34
votes
3answers
802 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 ...
30
votes
4answers
5k views

Is the moon only 60 pixels?

In doing research on vision, I have learned that "20/20" vision corresponds to a visual acuity of being able to resolve details 1 arcminute in size, that most people have around 20/15 vision, and that ...
28
votes
5answers
751 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?
24
votes
3answers
1k 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 ...
24
votes
3answers
1k 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
6answers
427 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?
20
votes
2answers
276 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 ...
18
votes
1answer
177 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 ...
18
votes
2answers
273 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 ...
17
votes
2answers
276 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
438 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 ...
17
votes
2answers
137 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 ...
16
votes
3answers
4k views

What would happen if an ice cube is left in space?

Recently I boarded a flight and noticed Outside air temperature as -53°C at an altitude of 36860ft(11.23km). I don't know what causes such a freezing temperature in that altitude but was wondering ...
16
votes
3answers
341 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
169 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
3answers
2k 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 ...
15
votes
2answers
182 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
359 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 ...
15
votes
1answer
216 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
4answers
616 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
318 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
2answers
750 views

Why do sunspots appear dark?

Sunspots, such as this one, appear dark: Why?
14
votes
1answer
380 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
3answers
253 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?
14
votes
1answer
118 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
149 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 ...
14
votes
2answers
218 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
307 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
1answer
211 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
131 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
615 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
2answers
213 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 ...
12
votes
4answers
358 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
4answers
480 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
232 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
3answers
468 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: ...
12
votes
3answers
372 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?
12
votes
4answers
186 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 ...
12
votes
1answer
139 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
257 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
98 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
4answers
496 views

Can we (theoretically) spin the black hole so strong that it will be broken apart by centrifugal force?

I can't imagine the forces involved in black holes' lives. So please, help me to find out, if it is possible or not to destroy black hole in this specific way.
12
votes
2answers
1k 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
99 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
195 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 ...
12
votes
2answers
205 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 ...
12
votes
1answer
223 views

Could any known, living organisms on Earth survive on Mars?

No life has been discovered outside of Earth (yet?), but do we know if anything that would be considered "living" on Earth could conquer Mars? (or maybe Venus?) With the Mars One project on the way, ...
12
votes
3answers
258 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 ...
12
votes
1answer
182 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 ...
11
votes
3answers
1k 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 ...

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