11
votes
3answers
288 views

Why do (most of) the planets rotate counterclockwise, i.e. the same way the Sun does?

Referring to the mechanisms explaining the solar system formation and to the initial rotation of the gaseous cloud that collapsed, I understand easily why the planets orbit the Sun the same way this ...
11
votes
1answer
119 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 ...
11
votes
1answer
230 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 ...
10
votes
5answers
460 views

Do we know the exact spot where big bang took place?

If you rewind the universe back 14,7 billion years, all matter were in one spot, and then started expanding. Do we know where this is in reference to our own solar system? And is there anything there? ...
10
votes
3answers
364 views

How do we know dark matter/dark energy exists?

I've never quite understood the theory behind why dark matter and dark energy exist. I know it has something to do with gravitational pull being stronger than what we calculate it SHOULD be, could ...
10
votes
4answers
229 views

How would I measure that I'm at a pole?

How would a person measure that he is at a planetary pole? My first inclination is to use a sextant to ensure that the Sun remains at a constant inclination. However, due to the orbit around the Sun ...
10
votes
2answers
197 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?
10
votes
3answers
745 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 ...
10
votes
3answers
427 views

How do we know that the speed of the influence of gravity is instant?

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 sun magically disappeared, instantly, along with all its influences, ...
10
votes
2answers
126 views

What is the evidence that galaxies rotate?

Do all galaxies rotate? If so, do they rotate in the same direction? What observations have been made of galaxy rotation?
10
votes
2answers
265 views

How exactly is our universe mapped?

Watching this youtube video shows that our planet is nothing more than dust in the wind. At the 2:50 mark in the video, you will see a view of the whole Milky Way. At the bottom you will see this ...
10
votes
2answers
136 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?
10
votes
2answers
79 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 ...
10
votes
2answers
115 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 ...
10
votes
2answers
244 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 ...
10
votes
1answer
109 views

Why does the Moon seem larger when it is close to the horizon? [duplicate]

I've noticed that when I look into the sky at night, sometimes the moon appears very large near the horizon. Sometimes it also looks like it has a yellow tint. Is this the light rays bouncing off ...
10
votes
2answers
120 views

How hot must a star get before it is considered to be a star?

How hot must a star get before it actually becomes a star? Why does it need to get so hot? Please find an official site to quote from, if you can.
10
votes
2answers
702 views

Is it Possible for Planetary Bodies To Exist In Close Proximity Without Adverse Effects?

There are several sci-fi movies where planetary bodies are shown in the sky in order to indicate that the characters are on an alien planet. A good example is in Predators (2010): Is it actually ...
10
votes
1answer
130 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 ...
10
votes
2answers
183 views

Dimensions of a black hole

How big can a black hole become and how small can a black hole become?(minimum and maximum dimensions of a black hole)
10
votes
1answer
87 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?
10
votes
1answer
196 views

Why does the Moon stablize Earth's axis?

In an academic study titled 'The Moon and the Origin of Life on Earth' it is said that 'If the Moon did not exist, the orientation of the Earth’s axis would not be stable, and would be subject ...
10
votes
1answer
66 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 ...
10
votes
1answer
519 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 ...
10
votes
1answer
277 views

Explaining Dark Matter and Dark Energy to layman

With my little knowledge, I know this: Dark Matter The center of a galaxy controls/attracts its objects (stars, planets, comets etc.) towards itself because of gravity. But the mass of the center of ...
10
votes
1answer
44 views

Loss of atmosphere on Mars

If the atmosphere on Mars was once much thicker, how was it likely lost? Was it due to interaction with the solar wind, the small size of the planet, both, or something else, and approximately how ...
10
votes
1answer
105 views

What are the current observational constraints on the existence of Nemesis?

Nemesis is a hypothetical companion to the Sun on a very eccentric, long-period orbit. The star supposedly returns every few tens of millions years, driving comets into the inner solar system and ...
10
votes
2answers
198 views

How does angular resolution of a telescope translate to its parallax precision?

We can often read in the scientific and also more casual reader literature and articles about the angular resolution of various telescopes and other optical equipment, be it ground based or onboard ...
10
votes
2answers
384 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 ...
10
votes
2answers
108 views

Relativistic effects in stellar dynamical systems

I am curious, if anybody knows of any stellar dynamical systems/environments, where relativistic effects could play a dynamical role on the motion of these stellar systems? As a subquestion - are ...
10
votes
1answer
117 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 ...
10
votes
1answer
150 views

If the moon wasn't receding from Earth, what would be the impact on the weather and tides?

