28
votes
2answers
496 views

Does the Sun rotate?

The planets rotate as an after effect of their creation, the dust clouds that compressed span as they did so and the inertia has kept it rotating ever since. It's fairly easy to prove that planetary ...
24
votes
5answers
509 views

Why is only one side of the Moon visible from Earth?

Why do we only ever see the same side of the moon? If this is to do with gravity are there any variables which mean we might one day see more than we have before?
22
votes
5answers
290 views

How are black holes found?

Black holes have so much gravity that even light can't escape from them. If we can't see them, and the suck up all electromagnetic radiation, then how can we find them?
22
votes
3answers
903 views

How powerful a telescope would allow me to view the astronauts aboard ISS do a space-walk?

This arose from a comment posted against a question elsewhere on the stackexchange How powerful a telescope/binoculars would allow me to view the astronauts aboard the ISS do a space-walk? Aperture? ...
21
votes
3answers
586 views

How many planets are there in this solar system?

So, in school (that's a long time age) they have been teaching us there are 9 planets in our solar system. Mercury Venus Earth Mars Jupiter Saturn Uranus Neptune Pluto But every now and then I ...
18
votes
1answer
137 views

How could a hobbyist astronomer determine apparent magnitude of a star?

Apparent magnitude is a rather complex way to determine the brightness of a star. Quoting the introduction text from the linked to Wikipedia page: The apparent magnitude (m) of a celestial body is ...
17
votes
2answers
215 views

What is a parsec and how is it measured?

Astronomical units of measurement are mostly pretty straight-forward: Astronomical Units refer to the mean Earth-Sun distance (~150 million km or 93 million miles) Light years are the distance light ...
17
votes
2answers
223 views

Two species of dark matter?

At this point in time, evidence for the existence of dark matter has accumulated in many ways: it affects galactic rotation curves plays a major role in cosmology, and the evolution of structure in ...
17
votes
2answers
110 views

Amateur observing targets for binary star systems?

Are there any easily resolvable, binary star, observing targets visible from ~N40°? I'd like to be able to show, in one observing session, Mizar and Alcor (naked eye resolvable), another with ...
17
votes
2answers
230 views

How do I calculate the inclination of an object with an amateur telescope?

Suppose I would like to calculate the inclination of a satellite from the ecliptic. Would it be possible to do this with an amateur telescope? How would I go about doing so? Note: A good answer ...
16
votes
2answers
147 views

Why does Jupiter have so many moons?

Jupiter has a great many moons - in the hundreds, and they're still being discovered. What is the current theory for where all these moons came from? Are they rocks flying through space captured by ...
16
votes
3answers
257 views

Why can't light escape from a black hole?

I've heard that light can't escape from a black hole. Can it? If not, why?
16
votes
1answer
128 views

What causes a star to become a pulsar?

What processes does a star undergo to become a pulsar? Does it take a very specific star with a certain set of qualities such as "Just the right mass, diameter, and composition," or is it a freak ...
15
votes
2answers
143 views

Why is the Hubble Telescope in space?

Why is the Hubble Telescope in space? Do we get enhanced clarity and range by placing it in space? What can it achieve from space that it could not achieve from Earth?
15
votes
2answers
266 views

Why is our solar system “tipped” about 63° with respect to the plane of our galaxy?

Our own solar system is "tipped" by about 63 degrees with respect to the plane of the galaxy. Has it ever been researched or is there any scientific theory which could explain the reason why our solar ...
14
votes
3answers
952 views

What's the fastest moving object in the universe?

We know that nothing can have proper velocities larger than the speed of light in vacuum. But are there any objects in space that get close to it? Any comets, or other objects thrown by gravity or ...
14
votes
4answers
343 views

How can we tell that the Milky Way is a spiral galaxy?

From Earth, we can distinguish the type of another galaxy very easily simply by observing the shape, colour, and structure of the galaxy when we image it. But since we are located inside the Milky ...
14
votes
3answers
235 views

Pluto's orbit overlaps Neptune's, does this mean Pluto will hit Neptune sometime?

We know that the orbits of Pluto and Neptune overlap. This means that pluto sometimes crosses the orbit of Neptune; will Pluto hit Neptune in any circumstance?
14
votes
1answer
209 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 ...
14
votes
2answers
271 views

Why do sunspots appear dark?

Sunspots, such as this one, appear dark: Why?
14
votes
1answer
94 views

Why is there a matter/anti-matter asymmetry in the universe?

After the big bang occurred what biased the formation of particles over anti-particles? Why are particles more common than anti-particles?
14
votes
1answer
137 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 ...
14
votes
2answers
183 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 ...
13
votes
3answers
207 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?
13
votes
3answers
160 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?
13
votes
1answer
113 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 ...
13
votes
1answer
121 views

How dense are Saturn's rings?

I assume that the A ring is the densest, but I might be wrong. Nevertheless, I failed to find any explicit information over the net about the minimum and maximum of densities for the different rings. ...
12
votes
4answers
108 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?
12
votes
4answers
531 views

Is the light we see from stars extremely old?

Our nearest star Proxima Centauri is 4.243 light years away from Earth. Does that mean we are seeing light that is 4.243 years old everyday?
12
votes
5answers
263 views

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

If the formula to calculate the force of gravity of two objects is: $$F1 = F2 = G * (M1 * M2/r^2)$$ Why do planets stay in orbit? Or is there another formula at work?
12
votes
3answers
249 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, ...
12
votes
3answers
200 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 ...
12
votes
1answer
97 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 ...
12
votes
1answer
147 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 ...
12
votes
1answer
77 views

Why is the Sun's atmosphere (the corona) so hot?

The visible surface of the Sun is 6000 degrees Celsius but the gas in the solar corona is at least 1 million degrees. What heats the solar corona?
12
votes
2answers
741 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 ...
12
votes
1answer
64 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? ...
12
votes
2answers
158 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 ...
11
votes
2answers
173 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 ...
11
votes
2answers
106 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 ...
11
votes
2answers
160 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, ...
11
votes
3answers
118 views

Is it possible to measure galactic red shift using consumer telescope equipment?

I was wondering if it would be possible to measure red shift from distant galaxies using consumer grade telescope equipment and spectroscopy filters. (like this one) I imagine it would require a ...
11
votes
3answers
116 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 ...
11
votes
1answer
149 views

How are the photos of milkyway taken?

We are inside the milky way, right? So, how are we able to take photos of the milky way galaxy?
11
votes
3answers
233 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: ...
11
votes
3answers
233 views

Do all the objects in the universe exert force on all other objects?

Do all the objects in the universe exert force on all other objects? Like a type of gravity; also, how much does it decrease as it gets farther away?
11
votes
2answers
81 views

What are the differences between a Black Hole and a Supermassive Black Hole

From what I understand, the mass of a black hole should be nearly infinite, how much more massive can something get? Is the name to be literally interpreted such that a Supermassive Black Hole just ...
11
votes
1answer
84 views

Has Hawking Radiation Ever Been Observed?

I know Hawking Radiation has firm theoretical footing, but has a signal ever actually been observed? What observational research is being done to attempt to see this effect? Is it simply too tall an ...
11
votes
1answer
90 views

Have we ever observed a large meteor hit the Moon?

Since the moon has no atmosphere, its surface has many more meteorite impacts than Earth's does. Image source Have we ever observed a meteor strike the surface of the Moon?
11
votes
2answers
142 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 ...

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