Questions tagged [astronomy]

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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Why do we actually see the sun?

I haven't yet gotten a good answer to this: If you have two rays of light of the same wavelength and polarization (just to make it simple for now, but it easily generalizes to any range and all ...
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How can we see planets thousands of light years away but don't know if there are more planets in the solar system?

That is basically my question, it arose when I saw an article (here is the scientific paper, which should be free to read) saying two Caltech scientists might have found the 9th planet of the solar ...
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How big would my telescope have to be if I wanted to see the Mars rover from my backyard?

I imagine that with a big enough telescope, I would be able to zoom in and see the Mars rover in enough detail to make out the details (like the wheels, cameras, etc.). How large would the telescope ...
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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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Why CAN we see the new moon at night?

I understand that the Moon's phases are determined by its position in orbit relative to the Sun. (See: Full Story on the Moon). The "shadow" is not cast by the Earth (a common misconception - this is ...
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Can anything be seen from the center of the Boötes void? How dark would it be?

Let's say I was at the very center of the enormous Boötes void, way out in deep, deep space. What could I see with the naked eye? I assume I could see no individual stars, but could I resolve any ...
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Why isn't the circumferential light around the M87 black hole's event horizon symmetric?

After the revelation of the first black hole images, it seems there is a bias towards the south side. Is it because of measuring it from earth or is it something more fundamental in the understanding ...
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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 (...
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Why does the full Moon appear?

I know that the full Moon appears when Sun, Moon and Earth are in a straight line, but if we consider that they are in straight line, why is the Moon illuminated? I mean to say that Earth should ...
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What is the evidence for a supermassive black hole at the center of Milky Way?

Black holes cannot be seen because they do not emit visible light or any electromagnetic radiation. Then how do astronomers infer their existence? I think it's now almost established in the scientific ...
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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 it'...
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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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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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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. ...
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Why are leap seconds needed so often?

In Coordinated Universal Time (UTC), leap seconds are added to account for the slowing down of Earth's rotation. But the slowing down is said to be of the order of milliseconds in a century. Then why ...
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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. I ...
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Why was M87 targeted for the Event Horizon Telescope instead of Sagittarius A*?

The first image of a black hole has been released today, April 10th, 2019. The team targeted the black hole at the center of the M87 galaxy. Why didn't the team target Sagittarius A* at the center of ...
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Did the new image of black hole confirm the general theory of relativity? (M87)

How can we do it just by looking at the image. But I heard in news saying "Einstein was right! black hole image confirms GTR. The image is so less detailed that I can't even make some pretty good ...
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Why are there no asteroids or meteoroids with relativistic speeds?

Cosmic rays can have energies going into the $10^{20}$ eV domain. Asteroids and meteoroids originating in the solar system are probably limited in their speed because they all started out from the ...
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Telescopes to avoid as a beginner? [closed]

I've heard people talk about "department store scopes" or "trash scopes". How do I know what to avoid in a beginner scope? How can I know that I'm not getting something we will be more frustrated with ...
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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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Why is there so much iron?

We all know where iron comes from. However, as I am reading up on supernovas, I started to wonder why there is as much iron as there is in the universe. Neither brown dwarfs nor white dwarfs deposit ...
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How to determine what size telescope to buy

A couple of years ago my son showed an interest in astronomy and we bought a 6" reflector telescope. We use it pretty regularly and have enjoyed it immensely. Lately we've both been wishing we had ...
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Why are the orbits of planets in the Solar System nearly circular?

Except for Mercury, the planets in the Solar System have very small eccentricities. Is this property special to the Solar System? Wikipedia states: Most exoplanets with orbital periods of 20 days ...
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How fast is the Earth-Sun distance changing

This is inspired by Evidence that the Solar System is expanding like the Universe?, which referenced an article by G. A. Krasinsky and V. A. Brumberg, "Secular Increase of Astronomical Unit from ...
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A star or a galaxy?

