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Zoom Astronomy Questions and Answers April 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: How Wide and big is the Earth? What is earth's rotation and revalution?
from Tysha V., Hilo, Hawaii, ?; April 30, 2001

A: Click here.

Q: When does the comet and metor shower come? Please let me know.;)
from Denay C., Omaha, Ne, USA; April 30, 2001

A: For a page on meteor showers and when the major ones occur, click here.

Q: If I could travel to Saturn and I stood on its rings, would I fall off or would gravity keep me standing (like on Earth)?
from Emandazes W., Markhham, Ill., ?; April 26, 2001

A: The biggest particles in Saturn's rings are about the size of the car and do not have sufficient gravity to pull you in. If you were in among the rings, you would orbit Saturn as do the ring particles.

Q: does jupiter have seasons/
from anthony, milford, ct, ?; April 25, 2001

A: No, Jupiter does not have seasons. Seasons are caused by a tilted axis, and Jupiter's axis is only tilted 3 degrees (not enough to cause seasons).

Q: Please can you help me with the last question of my report? It is the only one I am stuck on and I would greatly appericiate it if you answered. The question is, What are the mission objectives of Cassini?
from Nahal N, Encino, CA, USA; April 24, 2001

A: NASA's Cassini-Huygens spacecraft was launched from Earth on October 1997 to go on an 11-year mission to Saturn. The spacecraft was named after the main division in Saturn's rings, called the Cassini Division. Cassini sent back photos and scientific information from Venus (in 1998) and Jupiter (in 2000) - it used the planets' gravitational fields to boost the spacecraft towards Saturn. In 2004, Cassini will send a probe called Huygens (built by the European Space Agency) to the surface of Titan, (Saturn's biggest moon).

Q: I was reading the other questions...what IS the Nemesis theory?? and also...can you explain the theory of relativity? how does it relate to space??
from Jen C., Kansas City, Kansas, USA; April 23, 2001

A: Nemesis is a hypothetical companion dark star to our Sun. Once every 30 million years, this dark star would pass through the Oort cloud, triggering comets that perhaps cause periodic mass extinctions on Earth.

Special relativity supplanted Newtonian mechanics, yielding different results for very fast-moving objects. The Theory of Special Relativity is based on the idea that speed has an upper bound; nothing can pass the speed of light. The theory also states that time and distance measurements are not absolute but are instead relative to the observer's frame of reference. Space and time are viewed as aspects of a single phenomenon, called space-time. Energy and momentum are similarly linked. As a result, mass can be converted into huge amounts of energy, and vice versa, according to the formula E=mc2.

General Relativity expands the theory to include acceleration and gravity, both of which are explained via the curvature of space-time.

Q: How do you go to the bathroom in space?
from Julia, South Rutland, Ny, United States; April 23, 2001

A: Click here for a NASA page on this subject.

Q: which moons in the solar system have a magnetic field?
from ?, ?, ?, ?; April 22, 2001

A: Jupiter's biggest moon Ganymede, has a magnetic field (and therefore, probably a molten iron core).

Q: What affects the gravity on a planet? (thanx)
from julia.m, bedford(town), bedfordshire, united kingdom; April 22, 2001

A: A planet's gravity is determined by its mass and its size (radius). The weight that you would feel on a planet depends on many things, including your actual mass, the mass of the planet you're on, and how far away you are from the center of that planet.

Q: Please, I need help on this one question I can't find: What evidence supports the Nemesis Theory?
from ?, ?, ?, ?; April 22, 2001

A: The periodic mass extinctions that have occurred on Earth are an argument for the Nemesis theory.

Q: In what direction do each of the planets rotate? Please help me. Thanks.
from ?, ?, ?, ?; April 22, 2001

A: They all rotate in the same direction except for Venus, Pluto, and Uranus which rotate in the opposite direction (have retrograde rotation).

Q: who first formulated the big bang?
from jessica b, ?, ?, ?; April 22, 2001

A: The Big Bang theory was formulated by George Gamow and Ralph Alpher, in 1948.

Q: hen was the barringer crater and what caused it? what are carbonardoes? what;s another name for them?
from jessica b., northridge, california, u s a; April 22, 2001

A: I just answered those questions a few days ago. Please scroll down.

Q: Which moons may have a liquid ocean?
from Johnny C., Unknown, CA, USA; April 21, 2001

A: Jupiter's moon Europa has a liquid ocean.

