The application of physical theory to celestial systems such as stars, planets, galaxies, supernovae, and black holes. Astrophysics proper is concerned with explaining phenomena more so than making observations, the latter falling under the purview of astronomy.

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How can a black hole produce sound?

I was reading this article from NASA -- it's NASA -- and literally found myself perplexed. The article describes the discovery that black holes emit a "note" that has physical ramifications on the ...
37
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2answers
2k views

Neutrinos vs. Photons: Who wins the race across the galaxy?

Inspired by the wording of this answer, a thought occurred to me. If a photon and a neutrino were to race along a significant stretch of our actual galaxy, which would win the race? Now, neutrinos ...
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3answers
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Why does a supernova explode

This is really bugging me. When you look up some educational text about stars life, this is what you find out: Gravity creates the temperature and pressure to start fusion reactions. The fusion ...
27
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3answers
970 views

The Pioneer anomaly finally explained?

Pioneer 10 & 11 are robotic space probes launched by the NASA in the early 1970's. After leaving our solar system, an unusual deceleration of both spacecrafts has been measured to be approximately ...
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8answers
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Why is absolute zero considered to be asymptotical? Wouldn't regions such as massive gaps between galaxy clusters have temperatures of absolute zero?

Why is absolute zero considered to be asymptotical? Wouldn't regions such as massive gaps between galaxy clusters have temperatures of absolute zero? I just do not see why our model must work the way ...
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Can Jupiter be ignited?

Our solar system itself contains two candidate "Earths" One is Jupiter's moon Europa and another is Saturn's moon Titan. Both of them have the problem of having at low temperature as Sun's heat ...
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How fast a (relatively) small black hole will consume the Earth?

This question appeared quite a time ago and was inspired, of course, by all the fuss around "LHC will destroy the Earth". Consider a small black hole, that is somehow got inside the Earth. Under ...
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What nonlinear deformations will a fast rotating planet exhibit?

It is common knowledge among the educated that the Earth is not exactly spherical, and some of this comes from tidal forces and inhomogeneities but some of it comes from the rotation of the planet ...
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Are neutrino stars theoretically possible?

Since neutrinos have a small mass and are affected by gravity, wouldn't it be theoretically possible to have such a large quantity of them so close to each other, that they would form a kind of a ...
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Why does the moon face earth with the same side?

I know that the rotation period of the moon equals its revolution period. It's just so astonishing that these 2 values have such a small difference. I mean, what is the probability of these 2 values ...
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4answers
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Why do we deal only with large scale magnetic fields in astrophysics, and not electric fields?

In astrophysics there is a lot going on about strong, large scale magnetic fields: in stars (prominences), magnetic dynamos, compact accretors collimating jets, etc. There's even a special ...
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8answers
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Why are L4 and L5 lagrangian points stable?

This diagram from wikipedia shows the gravitational potential energy of the sun-earth two body system, and demonstrates clearly the semi-stability of the L1, L2, and L3 lagrangian points. The blue ...
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4answers
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Can there be Electron and/or Proton Stars?

What happens to all of the electrons and protons in the material of a neutron star? Could there ever be an electron star or a proton star?
18
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6answers
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Why isn't dark matter just matter?

There's more gravitational force in our galaxy (and others) than can be explained by counting stars. So why not lots of dark planetery systems (ie without stars) ? Why must we assume some undiscovered ...
18
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2answers
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Is Jupiter a failed star?

In my physics lessons, my teachers have always been keen to tell my class that Jupiter is considered a 'failed star' by scientists. Is this true? In my own effort I wondered if maybe this could just ...
18
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2answers
2k views

How does one measure the mass of a galaxy? And other such large quantities

Trained as a pure mathematician, I see claims about the mass of a galaxy and other such huge measurements that are arrived at experimentally, and I just have to scratch my head. I know this is a bit ...
18
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2answers
452 views

How do spiral arms form?

Why aren't all spinning galaxies shaped as discs as my young mind would expect? I understand how the innermost parts of a galaxy spin faster than the outer parts, and that could explain why some ...
18
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2answers
396 views

Experimental observation of matter/antimatter in the universe

Ordinary matter and antimatter have the same physical properties when it comes to, for example, spectroscopy. Hydrogen and antihydrogen atoms produce the same spectroscopy when excited, and adsorb the ...
18
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1answer
489 views

Why the galaxies forms 2D plane (or spiral-like) instead of 3D ball (or spherical-like)?

Question: As we know (1) the macroscopic spatial dimension of our universe is 3 dimension, and (2) Gravity attracts massive objects together and the gravitational force is isotropic without ...
18
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2answers
250 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 ...
17
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1answer
423 views

Causes of hexagonal shape of Saturn's jet stream

NASA has just shown a more detailed picture of the hexagonal vortex/storm on Saturn: http://www.ibtimes.com/nasa-releases-images-saturns-hexagon-mega-storm-may-have-been-swirling-centuries-1496218 ...
17
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1answer
346 views

Where do high-energy neutrinos come from?

Last week the IceCube South Pole Neutrino Observatory published a press release reporting the possible discovery of two neutrinos with energies of over 1 PeV. Would anyone here be willing to help me ...
16
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3answers
337 views

How can a spiral galaxy exist?

A spiral arm orbiting a central mass should be dispersed quite quickly as the outer elements would move more slowly than the inner ones. The Milky Way, is about 59 Galactic Years old, which, one would ...
16
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2answers
237 views

Recommend good book(s) about the “scientific method” as it relates to astronomy/astrophysics?

I am interested in astronomy/astrophysics, but I am not science major (I am a computer science graduate). Facts and results of the field are presented to the public without showing how these ...
16
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4answers
805 views

How would we see a near-lightspeed object emitting light?

