com/sites/alexknapp/2012/02/24/nasa-detects-solid-buckyballs-in-space/ I refer to the above article, which mentions that buckyballs "far smaller than the width of a hair" were ...
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3answers
80 views

Why do telescopes move synchronously?

Here's a very nice video (see it in HD) of timelapses captured at the atacama desert. In the beginning of the video you can see that 4 telescopes move synchronously. Could anyone explain why? I always ...
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1k views

Do we know what event caused the Sun and Solar System to form?

Some stellar formation theories suggest that stars are formed by shock waves from trigger events such as supernovae. This excerpt from Star Formation basically gives the background to my question: ...
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48 views

What are some of the observable effects of black holes

Is there some kind of of observation of a black hole (or a black hole candidate) which could be made from earth, and which might be able to distinguish between two Black Hole models? (1) the classical ...