Astronomy

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Six Apollo missions, specifically Apollo 11, 12, 14, 15, 16 and 17, landed on the moon between 1969 and 1972. Apollo 13 was also supposed to land on the moon but failed to do so due to a spacecraft malfunction.

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  • What is the difference between a solar and lunar eclipse?

    Q: What is the difference between a solar and lunar eclipse?

    A: A solar eclipse occurs when the Moon passes between the Sun and Earth so that the Moon's shadow falls on the Earth. A lunar eclipse occurs when the Earth passes between the Sun and Moon and the Sun casts the Earth's shadow on the Moon. Both events happen only when the Sun, Moon and Earth are aligned.
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  • How did the constellation Orion get its name?

    Q: How did the constellation Orion get its name?

    A: Stargazers in ancient Greece observed the "pictures" formed by stars and named the Orion constellation after a mythological hunter. Many origin stories exist, but one popular version recounts Orion's quest to defeat a giant scorpion sent by Gaia, the goddess of Earth, according to the Windows to the Universe.
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  • How long will the sun last?

    Q: How long will the sun last?

    A: The sun will last approximately another five billion years, according to NASA in 2012. The sun's light and heat are generated by the burning, or fusing, of hydrogen gas into helium gas.
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  • How does the Astrolabe work?

    Q: How does the Astrolabe work?

    A: Astrolabes work by presenting users with a graphic interface that makes it relatively easy to compute the positions of the sun, the moon and the stars. Astrolabes can be used for navigation as well as predicting the exact times for sunrise and sunset. Turned on its side, an astrolabe can be used as a mechanical calculator akin to a slide rule.
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  • What is the primary purpose of an astronomical telescope?

    Q: What is the primary purpose of an astronomical telescope?

    A: The astronomical telescope is a central apparatus used to study distant planets, stars and moons from the Earth. Astronomer Galileo Galilei famously used the earliest telescopes in 1610 to prove the heliocentric solar system theory put forth by Nicolaus Copernicus in the early 16th century.
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  • What did Galileo discover?

    Q: What did Galileo discover?

    A: After Galileo built his first telescope in 1609, he observed and described the landscape of the moon, discovered four of the moons of Jupiter, discovered the phases of Venus, and discovered sunspots. Galileo's discovery of sunspots supported the idea of heliocentrism, a model that places the sun at the center of the universe with the planets orbiting around it.
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  • What causes a lunar eclipse?

    Q: What causes a lunar eclipse?

    A: Lunar eclipses are caused when the moon travels through the Earth’s shadow. Complete lunar eclipses are rare, but partial lunar eclipses may occur up to four times per year.
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  • What do you call a person who studies space?

    Q: What do you call a person who studies space?

    A: A person who studies space is called an astronomer or astrophysicist. These types of scientists are responsible for the discovery of all of the planets, stars, asteroids and other extraterrestrial objects.
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  • How long would it take a passenger plane to fly around the sun?

    Q: How long would it take a passenger plane to fly around the sun?

    A: A passenger airplane, flying at 600 mph, could circle the sun in just over six months. According to Space.com, the sun is a nearly perfect sphere, and there is essentially no difference in circumference at its equator and the circumference from pole to pole.
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  • What is Jupiter's atmosphere made up of?

    Q: What is Jupiter's atmosphere made up of?

    A: The atmosphere of Jupiter consists of 90 percent hydrogen gas and nearly 10 percent helium. However, its atmosphere has trace amounts of ammonia, sulfur and water vapor. Jupiter is a gas giant that is also the biggest planet in the solar system.
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  • Where on the celestial sphere can you look for the planets?

    Q: Where on the celestial sphere can you look for the planets?

    A: The sun and planets follow the ecliptic, an imaginary plane in the celestial sphere tilted approximately 23.5 degrees relative to the celestial equator. Earthbound observers see the sun and planets move along the ecliptic arc, rising up from the east and setting in the west.
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  • What types of equipment do astronomers use?

    Q: What types of equipment do astronomers use?

    A: According to NASA, modern astronomers’ tools include advanced telescopes capable of studying light reflected from the sun, moon, planets, comets and stars. Radio telescopes are utilized in the study of radio waves, while space-borne gamma ray telescopes aid in the study of gamma rays.
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  • How did the solar system form?

    Q: How did the solar system form?

    A: The formation of the solar system began with the creation of the sun after an exploding supernova caused spherical accumulation of dust particles and gas in a huge swirling cloud called nebula. Planets and other components of the solar system formed in the flat plane of the rotating disc of dust.
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  • What is a shooting star?

    Q: What is a shooting star?

    A: Although a shooting star looks like a star shooting across the sky, it's actually a meteor, or small rock that hits Earth's atmosphere. Because of the speed at which the meteor, or meteoroid, is traveling it burns and releases a glow.
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  • What is a constellation?

    Q: What is a constellation?

    A: The general English definition of constellation is a group or configuration of objects, characteristics, ideas, feelings, etc, as in "a constellation of qualities." The noun constellation is used in astronomy, astrology and general English.
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  • What is terrestrial navigation?

    Q: What is terrestrial navigation?

    A: Terrestrial navigation is a field of study that helps sea-faring people locate points at sea and on the land. Similarly, it involves being able to identify the position of the ship anywhere in the world. Students are instructed in the use of nautical charts, compass corrections and voyage planning.
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  • What is the circle of illumination?

    Q: What is the circle of illumination?

    A: The circle of illumination is the line that separates the Earth to create equal parts of day and night. It passes through the poles and allows the entire Earth to have an equal amount of time spent during the daylight and nighttime hours.
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  • How do space craters get their names?

    Q: How do space craters get their names?

    A: The International Astronomical Union (IAU), an organization of astronomers, names the craters on planets and moons in the solar system by giving each planet a creative theme. For example, the moon’s craters are usually named for deceased explorers, scientists and scholars, while large craters on Venus are named for famous women in various professional fields.
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  • Are stars bigger than the sun?

    Q: Are stars bigger than the sun?

    A: Stars exist that are both bigger and smaller than the sun. The sun has a radius of 1.4 million kilometers and, relative to other stars, is an average size.
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  • What is a burnt-out star called?

    Q: What is a burnt-out star called?

    A: A burnt-out star is called a white dwarf. A white dwarf results after a star’s nuclear fuel burns out, which causes it to collapse or implode. While it has a mass similar to that of the sun, its radius is similar to that of the Earth.
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  • What is the purpose of the Hubble space telescope?

    Q: What is the purpose of the Hubble space telescope?

    A: The Hubble Space Telescope was created to capture detailed images or objects that are too far away to be viewed with conventional telescopes. The Hubble's instruments create images that are far superior to those of terrestrial observatories, which suffer from the effects of atmospheric distortion.
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