18
votes
4answers
11k views

Does the Sun belong to a constellation?

Each new star we find is generally considered to be part of the constellation it is nearest to. Our Sun is obviously a star, just much closer. Is our Sun part of any constellation? If so, which ...
18
votes
3answers
4k views

Why can't moon light (reflected sun light) turn the sky blue?

Does turning the colour of the sky blue need more luminous light? Does it depend on luminosity or some other factors are also responsible for this phenomenon? Why can't the moon light turn the sky ...
18
votes
3answers
364 views

Is it odd that our Sun has so many planets?

The internet is abuzz with the new evidence of the possible ninth planet in our Solar System. With those nine objects, the asteroid belt, the Kuiper belt, and everything else in our Solar System - the ...
18
votes
4answers
1k views

How would the night sky look from inside a globular cluster?

When the weather is clear, we can look at the stars. And we normally would see several thousands of them, they all being more than a $\textrm{pc}$ away from us. Now, there are globular clusters, ...
18
votes
2answers
7k views

Why do sunspots appear dark?

Sunspots, such as this one, appear dark: Why?
18
votes
3answers
2k views

Can small gas planets exist?

Most of the known gas planets (Jupiter, Saturn, etc.) are huge. They are even called "gas giants". is it possible to exist a gas planet around the size of Earth? If yes, why; if no, why?
18
votes
2answers
3k views

Why do the planets in our solar system orbit in the same plane?

(Yes I'm excluding Pluto from this the same way it was excluded for not being a planet) Observing the planets orbit of the Sun they all seem relatively planar and roughly all orbit along the same ...
18
votes
1answer
761 views

How distances are measured in the Solar System, in the Galaxy, and in the Universe?

Distances in our universe can be calculated in several ways: Stellar Parallax Standard Candles Redshift How are these methods linked, and how they are actually used to calculate distances are ...
17
votes
3answers
5k views

Why there is no smoke around the Sun?

Where there is fire, there is always smoke. So why there isn't any smoke near the Sun?
17
votes
7answers
3k views

How can we focus radio telescopes on a star when the earth is spinning?

Reading about the Star KIC 8462852, it has been said that the SETI project turned its radio telescopes towards the star to search for extra terrestrial radio signals as the star had strange ...
17
votes
4answers
1k views

Doesn't gravity attract objects in space until they collide?

If the formula to calculate the force of gravity between two objects is: $$F = GM_1M_2/r^2,$$ why do planets stay in orbit? Or is there another formula at work?
17
votes
2answers
301 views

Near-Earth supernova

There are 51 stars within 17 light years of the Earth (source). If one of these stars was to become a supernova, how would they effect the Earth?
17
votes
3answers
490 views

Are we made of the stuff of one star or more stars?

[T]his coincidence enabled stars in the late stages of their lives to turn helium into carbon, oxygen and most of the other atoms that you and I are made of. [...] [W]e're made of star stuff. Max ...
17
votes
1answer
1k views

Milky Way Galaxy from Earth

I've seen a lot of beautiful pictures of the Milky Way from Earth such as this: ...but I can't understand what the cloudy ribbon at the bottom the horizon is. Is it a super-large nebula? Or is it ...
17
votes
1answer
583 views

What is the current accepted theory as to why Venus has a slow retrograde rotation?

According to this NASA overview, the planet Venus is unique (amongst the major planets), Venus has a slow retrograde axial rotation, taking 243 Earth days to make one rotation (which is longer than ...
16
votes
4answers
5k views

If Jupiter is a gas-giant then why don't its features change?

A naive question. When we look at Jupiter, we see that its features didn't change largely over many years, for instance, the red-spot. If it is composed of gases and liquids, then why aren't the ...
16
votes
5answers
3k views

By putting a mirror in space, would we be able to see into the past?

I only ask this because of how fast light travels. The question remains in the title. Why, or why not, would this work?
16
votes
2answers
7k views

Why does the Earth have a tilt of ~23°?