Q: Which moons have volcanic activity? HELP! Thanks!
from Escopita, Sherman Oaks, CA, USA; April 21, 2001

A: Jupiter's moon Io is volcanically active. Neptune's moon Triton also has volcanos that are probably not active any more.

Q: I need help please! This is the only question that I can't find anywhere! 1.What is the Io Torus and what causes it? What would it look like? Thanks. Please help me, my report is due this week.
from ?, ?, ?, ?; April 21, 2001

A: The Io Torus is doughnut-shaped ring of plasma around the planet Jupiter close to the orbit of the moon Io. This torus is caused by Jupiter's strong magnetic field, which strips ions from Io as it rotates; Io acts like an electrical generator. For an image, click here.

Q: which solar system moons have atmospheres
from Dianne L, Studio City, CA, USA; April 21, 2001

A: Saturn's moon Titan has a thick nitrogen atmosphere. Some of the other larger moons, like our moon, Ganymede, Triton, and Europa have extremely thin atmospheres.

from DWIGHT, LA, CA, USA; April 21, 2001

A: Click here.

Q: I am doing a very difficult report on astronomy and was hoping you could answer these questions for me =)

1.what is hubbles law 2.what caused the barringer crater? when 3.what are carbonardoes? what is another name for them 4.who first calculated the length of a year 5.what is a bolometer? 6.How can scientists find out what gasses are in the stars or nebulae? does a radio telescope work 8. how does a ultraviolet telescope work

I would really be greatful for the answers given.=)
from dj p, n hollywood, ca, usa; April 21, 2001

A: I answered most of these questions recently (#1,2,3,5). Scroll down for the answers.

As to the others: 4. The ancient Egyptians knew about the year, but it may have been known even before that.

6. Astronomers analyze the light and other electromagnetic radiation coming from the star (or other body). Astronomers can determine the composition of gases in stars by looking for characteristic frequencies in the spectral lines. A spectral line is a bright or dark line found in the spectrum of some radiant sources. Bright lines indicate emission, dark lines indicate absorption. A bright spectral line represents light emitted at a specific frequency by an atom or molecule. Each different element and molecule gives off light at a unique set of frequencies. For example, carbon monoxide (CO) has a spectral line at 115 Gigahertz (equal to a wavelength of 2.7 mm).

7. A radio telescope is a metal dish that gathers radio waves coming from space. (It's like a giant radio that is tuned to sources other than Earth.)

8. An ultraviolet (UV) telescope gathers uv waves coming from space.

from ???, ??, ??, ?/; April 21, 2001

A: De Caelo (meaning "About the Heavens") was a book on astronomy written by Aristotle. In it he discusses coemology, the movements of stars, the shape of heavenly bodies, etc., with some mathematical-style discussions.

Q: What is the largest most powerfulrocket yet devoloped?
from Dwight p, ca, ca, usa; April 21, 2001

A: The Saturn V's, which were about 111 m tall. These rockets launched NASA's Apollo missions.

Q: Is light affected by gravity?
from Kelly G., Chatsworth, Cali, U.S.A.; April 20, 2001

A: Yes.

Q: When might a solar sail be used?Why?
from Kelly G., Chatsworth, Cali, U.S.A.; April 20, 2001

A: See the entry for solar sail in the astronomy glossary.

Q: How fast must a rocket be moving to escape Earth's gravity?
from Kelly G., Chatsworth, Cali, U.S.A.; April 20, 2001

A: 24,840 mph. FOr more information, see the entry for escape velocity in the astronomy glossary.

Q: Will the year 2100 be a leap year? please explain.
from Kelly G., Chatsworth, Cali, U.S.A.; April 20, 2001

A: Generally , leap years are divisible by four, but century years are special, they must also be divisible by 400. Since 2100 divided by 400 is not an integer, 2100 is not a leap year.

Q: 1.what are WIMP's? long does in take the sun to complete a single orbit around the center of the galaxy? 3.what are trojan asteroids? 4.what is hubble's law? 5.what caused Barringer crater? when? 6.What are caronardoes?whatis another name for them?7.what is a bolometer? 8. What is delta vega? I am doing am a major report and really need this please. thanks =)
from dj p., n hollywood, cali, usa; April 19, 2001

A: 1. WIMP stands for Weakly Interacting Massive Particles. They are hypothetical particles that have a non-zero mass and only participate in weak nuclear interactions. Dark matter may be composed of WIMP's.

