Ask the Staff Astronomer!


  Astronomical Diagrams  Horsehead Nebula  Globe 



We know that the Universe is an unfathomably large place and astronomy is infuriatingly complicated.   Nevertheless, we want to help YOU understand the machinations and mysteries of this annoyingly complex cosmos.   Toward that end, we ask you to send your astronomy/astrophysics questions to our staff astronomer:

He'll not only send a response to you personaly, but we'll post the question and answer to this web-pageI.

I. "Is gravity thought of as "just" a measurement of the space-time deformations? If it is, why would astronomers be looking to detect 'gravity waves' or 'gravitons'?"

II. "Ok, so, I know that nothing can go faster than the speed of light. The other day, though, I heard that particles which travel faster than light emit a strange kind of blue radiation. But, I didn't think anything could go faster than light?"

III. "If the universe has bazillions of stars, and we can "see" 13 or so billion years into the past, why isn't the night sky white with the light of all those stars?"

 IV. "I was told that light has no mass. I also know that gravity is a force between two or more massive objects. So, how is it that massive objects can affect the trajectories of light particles, or photons?"

 V. "How does time stop?"

 VI. "If the Universe started in a Big Bang, how far are we from the center and what happened before it?"

VII. "I saw recently that the Voyager Probe encountered the Heliosphere. How long can it keep traveling before it runs out of fuel?"

VIII. "How do you know that the Big Bang occurred?" 

IX. "If black holes are black, how can we possibly discover them?"

X. "I heard that some astronomers think that there still might be active life forms elsewhere in the solar system. Where would it be?"

XI. "Hello! I saw something the other day that doesn't seem to make any sense. I read that Mars has the longest orbital period of the planets. Can that be right? I thought the most distant planets had the longest periods."

XII. "I read an article that said that winter is the shortest season.  Is that right? It feels like it is never going to end!"

XIII. "How did astronomers determine that the Cepheid brightness depends on their periods? Wouldn't they have had to have known the distances first?"

XIV.  "Can you explain the transit method that astronomers use to find exo-planets?"

XV. "I know that many tests have been conducted to corroborate General Relativity. I understand why the Eddington expedition's* star field images were helpful. But, why was the 43 arc-second Mercury perihelion shift important in verifying General Relativity and what does it mean?"

XVI. "Hello! I'm sorry, this might be a stupid question,* but at night I see the stars overhead. Are there as many stars under our feet as above us?

XVII.  "The Apollo astronauts collected rocks from the Moon and brought them back to Earth. Fine. But, I heard that pieces of the Moon, called lunar meteorites, were already here and are still here scattered around the planet. Is that true? How did they get here?"

 Astronomer painting

Questions answered by
Edward Gleason, Level XXII Astronomer


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What can you do at the Southworth Planetarium?  See a showenroll in a classattend a lecture, buy fascinating science toys, explore our exhibit area, learn the night sky.

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Like the Universe, itself, the more you explore the planetarium, the more you'll discover!  

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