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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10
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1answer
703 views

How vacuous is intergalactic space?

You often hear intergalactic space is an example for a very good vacuum. But how vacuos is space between galaxy clusters and inside a huge void structure? Are there papers quoting a ...
17
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4answers
7k views

How do astronomers measure the distance to a star or other celestial object?

How do scientists measure the distance between objects in space? For example, Alpha Centauri is 4.3 light years away.
15
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2answers
2k views

Dumbed-down explanation how scientists know the number of atoms in the universe?

It is often quoted that the number of atoms in the universe is 10$^{70}$ or 10$^{80}$. How do scientists determine this number? And how accurate is it (how strong is the supporting evidences for ...
3
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3answers
310 views

Dark age of universe when all fusion process ceases?

Some say we live in the golden age of the universe because there exits countless number of stars that shines in the dark universe. As the supply of gas for star formation is steadily being exhausted, ...
11
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4answers
4k views

Why does Venus rotate the opposite direction as other planets?

Given: Law of Conservation of Angular Momentum. Reverse spinning with dense atmosphere (92 times > Earth & CO2 dominant sulphur based). Surface same degree of aging all over. Hypothetical large ...
8
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3answers
613 views

What made us think that Earth moves around the Sun?

Trying to observe the night sky for a few weeks, the motion of the Sun and the stars pretty much fits into the Geocentric Theory i.e. All of them move around the Earth. What then, which particular ...
4
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2answers
2k views

How do you measure distance to stars within the galaxy?

I know that for close by stars (<50 LY) we can use the parallax effect. And for distant galaxies we use red-shift (& hubble's constant). So how do we measure how far is a star lets say 50,000 ...
5
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4answers
236 views

How does the formation of a solar system not break the second law of thermodynamics?

Please forgive: I am a layman when it comes to physics and cosmology, and have tried finding an answer to this that I can understand, with no luck. As I understand it, the solar system evolved from a ...
31
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8answers
10k views

Would it matter if the Earth rotated clockwise?

In the Futurama episode "That Darn Katz!" they save the world by rotating the Earth backwards saying it shouldn't matter (which direction Earth rotates). If Earth rotated clockwise and remained in ...
6
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3answers
6k views

What are good books for graduates/undergraduates in Astrophysics?

There are no book recommendations for Astrophysics here. I will write my own answer, but I am also interested in what are others' views on the question (I will NOT mark my own answer as the best one). ...
18
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3answers
765 views

Direct observations of a black hole?

I'm not very knowledgeable about physics generally, but know that nothing can escape a black hole's gravitational pull, not even light (making them nearly invisible?). My question is: What has been ...
7
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6answers
1k views

Is rotational motion relative to space?

Let's assume that there is nothing in the universe except Earth. If the Earth rotates on its axis as it does, then would we experience the effects of rotational motion like centrifugal force and ...
9
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2answers
544 views

Why don't we see solar and lunar eclipses often?

Since we see the new moon at least once in a month when the Moon gets in between of the Sun and the Earth during the evening ( and as far as I know if this happens during the day, you'll get to see a ...
15
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3answers
2k views

Observing lunar lander and footprints on the moon?

After Apollo 11 first landed on the Moon in 1969, there have been conspiracy theories that this never really happened and that it was all a hoax. In 2010 NASA released photos from its Lunar ...
10
votes
5answers
949 views

How is it possible for astronomers to see something 13B light years away?

In a NPR News story from a few years back: "A gamma-ray burst from about 13 billion light years away has become the most distant object in the known universe." I'm a layman when it comes ...
1
vote
1answer
2k views

What is the relationship between mass, speed and distance of a planet orbiting the sun?

After reading this fascinating story about a new exoplanet, I was wondering about how mass, speed and distance determine a circular orbit of a planet around a star. Given the mass of the sun and ...
8
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2answers
2k views

How did Halley calculate the distance to the Sun by measuring the transit of Venus?