2. It takes the sun (and our solar system) roughly 200-250 million years to orbit once around the Milky Way.

3. Trojan asteroids are asteroids that orbit in gravitationally stable Lagrange points in a planet's orbit, either trailing it or preceding it (these places are where the gravitational attraction of the Sun and of the planet balance each other). For more information on Trojan asteroids, click here.

4. Hubble's Law is a linear relationship between the distance to a galaxy (R) and the velocity at which that galaxy is moving from us (v) because to the expansion of the universe. Hubble's Law is is v = H0 R, where H0 is Hubble's constant. It assumes that the universe is expanding at a constant rate that has reemained constant for all time.

5. Barringer crater, in Arizona, USA, was created by a meteor hitting the Earth.

6. I've never heard of caronardoes. A carbonardo is a rare type of diamond (with a very hard polycrystalline structure). They were once thought to have been formed as a result of a comet impact 2 billion years ago, but this is no longer thought to be true. The largest diamond ever found was a carbonardo that weighed over half a kilogram.

7. A bolometer is an instrument that measures the total amount of radiant energy (not just visible light) received from a star or other celestial object.

8. Delta Vega would be the fourth planet from the star Vega (Vega is also called Alpha Lyrae - the brightest star in the constellation Lyra); it is not known whether or not any planets orbit Vega).

Q: How long would it take to get to the Central Hub???
from Daniel B., Snyder, Texas, United States; April 18, 2001

A: We're roughly 50 light years from the Central Hub of the Milky Way. The time to get there would depend on your speed, but it takes light 50 years to get there (it would take longer than a human lifetime to get there going at our sluggish speeds).

Q: When can you see Venus from earth?
from Gray M, Memphis, TN, USA; April 17, 2001

A: Venus is only visible at dawn or dusk since it is closer to the sun than we are. Venus is also known as the "morning star" or the "evening star" since it is visible and quite bright at either dawn or dusk.

Q: How many ring dose Pluto have?
from Ashley F, Memphis, Tn, USA; April 17, 2001

A: None.

Q: What is the average temperature on Pluto.
from Rachel A, Memphis, TN, USA; April 17, 2001

A: Pluto's average temperature is -393°F (-236°C = 37 K). For more information on Pluto, click here.

Q: is it true that astronomers are not sure if Pluto is a Planet or astroid?
from Beckett S, Memphis, TN, USA; April 17, 2001

A: Yes. Its 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.

Q: will astronomers ever find any new planets in space?
from Laura B., Germantown, TN, USA; April 17, 2001

A: Some astronomers (like Marcy) already have found planets orbiting other stars.

Q: Can you see the Moon from the North and South Poles?
from Traci J., Snyder, Tx., United States; April 17, 2001

A: Yes, you can.

Q: i need stuff about neptune.
from Garrrett, i do not live in a city, connecticut, U.S.A.; April 17, 2001

A: For a section on Neptune, click here.

Q: what is the belt of thousands of bodies between mars and jupiter? what is one of the planet that rotates east to west to it axis?
from s.c., miami, fla, ?; April 16, 2001

A: The asteroids orbit between Mars and Jupiter. The planet that orbits in the direction opposite to all the others is Venus.

Q: Who is the Hubble telescope named for? Why?
from Kelly G., Chatsworth, Cali, USA; April 16, 2001

A: The Hubble space telescope (HST) is named for the American astronomer Edwin Powell Hubble (1889-1953). Hubble showed that other galaxies (besides the Milky Way) existed and observed that the universe is expanding (since the light from almost all other galaxies is red-shifted).

Wave Wavelength
Gamma rays less that 0.1 Angstroms
X-Rays 0.1 to 200 Angstroms
Ultraviolet 200 - 4,000 Angstroms
Visible light 4,000 - 7,000 Angstroms
Near Infrared 7000 Angstroms to 10 microns
Mid-Infrared 10 microns to 60 microns
Far Infrared 60 microns to 300 microns
Sub millimeter 300 microns to 1 millimeter
Millimeter radio 1 millimeter to 1 centimeter
Microwave radio 1 millimeter to several centimeters
Q: What are electromagnetic waves?
from Kelly G., Chatsworth, Cali, USA; April 16, 2001

A: Electromagnetic waves are energy in wave form. The electromagnetic spectrum is full range of electromagnetic radiation, including: gamma rays, X-rays, UV rays, visible light, infrared, microwaves, and radio waves (in order of decreasing energy and increasing wavelength).

Q: What are Newton's three laws of motion?
from Kelly, chatswoth, cali, usa; April 16, 2001

A: 1. An object in uniform motion tends to remain in that state of motion unless an external force is applied to it (the law of inertia). 2. A force causes a change in the velocity (acceleration) of an object (F=ma). 3. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. .

