FREQUENTLY
ASKED
QUESTIONS

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.


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. 

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