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All About Astronomy
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Zoom Astronomy Questions and Answers (October 2001)

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We enjoy hearing from visitors. Thank you for writing! You can send us your astronomy question and we'll try to answer as soon as possible (but we can't answer all the questions we receive).

Don't forget to scroll down to find the answer to your question - they're in reverse order by the date they were asked.

Zoom Astronomy Questions
Current Questions November 2001 October 2001 September 2001 August 2001 June-July 2001 May 2001 April 2001 March 2001



Q: From Earth, when can we see Mercury?
from Amy K., Adelaide, South Australia, Australia; October 30, 2001

A: Mercury is so close to the Sun that you can only see it near sunrise or sunset.



Q: what do u called an instrument sent into space to relay information back to Earth?
from lisa t, melb, vic, aus; October 29, 2001

A: It's called a probe.



Q: What is the name for the process in which a solid matter (like a comets nucleus) goes directly to a gaseous state?
from C.M, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia; October 28, 2001

A: When a solid goes directly to a gaseous state (and skips the liquid phase), it is called subliming.



Q: How Long Does It Take For A Spaceship That Goes From The Earth To Get To Pluto ?
from Danny O, Glendale Heights, IL, USA; October 28, 2001

A: The time would depend on how fast you travel and Pluto's position relative to Earth. On average, Pluto is about 6 billion km from the Sun, and Earth is about 150 million kilometers from the Sun, so the trip from Earth to Pluto would be almost 6 billion km. It would take light almost 6 hours to complete this trip (light travels at about 300,000,000 m per sec = about 1 billion km per hour). If you could travel at about 100,000 km per hr (this is extremely fast, about 100 times faster than a jet, but only about a ten thousandth of the speed of light), it would take you: 6 billion miles x1/100,000 hr/km x 1/24 day/hr x 1/365 yr/day = 6.8 years to get to Pluto travelling at 100,000 km per hour.



Q: How long does it take venus to travel around the sun?
from mike T., chicago, ill, america; October 27, 2001

A: It takes 224.7 Earth days for Venus to orbit the sun once.



Q: How do the gas planets keep their gases
from Leng, Menomonie, Wisconson, U.S.A; October 25, 2001

A: The force of gravity keeps gases near each planet. The force of gravity also keeps our atmosphere from flowing into space.



Q: Why are Venuis's days longer than it's years?
from zoe.k, menomie, Wisconsin, U.S.A; October 25, 2001

A: Each day on Venus takes 243 Earth days. Each year on Venus takes 224.7 Earth days. The length of a day is the length of time it takes a planet to revolve once around its axis. The length of a year is the length of time it takes a planet to go around the Sun one time. Venus rotates VERY slowly.



Q: Why is the sun a color
from Cole Cummings, Menomonie, Wisconsin, USA; October 25, 2001

A: The color you see from the Sun (or any star) is the result of the different elements and molecules in the star's gases as they incandesce (they get so hot that they glow). Astronomers can determine the composition of gases in stars by looking for characteristic frequencies.



Q: How far is Pluto from the sun when it is farthest away?
from Davin, Menomonie, Wisconsin, U.S.A.; October 25, 2001

A: At its farthest (called its aphelion), Pluto is about from 7,380,000,000 km from the Sun.



Q: Are the planets named after people
from katelyn Q., Menomonie, WI, USA; October 25, 2001

A: Most of the planets are named for mythological characters. Mercury is named for the mythical Roman winged messenger and escort of dead souls to the underworld. Venus was named after the Roman goddess of love. Mars was named after the Roman god of war. Jupiter was named after the Roman primary god. Saturn was named for the Roman god of agriculture. Uranus was named for the ancient Greek god of the sky. Neptune was named for the mythical Roman god of the seas. Pluto was named for the Roman god of the underworld, Pluto



Q: Whats the biggest solar flare recorded?
from M.Lee FRANK, Mnomonie, wisconsin, USA; October 25, 2001

A: The biggest solar flare in recent history occured in early April, 2001 - it came from active area 9393. Click here for a page on it.



Q: which is bigger Neptune or Uaranis ?
from 4th grader, menomonie, wisconsin, u.s.a.; October 25, 2001

A: Neptune has a diameter of about 30,775 miles (49,528 km). Uranus has a diameter of about 31,690 miles (51,118 km). Uranus is slightly bigger.



Q: why does neptune have extreme seasons?? pleaze explian in detail
from Derek A., Lawrenceville, Georgia, usa; October 24, 2001

A: Neptune's rotational axis is tilted 30 degrees to the plane of its orbit around the Sun (this is few degrees more than the Earth). This gives Neptune seasons. Each season lasts 40 years; the poles are in constant darkness or sunlight for 40 years at a time. For a page on Neptune, click here.



Q: what is mercury made out of?
from kara p, none, ny, usa; October 21, 2001

A: For a page on the composition of Mercury, click here.



Q: Why is it that you can't breath in space?
from Ryan, Laramie, Wyoming, USA; October 17, 2001

A: You can't breathe in space because there is not air there (it is essentially a vacuum).



Q: how was pluto discovered and why is there hesitation scientist to classify Pluto as a planet
from Cody B., lawrenceville, Georgia, America; October 17, 2001

A: Pluto was the last planet to be discovered. Planet "X" was the temporary name given to the then-unknown planet beyond Neptune that disturbed the orbits of Uranus and Neptune. Percival Lowell calculated the rough location of Planet "X's" orbit, but died in 1916 before it was found. This planet was eventually found by the American astronomer Clyde W. Tombaugh in 1930 and named Pluto).