Is there a reason that the Earth has the tilt that it does (~23°)? How do we know which way is supposed to be 0°? Does this tilt have major consequences on the planet? Has it changed and will it ...
16
votes
3answers
6k views

Should I focus more on Aperture or Focal Length for a telescope?

Let's assume there are three types of telescopes with the following specifications: ...
16
votes
2answers
621 views

If Alpha Centauri A's solar system exactly mirrored our own, what would we be able to detect?

Suppose there was an exact replica of our solar system 4.4 ly away (people included). What would we be able to detect and with what telescope(s)? Which planets? Could we detect radio transmissions and/...
16
votes
4answers
912 views

Is the influence of gravity instantaneous?

When I was in college, I posed to my astronomy professor a thought experiment that had been puzzling my mind for some time: "If the all matter in the Sun magically disappeared, instantly, how long ...
16
votes
4answers
1k views

Does matter accumulate just outside the event horizon of a black hole?

My understanding is that time slows and approaches stopping when approaching the event horizon of a black hole. I have seen this explained several places, including a brief explanation in the last ...
16
votes
2answers
797 views

Do moons have moons?

Have we discovered any natural satellites of natural satellites of planets or dwarf planets? Even very small, or relatively short-lived - e.g. ringlets around Saturn's moons, some meteorites orbiting ...
16
votes
2answers
1k views

Age of the universe and time dilation

Given our knowledge and the standard cosmological model, we estimate that the age of the universe is about 13.7 billion years old. How much sense does it make to talk about the age of the universe ...
16
votes
1answer
441 views

How do/did we figure out that planets move in orbits?

I've learned that planets move in orbits around the Sun, but I really don't know how I would come to this conclusion myself. I've only seen planets in the sky a couple times (knowingly), and I am ...
16
votes
1answer
311 views

I live in an area with a lot of light pollution, how can I view the stars without building an observatory?

I live in an urban area with a lot of light pollution and very little garden space. On a clear night I can see most of the sky and the brighter stars are visible. I can't build an observatory - I don'...
16
votes
2answers
595 views

What are practical considerations for backyard radio-astronomy detection of black holes?

Evidently, direct observation of a black hole for an amateur astronomer, such as described for what professionals do in the question "How are black holes found?" would be nigh on impossible, so the ...
15
votes
6answers
15k views

What will happen to life on Earth when the Andromeda and Milky Way galaxies collide?

It is said that the Andromeda and Milky Way galaxies are coming close to each other with a speed of approximately 400000 km/hour. They will be together in the next 4 billion years. What will happen ...
15
votes
2answers
3k views

How did Kepler “guess” his third law from data?

It is amazing that Kepler determined his three laws by looking at data, without a calculator and using only pen and paper. It is conceivable how he proved his laws described the data after he had ...
15
votes
2answers
2k views

What would the night sky look like if the Milky Way were the only galaxy in the universe?

I'm curious to know what the sky would look like without any other galaxies out there. How much do other galaxies factor into the stars we see? Does the Milky Way account for most of them? Would the ...
15
votes
3answers
3k views

Could someone explain RA/dec in simple terms?

The equatorial coordinate system isn't too complicated. However, for people new to this, it seems rather intimidating at first. Is there an easy way to explain it?
15
votes
2answers
4k views

Why do the planets orbit in the same direction?

Theoretically, planets would have an approximately equal chance of going one way in their orbit or another but in reality, this is not the case (at least in our solar system). Why is this?
15
votes
3answers
538 views

Will Saturn's rings become a moon?

Planets form from disks of matter orbiting around a star; some moons form from disks of matter orbiting planets. If this were going to happen around Saturn, approximately how much time would it take?
15
votes
2answers
2k views

How bright would the sun appear from the hypothetical Planet Nine proposed by Caltech?

Theoretical Planet Nine, proposed by Caltech's Mike Brown and Konstantin Batygin, is said to have a 15-20 thousand year orbit. Approximately how bright would the sun appear from Planet Nine aphelion ...
15
votes
2answers
790 views

At what distance from Earth would our Sun be the same apparent magnitude as the next brightest star in the sky?

