When we say that we’re into Astronomy, it will raise a lot of curious questions. Some are testing knowledge, while others address the common things that people either forget or have not learned. Whether it’s in a stargazing scenario with groups, or in the public eye, it’s only inevitable that we will get asked the usual questions pertaining to the heavens.
What ______ is That?!
This question gets asked so often, that I have taken the liberty of simply giving you a graph on what the object might be.
Usually it is a bright object that’s easily seen under light polluted skies; thus it’s easy to remember. It’s always nice to hear the reactions when people learn that they’re looking at a planet instead of a star. Satellites and the ISS are distinct because of their appearing to move “among the stars” and because they often fade in and out of view depending on their position to reflect sunlight while in outer space.
“The Pluto Question”
For people who were alive at any point from its official discovery and naming in 1930 up until its “demotion” in 2006, this is a LOT of people who grew up with NINE planets, not eight, including the author of this post!
This is the simplest explanation:
Another asteroid belt beyond Neptune, named the Kuiper Belt, was discovered starting in 1992, and due to the discovery of objects similar in size and orbit to Pluto, this led the status of Pluto as a planet to be debated. After Eris, an object slightly smaller in diameter but more massive in weight than Pluto, was discovered in 2005, this led to the International Astronomical Union (IAU) to define a planet using three criteria:
- A Planet orbits the Sun
- A Planet has enough mass and gravity to form a nearly round shape
- A Planet has “cleared the neighborhood” – is gravitationally dominant, and does not share orbits with similar sized objects.
Because Pluto is constrained by the gravity of Neptune, and because it shares orbits with objects in the Kuiper Belt, it was thus reclassified as a Dwarf Planet, which otherwise has two out of the three criteria that define a planet.
<Insert Astrology Question Here>
“Do you study horoscopes?” “Do you dress up in wizard robes and do rituals?” and “Was the recent Solar Eclipse related to peoples behaviors?” are just a few of the questions I’ve been asked. Many simply confuse the word, which is simply because of our English language.
“Astro” relates to the stars, celestial objects, and outer space. “Logy” means “study or interest” and thus we can easily see the confusion.
But then again, Astrology is defined as the study of movements and relative positions of celestial bodies interpreted as having an influence on human affairs and the natural world.
The phrase “Nomy” is denoting a specified area of knowledge or the laws governing it, and thus Astronomy is more about the physical characteristics, and the science behind how the Universe works and operates, not necessarily how it influences human behavior.
While I’m not against horoscopes and people who believe in it, people simply need to realize that Astrology and Astronomy are two completely different things.
Do You Believe in Aliens?
The simple answer is, yes I do.
Does that mean I’m into UFO’s, people’s experiences with them, and government conspiracy theories? It’s interesting, definitely, but it’s not my cup of tea.
When we go over the astronomy aspect of it, let’s just remember this:
When I was a kid, the common knowledge was “it’s quite possible there’s planets around other stars.” Now we have confirmed over 3,700 exoplanets, and the number will continue to grow!
With that said, think about how many stars are in our own galaxy. Now think about how many of them possibly have planets. Of that number, then think about how many of those planets are in a star’s “habitable zone” where they can support liquid water. That number comes to 11 billion possible “earth-like” planets in our galaxy alone!
When you factor in how many galaxies there are in the Universe, it’s overwhelming to think and realize “there is no way we’re alone!”
So why haven’t we been able to contact or heard from other beings in faraway star systems?
The speed of light is limited to 186,000 miles per second, and a light year is about 6 trillion miles. The nearest star to our Solar System is around 4 light years away. Not only would it take 4 years for an earth-based signal to reach that star system, but another 4 years for that signal to come back if a civilization with the same technological capabilities was able to respond.
Some civilizations perhaps have not reached where we are and/or have already been killed off, while others may have surpassed us in advancement. Unfortunately, in our lifetime, we most likely will never find that out!
Maybe we will get a signal back from a close by star. Perhaps one day in the far future we will be able to send human colonies to distant star systems, but with our current technology it would take ~80,000 years to get to the nearest star outside our Solar System!
If you’re not a great traveler, staying on Earth is the better option.