14
votes
2answers
8k views

What is the distance that the Moon travels during one orbit around the Earth?

Also, does it always take the same amount of time, or does it fractionally differ on each revolution?
14
votes
2answers
2k views

Was the Milky Way ever a quasar?

Is there any evidence that the Milky Way could have been a quasar in it's early history? Is it thought that most galaxies come from quasars?
14
votes
2answers
215 views

How does the evolution 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 ...
14
votes
2answers
1k views

Is there a theoretical maximum size limit for a star?

Some stars are simply huge. Eventually, though, wouldn't there be simply too much pressure or mass for the star to sustain itself? Wouldn't it eventually collapse into a black hole? Is there a ...
14
votes
2answers
424 views

How long should it take for us to observationally determine if Caltech's Planet Nine is really there?

Caltech just released a report that says there is possibly a large (10 earth mass) planet in a remote orbit (10 - 20 thousand year) that explains a lot of observations of Kuiper Belt objects. How long ...
14
votes
2answers
3k views

How many planetary systems exist in our galaxy?

For many years scientists have studied our own solar system and modern technology allows them to look deeper and deeper into space. Knowing the Sun is only one of a few billion stars in the Milky Way ...
14
votes
1answer
172 views

How often do comets survive passage by the Sun?

I had heard that comet ISON might not survive a close pass by our Sun, and I was curious about the odds of how other comets had fared. So, how often do other comets survive a close pass by our sun? ...
14
votes
1answer
2k views

What does it mean for a star to go nova or supernova? Can I safely observe these?

What does it mean for a star when people say it goes 'nova' or super nova, what are the differences? More importantly, can I safely observe these with an amateur telescope? I imagine they would be ...
14
votes
1answer
91 views

What is the naming convention for newly discovered objects?

Often, a newly discovered star is identified by a seemingly random string of letters and numbers. I'm sure that there is some order to it, though. What is the naming convention for newly discovered ...
14
votes
2answers
237 views

Affordable night sky photography

As an amateur with limited budget, I'd be interested in taking photos of the night sky, trying to capture more detail than human eye armed with a lens of comparable parameters to what I have in my ...
14
votes
2answers
103 views

On (minuscule) dark matter production in supernovae

It is believed that dark matter is made of particles, which interact with matter only weakly and gravitationally. One common candidate for dark matter are so called WIMPs. WIMPs, specifically, are ...
14
votes
1answer
4k views

How many stars and galaxies can be seen by the naked eye?

How many of the luminous dots that we see naked are galaxies and not stars from our galaxy? I imagine that the majority of the luminous points that we see naked eye during the night, are actually ...
14
votes
3answers
1k views

Does a planet's mass or gravity affect the height of it's mountains?

According to this Wikipedia page, the top five highest mountains on Mars (and the highest on Venus) are all taller than Mount Everest (and Mauna Kea as measured from the ocean floor). Does a planet's ...
14
votes
1answer
206 views

Dark Matter Particle Candidates

Dark matter appears to dominate the matter component of the universe as compared to luminous, or baryonic, matter. Though it does not interact electromagnetically (it doesn't absorb, scatter, or emit ...
13
votes
4answers
643 views

What is Gravitational Lensing?

What is the effect known as gravitational lensing? How does it work? What objects would be able to cause this effect?
13
votes
4answers
5k views

Is Jupiter made entirely out of gas?

I heard that Jupiter is made out of gas. But in school I learned that Jupiter has gravity which is 2.5 times that of Earth (Gravity that can tear apart a comet) and gravity is proportional to mass. ...
13
votes
3answers
337 views

What is there in the intergalactic space?

What bodies can be encountered way outside galaxies - far beyond the farthest edges of galaxies, in the deep space between them? Are there single, galaxy-less stars, giant clouds of gas more dense ...
13
votes
4answers
2k views

How big would the asteroid belt planet be?

As I understand it, the asteroid belt exists because the gravitational force of Jupiter prevents the asteroids from accreting (is that a word?) into a planet. If, however, Jupiter didn't exist and ...
13
votes
4answers
986 views

Why can't we observe the Oort cloud with a telescope?

The Oort cloud is a hypothetical structure based on our observation of long-period comets. There are currently proposals to design probes to confirm the existence of the Oort cloud. Now, sending a ...
13
votes
2answers
1k views

Do other planets in our solar system experience eclipses or is this unique to Earth?

Here on Earth we get to experience lunar and solar eclipses. Is this pure coincidence that everything happens to line up? Do other planets in the solar system experience this phenomenon or is this ...
13
votes
3answers
478 views

How can I safely observe a Solar Flare?

Solar Flares obviously release extreme amounts of energy and extend thousands of miles out into space. Because they are so big I would like to be able to observe some of these events through a ...
13
votes
2answers
437 views

Will Neptune be visible with the naked eye if I am standing on its satellite

Assume that I am standing on one of the many satellites of Neptune. Will I be able to see the planet with my naked eyes (without any sort of visual aid). If I was to stand on Moon I would be able to ...
13
votes
2answers
9k views

What is the formula to predict lunar and solar eclipses accurately?

A number of ancient civilizations had devised methods to predict exact dates and times of such eclipses, marking them as important events. Hence I assume the predictions were based on calculations, ...
13
votes
3answers
181 views

Why is the Oort cloud presumed to be spherical?

Most descriptions of the Oort cloud depict it as a mostly spherical distribution of planetesimals, with occasional allowance for an inner component that is more donut-shaped. This is slightly at odds ...
13
votes
1answer
135 views

How hot can a planet be?

