Questions tagged [astrophysics]

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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87
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7answers
27k views

What is the speed of sound in space?

Given that space is not a perfect vacuum, what is the speed of sound therein? Google was not very helpful in this regard, as the only answer I found was $300\,{\rm km}\,{\rm s}^{-1}$, from Astronomy ...
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8answers
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Why isn't dark matter just ordinary matter?

There's more gravitational force in our galaxy (and others) than can be explained by counting stars made of ordinary matter. So why not lots of dark planetary systems (i.e., without stars) made of ...
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Why the galaxies form 2D planes (or spiral-like) instead of 3D balls (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 ...
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Origin of elements heavier than Iron (Fe)

In all the discussions about how the heavy elements in the universe are forged in the guts of stars and especially during a stars death, I usually hear that once the star begins fusing lighter atoms ...
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10answers
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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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2answers
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How can Quasars emit anything if they're black holes?

We've heard it many times, nothing can escape the gravity of a black hole, even light once it's past the event horizon. If this is true, how can a black hole emit anything? Quasars are massive black ...
29
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3answers
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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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7answers
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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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3answers
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Why are stars, planets and larger moons (approximately) spherical in shape (like, the Sun, the Moon, the Earth, and other planets)?

Why are stars, planets and larger moons (approximately) spherical in shape (like, the Sun, the Moon, the Earth, and other planets)?
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Can black holes actually merge?

If time stops at the event horizon, can we ever detect two black holes merging? In other words, if you are a short distance away, would you encounter a spherically symmetric gravitational field, or a ...
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3answers
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What stabilizes neutrons 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 ...
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2answers
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Is there a limit as to how fast a black hole can grow?

Astronomers find ancient black hole 12 billion times the size of the Sun. According to the article above, we observe this supermassive black hole as it was 900 million years after the formation of ...
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751 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 ...
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2answers
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What would happen to a teaspoon of neutron star material if released on Earth?

I've read on NASA's page on neutron star that one teaspoonful of that star would weigh over 20 billion tonnes on Earth. If it was somehow possible to bring it to earth would it: Burn and disappear ...
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5answers
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Why does Venus spin in the opposite direction?

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 ...
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7answers
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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 ...
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4answers
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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 ...
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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 ...
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1answer
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Does the number density of photons $n_\gamma\approx 10^8 \:\mathrm m^{-3}$ refer to CMB photons only?

When we talk about the present-day number density of photons ($n_\gamma\approx 10^8 \:\mathrm m^{-3}$) in the universe do we mean the number density of CMB photons? I mean there are other sources of ...
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4answers
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Why doesn't the solar wind disrupt the planets?

The sun creates this heliosphere by sending a constant flow of particles and a magnetic field out into space at over 670,000 miles per hour, which is also known as solar wind. If the speed of the wind ...
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1answer
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Universe Expansion as an absolute time reference

Why we call "constant" to the Hubble constant?, if the universe were really expanding then the Hubble "constant" should change, being variable, smaller and smaller..with "time". Other example/view ...
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2answers
552 views

What causes the dimensions of a star increase when its hydrogen fuel is exhausted?

What causes the dimensions of a star increase when its hydrogen fuel is exhausted? For example, the Sun is expected to increase its radius 250 times. What causes this if its temperature is expected to ...
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2answers
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Why does a star beyond a certain mass limit (Chandrasekhar limit) only become a black hole?

Why does a star beyond a certain mass limit (Chandrasekhar limit) only become a black hole? A star is first made of hydrogen, it undergoes nuclear fussion reaction combining into helium and ...
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What is the electric charge of the Sun and its corona?

What is the net electric charge (in magnitude and sign) of the Sun and its corona?
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1answer
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What is the theoretical lower mass limit for a gravitationally stable neutron star?

I ask here intentionally not for the size of the smallest possible observed size of neutron stars, which corresponds approximately to the well-known Chandrasekhar-limit for the upper limit of the ...
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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 ...
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2answers
692 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, ...
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2answers
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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 ...
15
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1answer
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Why can a neutron star implode? [duplicate]

In a book* I was reading, it said that a neutron star is formed when the pressure is so large that the electrons in a white dwarf interact with the protons, forming neutrons. The neutrons then ...
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2answers
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What is the safe distance to a supernova explosion?