What numbers did Halley, Cook, et al. have? What was the strategy by which they calculated the AU?
5
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4answers
805 views

Optical explanation of images of stars?

Very often when viewing pictures of the cosmos taken by telescopes, one can observe that larger/brighter stars do not appear precisely as points/circles on the image. Indeed, the brighter the light ...
27
votes
4answers
6k views

Why is a new moon not the same as a solar eclipse?

Forgive the elementary nature of this question: Because a new moon occurs when the moon is positioned between the earth and sun, doesn't this also mean that somewhere on the Earth, a solar eclipse ...
3
votes
2answers
10k views

How is the speed of light calculated?

How is the speed of light calculated? My knowledge of physics is limited to how much I studied till high school. One way that comes to my mind is: if we throw light from one point to another (of known ...
13
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1answer
1k views

How would one detect antihydrogen in the universe?

Since the spectra of hydrogen and antihydrogen are the same, how do astronomers know which one they're detecting? Is, perhaps, the Lamb shift in antihydrogen different?
6
votes
5answers
601 views

How is distance measured to far away stars and galaxies?

What I need is an accurate description of the methods used to determine the distance to Andromeda. The Parallax method is for nearby objects as I presume. The red shift method applies, but how do you ...
6
votes
3answers
243 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?
5
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3answers
259 views

How/why can the cosmic background radiation measurements tell us anything about the curvature of the universe?

So I've read the Wikipedia articles on WMAP and CMB in an attempt to try to understand how scientists are able to deduce the curvature of the universe from the measurements of the CMB. The Wiki ...
5
votes
1answer
92 views

Is there an Algorithm to find the time when the sun is X degrees above the horizon for a given latitude B at date C

Is there an accurate algorithm / method to determine the precise time of day/night when the sun is X degrees above (or below) the horizon for a given latitude Y at date Z? Is this the same question ...
9
votes
2answers
225 views

How fast is the Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation (CMBR) changing?

I know that the Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation (CMBR) is the leftover radiation from the "surface of last scattering". However, at every instant the surface is changing (at the rate of flow ...
9
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5answers
2k views

What methods can astronomers use to find a black hole?

How can astronomers say, we know there are black holes at the centre of each galaxy? What methods of indirect detection are there to know where and how big a black hole is?
5
votes
4answers
475 views

Are galactic stars spiraling inwards?

Are the stars in our galaxy spiraling inwards towards the center, or are they in a permanent orbit? And if we are heading towards the center then what is the rate of this process? I started ...
4
votes
2answers
173 views

How is the shape of the universe measured by scientists?

I would like to learn how scientists go about measuring the large-scale curvature of the universe to determine if the universe is closed 'i.e. spherical', flat, or open 'i.e. saddle shaped'. My ...
3
votes
2answers
182 views

Does the Sun produce audible sound?

Theoretically if I were able to build some sort of device that let me sit 1 foot away from the surface of the Sun (or any star for that matter) without being vaporized, would a star produce any sort ...
3
votes
1answer
726 views

About binary stars and calculating velocity, period and radius of their orbit

I saw somewhere about being able to measure the velocity, period and radius of a binary star orbit by looking at red shift and blue shift. I understand it but can someone give me an example of ...
0
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2answers
193 views

What's the evidence supporting 1 singular Big Bang? [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: What has been proved about the big bang, and what has not? I love to dabble with science, I'm by no means a scolar in this field. One thing that haven't seen proven yet ...
12
votes
1answer
341 views

What are the alternative theories of dark energy? ($w \neq -1$)

There has been a lot of related questions about dark energy around here but these are usually 2-4 years old and the closest question to mine hasn't really been answered, so I am going to proceed. ...
9
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2answers
11k views

How is distance between sun and earth calculated?

How has the distance between sun and earth been calculated by scientists? and size of sun? Thanks,
9
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3answers
444 views

If time standard clocks and any memories about the time standard are destroyed, can we recover the time standard again?