Q: What did Paul Dirac and Carl Anderson win a Nobel Prize for?
from Kelly, chatswoth, cali, usa; April 16, 2001

A: Erwin Schrödinger and Paul Dirac won the Nobel Prize in 1933 for a new atomic theory that, among other things, predicted the existence of the positron (the anti-particle of the electron). Carl Anderson won in 1936, for actually discovering the positron experimentally.

Q: what is the sun's thickest layor?
from ?, ?, ?, ?; April 12, 2001

A: The corona extends for millions of miles.

Q: What is the Big Bang theory? How old is the Earth?
from Kyle CB, Simsbury, Connecitcut, United States; April 12, 2001

A: The big bang theory addresses the origin of the universe. 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.

The Earth is about 4.5 billion years old (this is known by using radio-isotope dating to determine the age of the oldest rocks).

Q: what is the sun made of?
from Henry G., Hi, ?, ?; April 12, 2001

A: The Sun is made up of gases. Its mass is about 75% hydrogen and 25% helium. About 0.1% is metals (made from hydrogen via nuclear fusion).

Q: When will the sun die? What is your favorite planet?
from Nick P., Napervill, Illinois, North America; April 11, 2001

A: The sun will turn into a red giant in about 6 billion years (when this happens, the Earth will be unbearably hot). After that, the Sun will slowly turn into a white dwarf star (emitting very little light).

My favorite planet is Earth.

Q: does space ever end?
from Dana C, Staten island, new york, united states of america; April 11, 2001

A: No one knows.

Q: what's the length of year and day for the sun?
from Henry.M, Hi, ?, ?; April 10, 2001

A: A year is defined as the time it takes to orbit around the sun, so there is no "year" for the sun. A day on the sun is the time it takes for one complete revolution around its axis; this takes about 31 Earth days, but that is only an average - it rotates faster at the poles.

Q: How many galexies are out in the solar system?
from Kelsey K, Memphis, Tennesssee, USA; April 6, 2001

A: None, our Solar System consists of our Sun, nine planets, some moons, comets, asteroids, and other smaller objects. A galaxy is a large group of stars - our Solar System is a tiny fraction of the galaxy we call the Milky Way.

Q: whi did people name plutos moon Charon
from Lauren R, Memphis, TN, USA; April 6, 2001

A: Charon was named by its discoverer, Jim Christy in 1978. Charon is the name of the mythological demon who ferried people across the mythological river Styx into Hades (Hell). Christy's wife's name is Charlene, and the name Charon was chosen partly to honor her.

Q: Why do we have blue moons? How do they occur?
from Sarah O., Germantown, Tennessee, USA; April 6, 2001

A: A blue moon isn't literally a moon that is blue. It is the second full moon in a month in which there are two full moons.

Q: When will Pluto and Neptune switch places from the sun
from lee l, memphis, TN, usa; April 6, 2001

A: Right now, Pluto is farther from the Sun than Neptune. This will change in September 2226, when Neptune will be farther from the Sun than Pluto.

Q: how long have the planets been up in space
from carol s, memphis tn, tennessee, usa; April 6, 2001

A: Since our Solar System formed, roughly 5 billion years ago, from an enormous cloud of dust and gas

Q: Will people go to Mars?
from Emily H, Memphis, TN, USA; April 6, 2001

A: Probably.

Q: why do people call pluto the double planet
from Rebecca R., memphis, tn, us; April 6, 2001

A: Because Pluto has a moon (called Charon) that is almost as big as Pluto itself. Although Charon is small, about 1,172 km in diameter, it about half of the size of Pluto itself (which has a diameter of 2,274 km).

Q: I was wondering if you could tell me which month in 2001 has the "blue moon" or two full moons in the same month?
from Karen H., Guymon, OK, USA; April 4, 2001

A: The next blue moon will occur on November 30, 2001, at 20:50.

Q: what is the difference between the way the planets move across the sky campared to stars?
from Jen H, ?, ?, Australia; April 2, 2001

A: Through the course of a single day (24 hours), they both seem to revolve around a pole. Over time, though, you'll notice a big difference. The stars will essentially remain in the same positions over your lifetime (so you'll always see essentially the same stars, but they'll sometimes be overhead during the day and sometimes at night). The planets are different; over time, the planets change position (seeming to race against the background of the stationary stars) and you will see different planets at different places and times.

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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