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What is the difference between astronomy and astrology?

Many people do not understand the difference. In ancient times, they were considered one and the same.  But the two disciplines were separated during the Age of Reason in the 17th century.  Astrology is a practice of using the locations of the planets to look into a person's personality or predict the future.  It is not a science and is considered a form of divination.  By contrast, astronomy is the scientific study of the universe.  Astronomers observe the objects in the night sky to try to determine their composition and learn more about the origin and structure of the universe.

Why is the sky blue?

This is another question that gets asked a lot.  The blue color of the sky during the day is caused by scattered sunlight.  The white light from the Sun is composed of all the colors of the rainbow.  During the day, the molecules in the air scatter the blue light from the Sun more that the red light making the sky appear blue.  In the evening, however, we see the red and orange colors because the blue light has been scattered away from our line of sight.

Why do the seasons change?

Seasons are caused because of the Earth's changing relationship to the Sun. The Earth travels around the Sun, called an orbit, once a year or every 365 days.  As the Earth orbits the Sun, the amount of sunlight each location on the planet gets everyday changes slightly. This change causes the seasons.  This is also due to the tilt of the Earth.

How far is the Moon from Earth?

The distance between the Moon and the Earth averages 238,857 miles (384,403 kilometers).  Since the Moon’s orbit is not a perfect circle, its distance varies. At its farthest point, known as apogee, it is 252,080 miles (405,686 km) away.  At its closest point, known as perigee, it is 225,621 miles (363,104 km) away.

Why is the Moon larger when it is close to the horizon?

Although the Moon looks much larger when it is low in the sky near the horizon, this is actually just an optical illusion.  It is actually the same size as when it is directly overhead.  This illusion has been known since ancient times and also happens with the Sun and the constellations. This same illusion works on mountains and tall buildings as well.  They appear larger at long distances than they do at closer distances.  The reasons for this are complex, but they have something to do with how our brains interpret the sizes of large objects on the horizon.  If you don't believe this is only an illusion, you can compare the size of the Moon near the horizon to the size directly overhead by holding your finger out at arm's length and comparing the sizes of the Moon with your finger.

What causes the phases of the Moon?

The Moon goes through phases because it is traveling around the Earth.  One half of the Moon is always illuminated by the Sun.  As the Moon circles the Earth, different amounts of the illuminated part of the Moon are facing us.  These phases range from Full Moon (when the Moon is on the opposite side of the Earth then the Sun) to a New Moon (when the Moon is between the Sun and the Earth.  It takes about 29 and a half days for a complete cycle, which equals one complete orbit of the Moon around the Earth.

Why are the planets called different names?

Planets and other celestial objects were named after Roman Gods and Goddesses or the discover.  Without different names we wouldn’t know what object we are talking about.

Why do we have season's? 

We have seasons because Earth’s axis is tilted by about 23.5 degrees. This means that as Earth orbits the Sun, different parts of the planet receive more or less sunlight at different times of the year. When the northern hemisphere is tilted towards the Sun, it experiences summer, while the southern hemisphere experiences winter. The opposite happens when the northern hemisphere is tilted away from the Sun. The seasons also affect the length of day and night, and the position of the stars in the sky.

What is a exoplanet?

A planet that orbits a star outside our solar system

Can a star turn into a planet?

It is possible for stars to turn into planets.  But this happens for only a specific category of stars.  These are called brown dwarfs. 

What is a black hole? 

A black hole is a region of space where gravity is so strong that nothing, not even light, can escape. Black holes are formed when massive stars collapse at the end of their lives. They can have different sizes, from a few kilometers to billions of kilometers across. Some black holes are surrounded by disks of hot gas and dust, called accretion disks, that emit powerful radiation. Others are invisible and can only be detected by their effects on nearby objects.

Does life exist outside of our solar system? 

This is one of the biggest questions in astronomy and science in general. So far, we have not found any conclusive evidence of life beyond Earth, but we have discovered thousands of planets around other stars, some of which could be habitable. We also have detected organic molecules and water in some places in our solar system, such as Mars, Europa, and Enceladus. Scientists are using various methods and instruments to search for signs of life in these and other locations.

What are the benefits of space exploration?

Space exploration has many benefits for humanity, both directly and indirectly. Some of the direct benefits include scientific discoveries, technological innovations, economic opportunities, educational inspiration, and cultural enrichment. For example, space exploration has contributed to our understanding of the origin and evolution of the universe, the formation and diversity of planets, and the potential for life beyond Earth. Space exploration has also led to the development of new technologies and applications that have improved our lives on Earth, such as satellites for communication, navigation, weather forecasting, and remote sensing. Space exploration has also created new markets and industries that generate revenue and jobs, such as commercial launch services, space tourism, and asteroid mining. Space exploration has also inspired generations of students and educators to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. Space exploration has also enriched our culture by expanding our horizons and stimulating our imagination.

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