Assume the time standard clocks and any memories about the time standard are destroyed. Can we recover the time standard again exactly? Recovering the time standard again means we can determine the ...
8
votes
2answers
410 views

How does dark matter halo outside a galaxy help to explain galaxy rotation curve?

How does a dark matter halo outside a galaxy help to explain a galaxy rotation curve? Suppose for simplicity we use a model of a star rotating about a more massive star in a fixed circular orbit. For ...
7
votes
6answers
7k views

How fast is Earth moving through the universe?

As the galaxy is moving and the solar system orbiting the galaxy and the Earth orbiting the sun. So how fast is each object moving and what is the fastest we move at? Do we even know how fast the ...
14
votes
3answers
313 views

What is the probability that a star of a given spectral type will have planets?

There is a lot of new data from the various extrasolar planet projects including NASA's Kepler mission on extra-solar planets. Based on our current data what is the probability that a star of each of ...
13
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4answers
782 views

Is there a limit to the resolving power of a mirror telescope?

Like, if you hammered out the asteroid 16 Psyche into a 1 mm thick iron foil disc telescope mirror with 2.4x the radius of the Sun, could you resolve details on the surface of an exoplanet? At what ...
5
votes
1answer
575 views

When and how were relative distances to the planets first measured?

I understand that the absolute distance to a planet can be measured using earth-baseline (e.g., diurnal) parallax, and that the first reasonably accurate such measurement was made for Mars by Cassini ...
2
votes
1answer
217 views

When would the proposed black hole at the centre of Milky Way gulp in our solar system? [duplicate]

I've heard and read that our solar system lies near to the peripheral region of the Galaxy. Then accordingly we would have a greater probability of sustaining to eventual gulping down by the ...
1
vote
2answers
448 views

What is a good introductory text to astronomy [closed]

What is a good and easy to read introductory text for an adult with limited basic scientific knowledge to astronomy for someone without a telescope and lives in a big city and why do you think that ...
10
votes
1answer
686 views

How is the Plane of the Solar System oriented to the Sun's motion through space?

How is the Plane of the Solar System oriented to the Sun's motion through space: parallel, perpendicular, or some other angle?
7
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3answers
421 views

Are there planetary systems where the planes of orbits vary greatly?

Inspired by this question, are there any known planetary systems with largely varying planes of orbit? For example a system where two planets have perpendicular planes?
6
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2answers
396 views

Is dark matter really present around the sun?

Recently I read an article that there is dark matter around the sun but if it is so, than why can we see it clearly. If it is called matter than it shall show some hindrance in radiation we receive ...
5
votes
1answer
52 views

What fraction of baryonic matter is in stars?

We know from big bang nucleosynthesis that baryonic matter accounts for about 5% of the universe's total mass-energy density. What is the current best estimate of how much of this is in the form of ...
4
votes
1answer
197 views

What time scale is used by the JPL HORIZONS system?

I'm confused by the ust of the term "UT" in the description of time scales used by the JPL HORIZONS system. Their manual states that UT is Universal Time This can mean one of two non-uniform ...
3
votes
1answer
1k views

How to determine day/night based on latitude, longitude and a date/time?

Is there a simple method of determining, given a UTC date/time, whether it is day or night at a given lat/long coordinate? I am currently using a formula based on a Sunrise/Sunset Algorithm from the ...
2
votes
2answers
99 views

Differences between astronomy, astrophysics and cosmology? [closed]

What is the main difference between Astronomy, Astrophysics, and Cosmology? I have the impression that astronomy is a subject that runs parallel to physics but it is outside the physics field. This ...
19
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2answers
341 views

Why don't stars in globular clusters all orbit in the same plane?

Globular clusters like Omega Centauri certainly don't seem to be very coplanar at all. In other words, why doesn't the explanation at Why are our planets in the solar system all on the same ...