Astronomy

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The stars appear to move from east to west across the night sky because as Earth rotates, the sky is observed as rotating, according to Astronomy Education at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. Observers on Earth, in both the northern and southern hemispheres, see objects in the sky move counter-clockwise.

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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 does seeing a shooting star mean?

    Q: What does seeing a shooting star mean?

    A: Seeing a shooting star means that a meteor is plummeting toward earth. The glowing appearance is caused when the meteor's surface catches on fire upon entering the Earth's atmosphere. A shooting star, therefore, is not actually a star.
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  • What happens to stars as they age?

    Q: What happens to stars as they age?

    A: Stars on the main sequence that are the same size as the Sun begin as yellow stars and turn into red giants as their hydrogen fuel runs out. Other stars shrink or explode, depending on their size.
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  • What causes the Cassini division in Saturn's rings?

    Q: What causes the Cassini division in Saturn's rings?

    A: The Cassini Division, a gap in the rings of Saturn, is caused by gravitational pull from Saturn’s moon Mimas. The moon’s gravity affects the tiny particles that make up the rings, creating what looks like empty space. Other divisions in Saturn’s rings are the result of similar interactions with the planet’s moons.
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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 is an elliptical orbit?

    Q: What is an elliptical orbit?

    A: Elliptical orbits are the paths taken by objects as they fly around a massive object, such as the sun or Earth. Such orbits are not round as is commonly supposed; instead, they orbit the massive body in the shape of an ellipse. Ellipses are like circles that have been elongated slightly, and they are also referred to as ovals.
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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 are meteorites made of?

    Q: What are meteorites made of?

    A: The meteorites that land on earth can be made of stone, iron or stony iron. A few meteorites are made of volcanic glass, but scientists aren't sure that all of these meteorites are extraterrestrial in nature. They believe some of these meteorites are formed when material from an impact crater liquefies and then turns to glass as it's ejected into the atmosphere.
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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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  • What is the farthest star from Earth?

    Q: What is the farthest star from Earth?

    A: Scientists will never know the farthest star from Earth, as the star is so far away that its light has not, nor will ever, have enough time to reach Earth. Even the stars within the visible universe are far too numerous to count, but the farthest one that humans have ever detected is about 55 million light years away. This incredibly distant star is called SDSS J 122952.66 +112227.8.
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  • What is the bright object in the western sky?

    Q: What is the bright object in the western sky?

    A: The planet Venus is the brightest object in the western sky. At its brightest, Venus is almost 10 times brighter than Jupiter, the sky's second brightest object.
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  • What is the sky made of?

    Q: What is the sky made of?

    A: Four layers of the earth's atmosphere containing various gases make up the composition of the sky. The layers of the atmosphere are divided into the troposphere, the stratosphere, the mesosphere and the thermosphere. The atmosphere's divisions occur according to temperature fluctuations.
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  • What is a planetarium?

    Q: What is a planetarium?

    A: A planetarium is a facility designed to replicate the features of the universe in the night sky. Similar to a museum or science center, planetariums are developed in communities to offer education and entertainment to people curious about the field of astronomy. Visitors typically pay admission fees to enter just as they would at a theater or zoo.
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  • Why is it that stars twinkle but planets do not?

    Q: Why is it that stars twinkle but planets do not?

    A: Stars twinkle because they are point light sources. Passing through the atmosphere, the small beam of light constantly shifts by bouncing off particles in the air. Planets are closer, so they appear as discs, with the shifting of light from one side cancelling out the other.
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  • How did Galileo impact the world?

    Q: How did Galileo impact the world?

    A: Galileo's main impact on the world was his improvement upon the telescope and being the first to use it in the science of astronomy. He also supported the Copernican system that stated that planets orbit the sun rather than the Earth as the Catholic Church said at the time. His other contribution was to contradict Aristotle's teachings that heavier objects fall faster than lighter ones.
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  • What is the difference between equinox and solstice?

    Q: What is the difference between equinox and solstice?

    A: A solstice is defined as the point during the Earth's orbit around the sun at which the sun is at its greatest distance from the celestial equator, while an equinox is at its least distance. A solstice is characterized by either an extremely long night or an extremely short day.
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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 are heavenly bodies in space?

    Q: What are heavenly bodies in space?

    A: Natural objects found outside of the Earth's atmosphere, such as planets, stars, moons, comets, meteors and asteroids, are some of the heavenly bodies in space. It is believed that there are other forms of heavenly bodies or objects in space that are yet to be discovered and explored.
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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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  • Why is Nicolaus Copernicus famous?

    Q: Why is Nicolaus Copernicus famous?

    A: Nicolaus Copernicus is best known for being the father of what would later become humans' modern understanding of the solar system. Prior to this determination, scientists believed that all the objects in the solar system orbited around the Earth itself.
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