Consider an object travelling near the speed of light relative to us (let it be a spaceship or a star), which is emitting light (consider it monochromatic resulting from a two level electronic ...
15
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1answer
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When will the Moon reach escape velocity?

From what I know, the Moon is accelerating away from the Earth. Do we know when it will reach escape velocity? How do we calculate this?
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Why does a star collapse under its own gravity when the gravity at its centre is zero?

The gravity at the centre of a star is zero as in the case of any uniform solid sphere with some mass. When a massive star dies, why does it give rise to a black hole at it's centre? I know how to ...
14
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3answers
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Why are most astronomy things spherical in the shape (like, the Sun, the Moon, the Earth, and other planets)?

What is the reason for all the astronomy things being spherical in the shape (like, the Sun, the Moon, the Earth, and other planets)?
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3answers
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Is it possible that all neutron stars are actually pulsars?

I'm assuming that what I've been told is true: We can only detect pulsars if their beams of electromagnetic radiation is directed towards Earth. That pulsars are the same as neutron stars, only that ...
14
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3answers
195 views

Why and how will we be able to image extraterrestrial planets in the next two decades?

According to a recently published article, a well-established Cambridge astrophysicist stated that: the “origin of life, where it exists, and whether aliens exist, is going to be crucial over ...
13
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10answers
227 views

In astronomy what phenomena have theory predicted before observations?

As far as I know, astronomy is generally an observational science. We see something and then try to explain why it is happening. The one exception that I know of is black holes: first it was thought ...
13
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3answers
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Why does each celestial object spin on its own axis?

AFAIK all the celestial objects have a spin motion around its axis. What is the reason for this? If it must rotate by some theory, what decides it's direction and speed of rotation? Is there any ...
13
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2answers
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How Earth communicates with Voyager I?

After taking a basic signals & systems class and learning about the frequency domain, I started wondering: How the heck do scientists still communicate with Voyagers I and II??   Do they ...
12
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3answers
158 views

If neutrinos travel faster than light, how much lead time would we have over detecting supernovas?

In light of the recent story that neutrinos travel faster than photons, I realize the news about this is sensationalistic and many tests still remain, but let's ASSUME neutrinos are eventually proven ...
12
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2answers
235 views

Is there evidence of dark matter in our galaxy?

Is there evidence of dark matter in our galaxy? How can we measure this, say, how many percent of the center of our galaxy is dark matter? I did not find the answer in the question What's Dark ...
12
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1answer
493 views

What is the percentage of stars that are massive enough to end their lives in a supernova?

I have been searching for the percentage of stars that are massive enough to end their lives as a supernova but couldn't get any result. As far as I know, a star has to be at least 8 times more ...
12
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1answer
562 views

Would a submarine float in the atmosphere of Jupiter?

Would a submarine float in the atmosphere of Jupiter, or would it get crushed?
11
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6answers
3k views

Why is the mapped universe shaped like an hourglass?

I've watched a video from the American National History Museum entitled The Known Universe. The video shows a continuous animation zooming out from earth to the entire known universe. It claims to ...
11
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3answers
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If I were standing on the surface of the sun, how far could I see?

Assuming it would be possible to handle the intense heat... Is the surface even? If not, would average surface elevation be an appropriate definition of "surface"?Does the sun have an atmosphere that ...
11
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3answers
2k views

Age of the Earth and the star that preceded the Sun

One of the great unheralded advances made in the history of science was the ability to determine the age of Earth based on the decay of isotopic uranium. Based on the apparent abundance of uranium in ...
11
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4answers
439 views

Is the Fine Stucture constant constant?

I have read that the fine structure constant may well not be a constant. Now, if this were to be true, what would be the effect of a higher or lower value? (and why?)
11
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3answers
688 views

What stabilizes neutorns against beta decay in a neutron star?

Free neutrons are known to undergo beta decay with a half-life of slightly above 10 minutes. Binding with other nucleons stabilizes the neutrons in an atomic nucleus, but only if the fraction of ...
11
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2answers
414 views

Can $10^{23}$ stars be treated with methods of statistical mechanics?

Statistical mechanics is used to describe systems with large number of particles ~$10^{23}$. The observable universe contains between $10^{22}$ to $10^{24}$ stars. Can we treat those many stars as a ...
11
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3answers
300 views

Are Neutron stars transparent?

Neutrons have no charge so they would not, I think, interact with photons. Would a neutron star be transparent?
11
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5answers
1k views

Anti-Matter Black Holes

Assuming for a second that there were a pocket of anti matter somewhere sufficiently large to form all the type of object we can see forming from normal matter - then one of these objects would be a ...
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5answers
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The final death of a black hole

What are the different death scenarios for a black hole? I know they can evaporate through Hawking radiation - but is there any other way? What if you just kept shoveling more and more mass and ...
11
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2answers
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Are we living in a false vacuum? Is there any way to tell?

I was thinking of the noted 1980 paper by Sidney Coleman and Frank de Luccia--"Gravitational effects of and on vacuum decay"-- about metastable vacuum states that could tunnel to a lower energy "true ...
11
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1answer
462 views

Thermodynamically possible to hide a Dyson sphere?

You build a Dyson sphere around a star to capture all its energy. The outer surface of the Dyson sphere still radiates heat at much higher temperature than the cold space background, so you're easy to ...
10
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5answers
836 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 ...
10
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Observed composition of UHE cosmic rays

How much is known about the composition of ultra high energy cosmic rays (say $E>10^{20}\text{ eV}$)? I get the impression that the particles are often assumed to be protons or other heavier ...