When I stand outside looking at the night sky, to my untrained eye, everything except the moon looks like a star. I know intellectually that some are planets circling our sun, and some are entire ...
15
votes
2answers
2k views

How many planets have we discovered that can support human life?

I have heard a lot of buzz about distant planets that could potentially be second homes for human existence, but what is that approximate number?
15
votes
2answers
6k views

Does the Moon have any oxygen in its atmosphere?

Since the moon has gravity, it's almost impossible that there aren't some gasses trapped on the surface by the moon's gravity. Has any free-floating oxygen been found on the Moon? If so, in what ...
15
votes
1answer
3k views

How did Mars come to have a 24 hour 39 minute day?

Mercury rotates three times for every two revolutions around the Sun, apparently due to a gravitational resonance with the Sun.Venus takes about 225 days to rotate, and rotates in the opposite ...
15
votes
1answer
2k views

Why do some planets have rings?

Some planets, specifically Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune in our solar system, have planetary rings. Why do some planets have rings? How are they made and from what? Most importantly, will I ...
15
votes
3answers
206 views

What practical considerations are there for amateur observations of transiting exoplanets?

Obviously, I am not referring to actual viewing of the exoplanets themselves, but detecting their effects on the brightness of the light emitted from the parent star (as in the diagram below from The ...
15
votes
2answers
630 views

What physical features determine if a planet is a major, minor or dwarf planet?

Like many, when I was growing up, we always were taught, hence always learned that there were 9 planets. However, recently, decisions were made and all of a sudden there were 8 major planets and a ...
15
votes
1answer
5k views

Is the moon moving further away from Earth and closer to the Sun? Why?

According to The NASA Moon Facts page: The moon is actually moving away from earth at a rate of 1.5 inches per year. Why is the moon moving further away from the Earth? Is this a result of the ...
15
votes
1answer
515 views

What is the accepted theory as to why Uranus' axis is tilted so severely?

The planet Uranus is another solar system anomaly, where according to the NASA profile has an axial tilt of 97.8 degrees, also considered to be retrograde. This NASA summary "Uranus" suggests the ...
15
votes
1answer
1k views

Can I see “my own hand” in the void space?

If I were floating in a void (far away from any galaxy or cluster), would the light from these objects at such distances be enough to see for example, my hand?
15
votes
1answer
252 views

Future of CMB observations: How will our knowledge of the early universe change?

The Planck satellite has been presented and awaited for a long time as the ultimate experiments for measuring temperature fluctuations in the cosmic microwave background (CMB) over the full sky. One ...
15
votes
1answer
5k views

How can I collimate a dobsonian telescope with a laser collimator?

I've had a dobsonian telescope for a while now, but I've never been able to collimate it. I thought I had it collimated once, but when I looked through it the star didn't look right, it looked kind ...
15
votes
1answer
201 views

Why does a mirror bent 'like a potato chip' allow space telescopes to be smaller and have a wider field of view?

I was browsing NASA featured items and came across this - Out With the Old, In With the New: Telescope Mirrors Get New Shape Called freeform optics, this emerging mirror technology, brought about ...
15
votes
1answer
453 views

Where is Voyager 1 (or 2) going? In which direction?

Knowing it has exited the solar system, is it traveling in the direction of the center of the galaxy, away from it, orbiting it, or maybe even going perpendicular from the disk-shaped galaxy?
15
votes
1answer
452 views

Why did the Comet Shoemaker-Levy-9 fragments cause such large explosions on Jupiter?

In July 1994, the comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 (D/1993 F2) tidally fragmented and these fragments collided into Jupiter, as per the image below. Image source The question is, what mechanisms resulted in ...
15
votes
1answer
314 views

How exactly does inflation convert random gravity fluctuations into coherent gravitational waves?

In the course of this very enjoyable press announcement, it is mentioned that inflation can create gravity waves by amplifying gravity fluctuations. I do not properly understand this statement. I ...

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