Moon is slowly receding from Earth, which means that after its formation it was much closer to the Earth than now. How would weather look like if it wasn't receding at it would be now as close as at ...
10
votes
1answer
45 views

How can we detect water on Mars-like exoplanets?

According to data from Curiosity, Mars' dust holds about 2% water by weight This wasn't previously detected, so the impression we have had of Mars being incredibly dry may need to be altered. Okay it ...
10
votes
1answer
88 views

How is it known that Callisto has no core?

My Astronomy book claims that scientists have discovered that Callisto, a moon of Jupiter, has no hot inner core. In fact, it says, Callisto has a core much like the nucleus of a comet. Is this still ...
10
votes
1answer
193 views

Do we get any benefit from being in a galaxy?

If our solar system were to somehow be created outside of a galaxy as a single star in the vast nothingness between galaxies, would life on Earth change any? Does being a member of a galaxy actually ...
10
votes
1answer
106 views

Which came first: black holes or galaxies?

In other terms, did galaxies grow around black holes at their center?
10
votes
1answer
109 views

Were effects of a planetary magnetic field reversal observed on other planets than Earth?

From geological records in rocks and minerals we know that the magnetic field of Earth changed its polarity multiple times in the history. See Geomagnetic reversal. Was a similar process of a ...
10
votes
1answer
149 views

Why haven't asteroid belts turned into new large bodies?

If gravitation (attraction of mass) is the cause of the formation of all celestial bodies then how come the numerous small bodies found in asteroid belts spread over an orbit instead of clustering ...
9
votes
7answers
706 views

What's the largest non-spherical astronomical object in the universe?

Some asteroids and comets are non-spherical. But is the nature of big things and gravity so that large things in the universe are always spherical? What is the biggest astronomical object in terms of ...
9
votes
4answers
190 views

What is the most extreme weather found on another planet?

On Venus, there is really inhospitable weather, as well as within the gas giants in our solar system. Are there examples of even more extreme weather on planets found in other solar systems than ours? ...
9
votes
3answers
326 views

Is it a coincidence that both the sun and moon look of same size from earth?

The sun is huge when compared to moon. Despite the huge difference in their size and distance from earth, Is it purely coincidental that they both look almost the same from earth?
9
votes
3answers
90 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?
9
votes
3answers
107 views

What is the orbital path of the newly discovered star-less planet PSO J318.5-22?

Recent results from Institute for Astronomy at the University of Hawaii at Manoa claim that there is a Jupiter-sized gas giant planet that is independent of a star about 80 light-years from Earth. ...
9
votes
3answers
118 views

What limits the usable focal length of telescopes currently?

What barriers - of technology, physics and possibly economy (things that would be possible technologically but are simply too expensive) sets the upper bound on quality of telescopes for observation ...
9
votes
4answers
1k 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?
9
votes
3answers
309 views

How do we know the big bang didn't happen in an existing universe?

I understand the evidence for the big bang (expansion, background radiation, etc), but how do we know that it was the start of the universe? Why couldn't it have occurred in an existing, but very ...
9
votes
1answer
111 views

Why Jupiter's Great Red Spot is Red?

The Great Red Spot (GRS) is a persistent anticyclonic storm, 22° south of Jupiter's equator, but why is it RED? From Wikipedia: It is not known exactly what causes the Great Red Spot's reddish ...
9
votes
3answers
230 views

How to detect emission lines in optical spectra?

Is there any handy module to detect emission lines in a spectrum like one we get from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS)? You can see there are many emission lines like Ha,OI in the spectrum below. ...
9
votes
2answers
36 views

Official registry of lunar placenames?

What's the definitive source for names of geographic objects on the moon? Reason: As a computer graphics project I've rendered a scene based on LROC terrain data. I want to know what I'm looking at. ...
9
votes
3answers
699 views

Jupiter FM - What are practical and inexpensive ways for the amateur detection of signals from Jupiter, especially of the transit of her moons?

What modifications to a standard AM/FM or shortwave radio are needed in order to be able to detect radio-wave signals emitted from Jupiter? Would it be possible to detect the transit of the major ...

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