Pluto's unusual orbit makes some scientists think that Pluto is not a regular planet. but a "minor planet" or a Trans Neptunian Object (TNO) [Kuiper Belt objects left over from the formation of the solar system]. In the future, Pluto may be listed as an asteroid (it will probably be given the asteroid number 10,000) and also as the first TNO - it will also still be considered a planet, albeit an unusual one. For more information on Pluto, click here.



Q: How does the greenhouse effect trap heat on Venus? Why is Mercury extremely cold on one side and then extremelyt hot on the opposing side?
from Michael C., Dacula, Georgia, United States of America; October 17, 2001

A: Venus has a thick atmosphere (mostly carbon dioxide) and is covered by a thick layer of clouds. (These clouds are made mostly of sulfuric acid.) The greenhouse effect traps heat from the Sun in the atmosphere. The thick carbon dioxide atmosphere lets very little infrared radiation escape into space; most is reflected back to the planet. For more information on Venus' atmosphere, click here.

Mercury revolves around the sun very quickly, but rotates around its axis very, very slowly. One day on Mercury (sunrise to sunrise) is longer than one year on Mercury (one orbit around the Sun). (It used to be thought that Mercury always kept the same side side towards the sun, but this is not true.) For information on Mercury's orbit, click here.



Q: IF THE STAR IS MOVING AWAY FROM EARTH WILL THE WAVELENGTH OF ITS LIGHT BE INCREASED OR DECREASED? WILL THIS CAUSE A DOPPLER SHIFT TOWARDS RED OR BLUE?
from ?, ?, ?, ?; October 15, 2001

A: Objects moving away from us are red-shifted as their wavelengths appear to be longer.



Q: How was Saturn, the planet, formed?
from Lauren T, Olney, Maryland, USA; October 14, 2001

A: Our solar system (including Saturn) formed about 5 billion years ago, from an enormous cloud of dust and gas, a nebula. For more information on the origins of the Solar System, click here.



Q: what is the doppler effect?
from ?, ?, ?, ?; October 14, 2001

A: The Doppler shift (or Doppler Effect) is an increase or decrease in wavelength as the object emitting the wave moves relative to the observer. For example, a train whistle seems to be higher in pitch when the train is approaching you (the waves are compressed, shortening the wavelength), and lower in pitch when it is traveling away from you (the waves are elongated, lengthening the wavelength). The same thing happens with light waves when the light source is coming or going relative to us. For example, when a star is travelling away from Earth, its light appears redder (the light waves are elongated, lengthening the wavelength); this is called the red shift. The expansion of the universe was discovered when E. Hubble observed that the light from almost all other galaxies was red-shifted



Q: what information can a space probe provide about planets that humans are unable to get in any other way?? please give answer as soon as possible!!!
from ashley, west chester, ohio, us; October 14, 2001

A: A space probe can go places where a person could not survive, like places under tremendous pressure, heat and/or with corrosive or poisonous atmospheres. It can also keep going for decades (like Voyager), heading away from our Solar System, sending us information.



Q: what is the big bang theory?
from carly s, manorville, ny, us; October 14, 2001

A: The big bang theory states that the universe began as a tiny but powerful explosion of space-time roughly 15 to 30 billion years ago. In 1965, Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson used a horn antenna (in Crawford Hill, N.J.) and discovered the cosmic microwave background (CMB) radiation with a temperature of 2.7 Kelvin; this CMB was left-over from the early moments of the universe after the Big Bang (this was predicted by George Gamow and Ralph Alpher, in 1948).



Q: Who discoverd Pluto????
from ROBERT Z., SYDNEY, N.S.W., AUSTRALIA; October 10, 2001

A: Pluto was the last planet to be discovered. Planet "X" was the temporary name given to the then-unknown planet beyond Neptune that disturbed the orbits of Uranus and Neptune. Percival Lowell calculated the rough location of Planet "X's" orbit, but died in 1916 before it was found. This planet was eventually found by the American astronomer Clyde W. Tombaugh in 1930 and named Pluto). He did his observations at the Lowell Observatory in Arizona.



Q: How hot is it on the sun?
from Caitlin M., Silver Spring, Maryland, U.S.A; October 3, 2001

A: The different layers of the Sun are at different temperatures. For a page on these temperatures, click here.



Q: How many stars are there in the soler systom?
from Caitlin M., Silver Spring, Maryland, U.S.A; October 3, 2001

A: There's only one star in our Solar System, our Sun.



Q: What causes the larger-than-usual, low-on-the-horizon, orangeish look of the moon sometimes in the fall?
from Lisa W, Hillsborough, NC, USA; October 2, 2001

A: The orangish-color is caused by our atmosphere. When you look at the moon (or other bodies) near the horizon, you're seeing them through a thicker layer of our atmosphere than when you look at them overhead.

As to the apparent size of the moon, I've read that it is an illusion that it appears bigger at the horizon (although this sure seems hard to believe).



Q: Why is it so hot in the Earth's core and why is the sun so hot?
from James H, Worcester, Worcester, UK, England; October 1, 2001

A: The great pressure inside the Earth causes the extreme heat at the core. As for the Sun, nuclear reactions (fusion) are occurring, causing intense heat.



Zoom Astronomy Questions
Current Questions November 2001 October 2001 September 2001 August 2001 June-July 2001 May 2001 April 2001 March 2001


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