Questions tagged [observational-astronomy]

Questions about the techniques and practice of observing the night sky.

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65
votes
4answers
8k views

How does the Earth move in the sky as seen from the Moon?

I just want to be sure I am visualizing this correctly, because it seems odd. The Moon is tidally locked to the Earth but there are wobbles to its motion due to libration. So from a point on the ...
49
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5answers
7k views

Why hasn't the “9th Planet” been detected already?

In the comments to this question, there was considerable doubt placed as to the subject of if the so called "9th planet" really exists. That wasn't really the intent of the previous question, so I ask ...
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3answers
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If Earth is tilted, why is Polaris always above the same spot?

Why is Polaris, the North Star, always above (or near) the North Pole? If Earth is tilted, Polaris' path should be in winter 23 degrees away from its path in summer, or not?
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3answers
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If you lived on the far side of the Moon, how could you infer the existence of Earth?

Suppose that you deposit an astronomer, armed with our current knowledge of orbital mechanics, on a dome on the far side of the Moon, so that the Earth is perpetually hidden from them. (And, of ...
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1answer
1k views

Why is there a gap in this image of supernova discoveries?

I came across this gif showing supernova discoveries from the late 19th century to 2010. Here's the data in 2010: Notice that there's a prominent region shaped like an inverted U in which there are ...
25
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4answers
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Are there any double stars that I can actually see orbit each other?

If I had a nice amateur telescope†, are there any multiple star systems that I could observe over a few years or a few decades and actually see the movement of one or both of them over time? My short ...
24
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8answers
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Why can't we see distant galaxies with the naked eye?

If light keeps travelling in a straight line, why can't we see distant galaxies with the naked eye? Surely if you stared long enough, the light from them would eventually hit your eye? I apologize if ...
21
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6answers
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Puzzling quotes from astronauts about earth size

I have no doubt that we have been to the moon. This question has nothing to do with a moon landing hoax. But, there are two quotes from two different astronauts regarding the size of the earth as ...
21
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5answers
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How was Trappist-1 discovered?

I was going through all the questions in this community related to TRAPPIST-1 in order to know how planets TRAPPIST-1b to TRAPPIST-1h were discovered, but there aren't any. How were they discovered?
21
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2answers
2k 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 ...
20
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1answer
294 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? ...
19
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3answers
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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 ...
18
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2answers
2k views

Why are wavelengths shorter than visible light neglected by new telescopes?

The diagram below, which I stole from this post by @HDE226868, shows that angular resolution as a function of wavelength suddenly drops by three orders of magnitudes from visible to UV-light. The ...
18
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1answer
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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 ...
17
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1answer
229 views

How can an amateur astronomer verify the position of near Earth objects?

Sometimes, hobby-astronomers use rather professional means to observe the big voids of space. Every now and then (think in months, not days) even I can locate an NEO (near Earth object). Now, I'm ...
16
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8answers
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Has great eyesight been necessary for astronomers?

In a different (but somewhat related) field, some baseball stars have been known to have "baseball eyes." That is, an exceptional ability to visually follow the trajectory of a 90+ mph baseball to a ...
16
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1answer
390 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?
16
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2answers
574 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 ...
16
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1answer
868 views

What is the object in this photo?

What object is in this photo? View coordinates: $47.25103 \ \ 38.81697$ Time: $2013$-$11$-$23 ~21$:$00 +4 ~UTC$ Sony $A580, \ 50mm f/1.4 15"$
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6answers
2k views

How “fast” do astronomical events occur?

I've seen quite a few news about astronomy but I'm not deep into knowing how it works or how people observe it. It got me thinking: if I want to watch a supernova for example, how long will I have to ...
15
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1answer
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What is it exactly about these flares of infrared light from Sgr A* that “confirms” it is a supermassive black hole?

CNET.com's SCI-TECH Scientists confirm a 'supermassive black hole' at the heart of our galaxy It's "mind-boggling", they say. This links to Astronomy.com's Scientists finally confirm the Milky Way ...
15
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4answers
554 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 ...
15
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3answers
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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 ...
15
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1answer
1k views

Why does the moon sometimes appear giant and a orange red color near the horizon?

I've read various ideas about why the moon looks larger on the horizon. The most reasonable one in my opinion is that it is due to how our brain calculates (perceives) distance, with objects high ...
15
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1answer
584 views

How do I build a stargazing aficionado's Sun funnel to observe our nearest star safely?

How do I observe the Sun safely, with tools I could build myself and without breaking the bank? If I wanted to build a Sun funnel on my own and use it on my enthusiast grade telescope, how would I do ...
15
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1answer
550 views

What are the current observational limits on the existence of Dyson spheres/swarms/rings?

A Dyson sphere/swarm/ring is a hypothetical structure an extra-terrestrial entity would construct to collect a large fraction of its host star's light, and would likely generate a fairly strong ...
14
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3answers
2k 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 ...
14
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1answer
974 views

Will LSST make a significant increase in the rate of astronomical event alerts?

The NPR news article and podcast New Telescope Promises To Revolutionize Astronomy updates the status of the "Large Synoptic Survey Telescope under construction on Cerro Pachón in Chile". NPR's Joe ...
14
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4answers
7k views

How Would a Neutron Star Actually Appear?