Given that some exoplanets, particular "Hot Jupiters", orbit very closely to their parent star, how hot can these planets become? What is the hottest exoplanet discovered so far?
13
votes
2answers
850 views

Why do stars appear to twinkle?

Sometimes at night you will look up to the stars and they will appear to twinkle, getting brighter and darker in bursts. Why does this happen? Is this because of our atmosphere? Would they twinkle ...
13
votes
1answer
206 views

On what scale does the universe expand?

According to the theory (or my understanding of it), the universe is not only expanding, but speeding up. If the galaxies are moving apart, are the solar systems within them also moving apart from ...
13
votes
2answers
142 views

What earth organisms would survive if they arrived on Mars?

Contaminating other planets is a concern in space exploration. My question is what organisms, or small collections of organisms, from earth would be able form a self-sustaining population on Mars? I'm ...
13
votes
1answer
307 views

Our galaxy, the Milky Way, forms part of a galaxy group called The Local Group. What are the parameters that dictate what a galaxy group is?

Are there different classifications or just the one? How does our galaxy group compare with others?
13
votes
1answer
427 views

How long do planetary rings last?

I'm surprised that this question hasn't been asked before (here or on Physics), to the best of my knowledge. It's one that I might have asked when I was a bit younger, and one that I think other ...
13
votes
1answer
333 views

How stable are Lissajous orbits?

Now that the Gaia Space Telescope is on it's way to the Sun-Earth L2 Lagrangian point (SEL2), I start wondering about the stability of Gaia's orbit there. The Planck Telescope is already there, as was ...
13
votes
2answers
515 views

Is there a upper limit to the number of planets orbiting a star?

Our sun has 8 planets orbiting as well as a number of dwarf planets. Are there any calculations that hint as to whether this number is close to some theoretical maximum value or are we simply an ...
13
votes
1answer
124 views

How are the compositional components of exoplanet atmospheres differentiated?

How are exoplanetary atmosphere compositional spectra distinguished from those of the parent star(s), from the composition of the planetary surface or any other factor? Is it actually possible to ...
13
votes
4answers
388 views

Blowing up an asteroid/comet really potentially worse?

Often on television shows and in articles I see it mentioned that it'd always be bad to blow up an asteroid or comet because then the energy would just be spread out and cause even more damage. ...
12
votes
4answers
3k views

Is the Earth going to evolve towards Mars' fate or Venus' fate?

Upon reading on this site (and many others), one can think that Mars might have supported life in a distant past (discovery of liquid water, valleys, mountains...). On the other hand, Venus is the ...
12
votes
2answers
409 views

Space expansion in layman terms

So far I got to understand the expansion of space is not to be understood as stars drifting further apart through space. There's something more fundamental - e.g. you can't simply measure speed of it, ...
12
votes
4answers
218 views

Are there ways other than the collapse of a star which have been observed to form black holes?

Every time I hear about a black hole, it's always in conjunction with the collapse of a star. Have any other processes been observed to create a black hole?
12
votes
2answers
589 views

How many galaxies have been discovered?

I know Andromeda is our nearest galaxy. But how many known galaxies have been discovered and what are they?
12
votes
3answers
1k views

Existence of gravitons?

For a lot of my uninformed life, I have doubted the existence of gravitons or even that gravity is an actual "force" (like electromagnetism). This is because my vision of general relativity was that ...
12
votes
2answers
635 views

How often do stars pass close (~1ly) to the Sun?

Interstellar exchange of massive objects is difficult across several light years. But as the stars orbit the galaxy the distances between them change. I don't find data for neighbor star distances ...
12
votes
1answer
350 views

How are the photos of the Milky Way taken?

We are inside the Milky Way, right? So, how are we able to take photos of the Milky Way?
12
votes
3answers
1k views

What wavelength to best detect the “9th planet”?

We know that the reflected sunlight will make detecting the 9th planet very difficult in the visible light. Is there another band that will be more likely to detect it? What is the surface temperature ...
12
votes
1answer
238 views

Have we ever observed a body, such as a large asteroid, “hitting” the Sun?

Some other SE questions about launching ICBM's into the sun got me wondering whether we have ever observed an object on a path that intersected with the Sun? How close did it get?
12
votes
6answers
2k views

Is Pluto still a dwarf planet?

Recent news seem to suggest that astronomers are arguing about whether Pluto should become a planet again. However, I cannot find an official source for this. Is this actually true?
12
votes
1answer
1k views

Do star remnants actually burn?

As we know, some stars can fuse heavy elements to produce carbon and oxygen after using up hydrogen if they are massive, and the remnant of stars are usually hot, my question is, if a star fuse to ...
12
votes
3answers
527 views

Questions about spiral galaxy arms

I have 2 questions related to spiral galaxies. Firstly, how did the arms form? Why would the stars accumulate into those specific areas? And secondly, why are they still intact? The inner parts of ...
12
votes
3answers
3k views

How was the core temperature of the Sun estimated?

It was estimated that the heat inside the core of the Sun inside around 15 000 000 °C - this value is extremely enormous. How did scientists estimate this value?
12
votes
2answers
288 views

What is the upper and lower limit of temperatures found on stars?

What are the most extreme temperatures (both hot and cold) stars have been detected at? Is there an upper and lower limit for the detected temperature of stars?
12
votes
2answers
252 views

What is radiation pressure and how does it prevent a star from forming?

This is a follow up to: Is there a theoretical maximum size limit for a star? The answer there talks about the radiation pressure preventing a star from forming. What reaction is causing this ...
12
votes
1answer
396 views

Why Did Mars lose its Magnetic Field?

I had heard that Mars once had a planetary magnetic field, but that it is now gone? What happened to it?

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