When we look into the beautiful sky in the night, exclaiming how beautiful these shining stars are. My question is how could we tell, whether any of these shining "point" is a star or a galaxy? If ...
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What do the colors in false color images represent?

Every kid who first looks into a telescope is shocked to see that everything's black and white. The pretty colors, like those in this picture of the Sleeping Beauty Galaxy (M64), are missing: The ...
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How do we know that these radio bursts are from billions of light-years away?

NASA just announced that they detected the first radio bursts from outside of our galaxy. Astronomers, including a team member from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., have detected ...
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How did they take photos of Jupiter?

How did they take photos of Jupiter - I mean Jupiter is illuminated and that's a lot of light to produce. Am I missing something, and there was some sort of dark photo technology used, or was there ...
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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.
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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 ...
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Can the “Milky Way” galaxy be seen by the naked eye in a clear sky?

Is this photo "real"? Are the stars not super-imposed in the image?
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How deep is the Great Red Spot?

The Great Red Spot (GRS) is a very persistent storm system that's easily visible through a telescope on the surface of Jupiter. But what is the three-dimensional structure of the GRS, and how deep ...
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Why aren't gas planets and stars fuzzy? [duplicate]

The edge of Jupiter looks very sharp. Even more bothersome, the edge of the sun looks sharp, aside from kind of a soup of particles floating above it. The sun's surface has an incredibly low density....
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Which way do spiral galaxies rotate?

Is it known whether spiral galaxies typically (or exclusively?) rotate with the arms trailing or facing? Intuitively it feels weird to think of the arms as facing the direction of rotation, but that'...
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Finding how much time it takes for a complete Earth revolution around the Sun

Long story short, my brother made a joke about how stupid it is to celebrate the Earth making one "trip" around the Sun: New Year's Eve. So I got curious and was wondering: how could the first ...
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Can the average length of the day and night of a planet be different?

At one point in "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.", some agents are on a planet where the day, defined as the length of time where the sun shines on the planet, occurs only once every 18 years for a ...
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Do all the individual stars that we can see in the night sky belong to Milky Way?

I was wondering if all the stars that we can see with the unaided eye as distinct point sources are from our own galaxy? In other words, can we see stars from the Andromeda Galaxy or other galaxies ...
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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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How dense are nebulae?

How functionaly dense are nebulae? Are they so sparse they are only visible from an interstellar or intergalactic perspective or would you be unable to see your hand in one? Do they vary widely in ...
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Optimal telescope size?

Consider a diffraction-limited telescope with unobstructed aperture $D$. Such a scope is capable of yielding an angular resolution $\alpha$ that scales as $\lambda/D$, with $\lambda$ denoting the ...
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What is a simple argument to prove that the stars in the sky are further away from the Earth than the Moon?

How do we know, without using modern equipment, that the stars are further away than the moon in the night sky? Further, is there a simple and actionable argument to prove that this is indeed the case?...
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How many minutes in a year?

I knew that there were $365.25$ days in a year (ish) but we only have $365$ on calendars, that's why we have February 29. I then learned in class about the sidereal and solar day; sidereal being $23$ ...
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Given a photo of the Moon, taken from Earth, is it possible to calculate the position of the photographer's site?

Given a photo of the Moon, taken from Earth, is it possible to calculate the position (Earth longitude and latitude) of the photographer's site? I am thinking about photos taken with a normal camera ...
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Would a galaxy be visible from outside, but nearby?

We all know the typical sci-fi image of a guy standing on the ship deck and able to see a full galaxy. If you somehow were able to stand a few lightyears away from a galaxy would you be able to see it ...
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What is the accuracy of our knowledge about the planets orbits?

We have studied the solar system for a long time and have detailed 3 dimensional knowledge of all the various bodies in the solar system and how they move in space in relation to one another and also ...
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What happens to the electron companions of cosmic ray protons?

If primary cosmic rays are made mostly of protons, where are the electrons lost, and does this mean that the Earth is positively charged? Does the sun eject protons and electrons in equal number?
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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 disc/...
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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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