Having seen many pictures produced by artists of neutron stars and planets that orbit some of them, I was wondering how a pulsar would appear to a human being, in visible light (assuming the intense ...
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2answers
2k 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 ...
14
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2answers
313 views

What percent of planets are in the position that they could be viewed edge-on from Earth? (and thus able to undergo transits)

Star number 12644769 from the Kepler Input Catalog was identified as an eclipsing binary with a 41-day period, from the detection of its mutual eclipses (9). Eclipses occur because the orbital ...
13
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1answer
240 views

Did nobody in the Astronomy community think 12,000 new satellites in LEO might be a problem?

This answer to Can / should the Starlink satellites be blackened? mentions Space News' SpaceX working on fix for Starlink satellites so they don’t disrupt astronomy where SpaceX chief operating ...
12
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1answer
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How can we tell the difference between matter and antimatter by observation in space?

I just was wondering and searching on the internet with little luck in the topic. On Antimatter Wiki they tell the observable universe is built up by matter. I read antimatter can be detected in ...
12
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1answer
126 views

Is it possible to observe if there is traces of life on an exoplanet?

We can observe exoplanets, but is it possible with today's technology to observe if there is life as we know it on an exoplanet? What do you look for when doing this kind of observation?
12
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1answer
303 views

How would astronomical seeing on Mars differ from that on Earth?

Astronomical seeing is the limiting factor for the resolution of all but the smallest Earthbound telescopes. Source Stunning advances in adaptive optics (along with it's predecessor speckle ...
11
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2answers
888 views

Are there any galaxies which fell out of sight horizon due to cosmic expansion?

If farthest galaxies run away from us with acceleration making them exceed speed of light, we should expect them to disappear from sky among time with increasing quantity. Did we observe this? Can we ...
11
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1answer
508 views

How far away is the nearest compact star remnant likely to be?

Neutron stars and black holes are hard to detect when they are solitary, and there seems to be big uncertainties about how common they are. White dwarfs are much easier to detect and the nearest one ...
11
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2answers
262 views

Present distances between planet. How can I find them?

It's "commonly known" how distant are our solar system planets from Sun. But we can't easily say that about planets, which distances can differ greatly, without some observations (or simulations, ...
11
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1answer
320 views

How the position of this black hole known?

How do scientists know the positions of black holes? Observe the highlighted area in the image:
11
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2answers
513 views

How was Earth's “quasi-satellite” 2016 HO3 “first spotted” and it's orbit determined?

Under a question I asked a few days ago Have there been any documented mini-moons since 2006 RH120? @Hobbes mentioned the recent news about 2016 HO3 - a near-Earth asteroid that stays near Earth ...
11
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2answers
222 views

What was the first astronomical measurement which demonstrated that “the Earth is surrounded by vacuum”?

The question Who was the first to realize that the Earth is surrounded by vacuum? was closed because some users felt it was answered by answers to a different question in an different SE site: Who was ...
11
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2answers
192 views

After Oumuamua passage, has an “urgency” telescope time request procedure been set up?

During the rapid passing of ʻOumuamua through our solar system, it was difficult to get instant telescope time. Usually, formal requests and a review process are necessary before telescope time is ...
11
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2answers
417 views

How can the orbit of a Kuiper Belt Object be differentiated from the transit of a rogue planet?

Related to the question "Are any Pluto-sized objects remaining to be discovered in the Kuiper Belt?" and the fact that most of the Kuiper Belt objects have very elliptical orbits, the question begs, ...
11
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1answer
65 views

What observational constraints are there in detecting the presence of volcanism on exoplanets?

This question is somewhat related to my earlier question How are the compositional components of exoplanet atmospheres differentiated?, but this about a specific surface-atmospheric phenomena - ...
11
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1answer
164 views

Does the dimming of Betelgeuse present any observational opportunities?

Recent photometry suggests that Betelgeuse has been dimming over the past three or so months, reaching the faintest V-band magnitude seen in modern observations. The changes are apparently even ...
11
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1answer
188 views

Does CIBER Experiment from Caltech suggest that there can be lots of stars which are not in any galaxy?

My question is about the implications of the observations recently made by the Cosmic Infrared Background Experiment, or CIBER, from Caltech. I've read at Caltech web site: "The total light ...
10
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1answer
992 views

How can gravitational lensing makes a quasar appear brighter?

How can gravitational lensing makes a quasar brighter than it would in the absence of a foreground galaxy?
10
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1answer
2k views

Are astronomers waiting to see something in an image from a gravitational lens that they've already seen in an adjacent image?

@RobJeffries' answer to the question Does gravitational lensing provide time evolution information? points out that there can be a substantial different in arrival times of light from a given source ...
10
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1answer
2k views

Are satellites orbiting around earth visible to the naked eye?

I was just lying under the sky trying to possibly see some meteorites, unfortunately never seeing any I might add, but I saw three objects all moving at about the same speed( all at different times). ...
10
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2answers
219 views

How Will Starlink Affect Observational Astronomy?

I have recently found that people around the world have been posting observations of a line of moving objects in the sky which is very likely to be a part of Starlink satellite constellation, such ...

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