In other words, what stars near the Sun may have an impact on the Solar system equilibrium or the Earth life if they become supernova ? Is SN 1987 A too far ?
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3answers
807 views

How do shock waves form in space?

Today my aerodynamics professor mentioned that the equations we were learning for atmospheric shock waves can also be applied by astrophysicists to study black hole-related shock waves in space. How ...
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2answers
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With what probability does nuclear fusion occur at energies far below the Coulomb barrier?

Even at the core of the sun, the temperature of $\sim 10^7$ K only results in $kT\sim1$ keV, which is about a thousand times less than the electrical potential energy of $\sim1$ MeV needed in order to ...
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1answer
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$\Delta^+$ decay in GZK process

The dominant channels in the GZK process are $$p+\gamma_{\rm CMB}\to\Delta^+\to p+\pi^0,$$ $$p+\gamma_{\rm CMB}\to\Delta^+\to n+\pi^+.$$ According to the pdg, $\Delta\to N+\pi$ makes up essentially ...
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2answers
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Do stars remain electrically neutral? [duplicate]

How electrically neutral do stars remain through their lifetime? As an example, I could imagine processes such as coronal mass ejections leaving the Sun in a slightly charged state. Are there such ...
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5answers
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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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2answers
238 views

Formation of supermassive black holes

Scientists have found very bright source of light which they call quasar and the are found to be supermassive black holes. So these black holes are so massive that they cannot be formed by a supernova....
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4answers
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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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2answers
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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 ...
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4answers
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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 ...
4
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4answers
10k views

How much iron would I have to shoot into the Sun to blow it up?

My understanding--though it's from a Science Channel show so I'm not sure if it is correct--is that there is a fusion reaction happening in the center of the sun. Atomic nuclei are being created and ...
45
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5answers
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Why aren't there spherical galaxies? [duplicate]

According to the Wikipedia page on Galaxy Types, there are four main kinds of galaxies: Spirals - as the name implies, these look like huge spinning spirals with curved "arms" branching out ...
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4answers
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Explanation for negative specific heat capacities in stars?

I've just found out that a negative specific heat capacity is possible. But I have been trying to find an explanation for this with no success. Negative heat capacity would mean that when a system ...
15
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3answers
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What would be the characteristics of Jupiter if it shrank?

So, I've heard from various works of science fiction about the prospect of turning Jupiter into a star. From what I know about the physics of such a task, it would require somehow condensing Jupiter ...
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6answers
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How many times has the matter in our solar system been recycled from previous stars?

I've got a basic understanding of these facts: The Universe is a little over 13 billion years old. Our galaxy is almost that old. Our solar system is roughly 4.6 billion years old. The heavier ...
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5answers
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Interstellar dust/matter distribution

It is known that one of the main problems of interstellar flight is a presence of matter between stars in form of very fine dust and huge asteroids. Which can slowly (or fast) destroy any ship. What ...
9
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2answers
771 views

Why are there spectral lines at all?

My somewhat basic understanding of the concept comes from lectures I've attended about the Bohr-model, which explains the phenomenon as arising from the fact that certain configurations of an atom can ...
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2answers
4k views

Do black holes have infinite areas and volumes?

How to calculate the area / volume of a black hole? Is there a corresponding mathematical function such as rotating $1/x$ around the $x$-axis or likewise to find the volume?
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3answers
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Size and density of neutron stars

Most of the books which I looked at give approximately 10 km as the radius of a neutron star. Just yesterday I looked at a book by Dave Goldberg titled The Universe In the Rearview Mirror (2013) which ...
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3answers
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Galactic Rotation Speeds - Ehrenfest Paradox, Gravitational time dilation, Dark Matter - all of the above?

The observed paths and speeds of objects, part of some distant galaxy, do not match up with speed vs distance curves it seems - the observed speeds are not falling off in fact they're trending as ...
4
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4answers
768 views

A reference request for real world experimental data [closed]

I always use to wonder how the experimental physicists discover new particles every now and then whose dimensions/properties/mass/charge several order of magnitudes below that of anything that is ...