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Sam

Common questions astronomers get asked

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I do a fair bit of community outreach for astronomy and have found a bunch of common themes in questions that people ask, so me and my colleague, who gets asked similar questions, wrote a blog post about.

Six common questions to ask an astronomer.

It’d be interesting to hear what others get asked when people find out you’re into astronomy.

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"How far you you see with that?" is something I've heard a few times.

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I've been asked on a few occasions "How far can you see with your telescope" It's not an easy question to answer, 

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1 minute ago, DougM43 said:

I've been asked on a few occasions "How far can you see with your telescope" It's not an easy question to answer, 

Oh yeah, that is a fairly common question, and true, not an easy one to answer.

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"Where do I look through?" (Newtonian specific)

This is the first question I get when I offer a view through one of my two scopes, both of which are Newtonian reflectors.

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"How much did this cost?" is one of my top three.

When someone asks "How far can you see?", my answer is, "In distance, or time?" Then I explain how the distance of the objects we look at are so far away and the light we see took so long to reach us, that seeing them is like looking back in time. I'll then skew to Andromeda and let them see the fuzzball, then tell them they just looked 2-1/2 million years back in time. They never fail to be impressed., especially when I tell them there are things to look at even farther away.

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Hello there,

    A lot of people ask me how powerful my telescope is. A different way of placing the same question the fellow astronomer DougM43 been asked.

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On 07/01/2018 at 00:23, DougM43 said:

I've been asked on a few occasions "How far can you see with your telescope" It's not an easy question to answer, 

Yes , a common one and I always answer it in terms of time - Virgo galaxy cluster? That is when the dinosaurs went extinct. I find this invokes more than so many trillions of miles.

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"What on earth are you doing out there on a freezing cold night when you've got work tomorrow and should be asleep?"

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1 hour ago, kirkster501 said:

"What on earth are you doing out there on a freezing cold night when you've got work tomorrow and should be asleep?"

I tell them that I ask myself the same question frequently, but haven't come up with a reasonable answer yet.

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"So you're and astrologer??" HAHAHA

"Theres a bus leaving soon... safe to wait on the street..." HAAAAAAAA

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2 hours ago, kirkster501 said:

"What on earth are you doing out there on a freezing cold night when you've got work tomorrow and should be asleep?"

"I'll call in sick" is my usual answer.

 

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On 07/01/2018 at 00:26, Sam said:

Oh yeah, that is a fairly common question, and true, not an easy one to answer.

Well my reply to that is pretty easy, usually... I reply with another question: "How far can you see with your naked eye?"

And that's when they start to understand how it works.. since they might at first reply "a few kilometers", but then, what about the moon? Or the sun? or naked eye stars, by the way, and even M31....

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"What are you looking at?", is a common question. "How far can you see?" is another. "Can i have a look?" is next.

"Whats that?".

I love when people ask how far my scopes can see. I tell them its not a matter of distance, but time. That blows their minds that the light from a certain object took so long to reach their eye.

Telescopes are a bit like a little time machine. When we observe anything, we are looking back intime. Not so much with the Sun (8 minutes for the light to hit our eyes and the light from the Moon only takes about 1.5 seconds).

Astronomy and the universe are such an amazing thing. 

Humbling, to say the least.

Betelguese (in Oion) is 600+ times bigger than our Sun and is considered small in the big picture.

MIND BLOWING.

Honestly, the Human brain cant even begin to comprehend the size of the universe even with modern technology. It beyond our understanding.

How it works.............we can guesstimate.

 

 

Edited by LukeSkywatcher
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The one question I find most irritating (from the local kids who never tire of asking it) "Have you seen any UFOs?"

Edited by Demonperformer
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Neighbour ( not the sharpest knife in the drawer) " have you seen any little green men ?" Followed several months later by rushing around with their camera ,to show me a burglar in my garden . A picture of me walking down the path at 2am, bless.

Outreach Man , classic had to bit my tongue, " those flaming rocks (points at stars, close but no coconut) are they small or are they big , but far away ?"

Otherwise , it's the usual reaction that you're either nuts , a Druid or a frost loving masochist.

old Nick.?

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I did a short outreach session last year for group of young naturalists from our local Wildlife Trust. It was part of a larger nature at night activity. The moon was full and high, so I had one telescope on that and the other looking at Jupiter and later M13.

Everyone loved seeing mountains on the moon and the moons of Jupiter. I got two great questions from these junior school kids:

Why are there mountains on the moon?

Why are the moons of Jupiter in a straight line?

Questions from their parents were less interesting.

But the best comment came from a young lad who having seen M13 and heard me talk about how many stars is contained and how far away it was said wistfully “so that must be the galaxy far far away”.

I’d do another event for kids in a heartbeat.

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I really enjoy outreach events. We did an excellent one at Painshill Park which was well attended, but three subsequent attempts have been clouded out despite being over subscribed. Really frustrating.

Outreach with cubs has been fun too, I got barraged with questions from them at one event, most of the questions very interesting and intelligent, with a 'off the wall' ones thrown in! ;) 

Distance, time and size seem to be the most common questions. Also 'what would it be like on.....' type stuff, they really have a vivid imagination!

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'Whats that?'    - pointing at the Orion 8" dob.

-

"To get a closer look at the neighbourhood chicks, eh?"    - the usual follow up question....

Edited by Pondus

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