Jan
27
2012
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Can I discover a new planet?

keplar_11The technology and techniques involved in hunting for new planets outside of our solar system has advanced in leaps and bounds in the past few years. Finding earth-like planets orbiting neighbouring stars had long been the dream of astronomers, but it was not until 1992 that the discovery of the first exoplanet or extrasolar planet [more…]

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Mar
16
2010
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The Fermi paradox: where are all the aliens?

fermi-paradoxIn recent decades our understanding of life has advanced rapidly. Scientists now know that life can exist under a much wider range of conditions than were previously thought possible, and are discovering life in the most extreme parts of the earth: in rocks a kilometer under the ground, in the antarctic ice, in the boiling [more…]

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Mar
13
2010
3

Will human inter-stellar space travel ever be possible?

1898-air-shipDespite the hopes of many people, and the wishful thinking of writers over the decades, it looks as if the physical barriers to inter-stellar travel are so big as to be insurmountable. Although humans will probably visit some of the other planets of our solar system within the 21st century, travel to other stars is [more…]

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Oct
23
2009
1

Can I name an asteroid?

Amateur astronomers are still discovering asteroids. (Photo by by Ryan Wick CC-BY 2.0)Asteroids, or minor planets, are bodies in the solar system which are smaller than the planets, but larger than meteoroids. Most of them are to be found orbiting between the planets of Mars and Jupiter. However, there are many which pass near earth, and it is a possibility of a collision with one of these [more…]

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May
30
2009
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Why are there seven days in a week?

Nighttime sky.Nobody knows for certain, but chances are that our seven-day week is historically connected with the fact that the Babylonians and other early astronomers recognized seven celestial bodies that weren’t in fixed positions like the stars — the sun, the moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. In fact, in English the names of three [more…]

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May
03
2009
1

What are Iridium Flares, and how can I see them?

Magnitude -8 Iridium Flare (photo by fdecomite - CC-BY)An Iridium Flare appears as a moving light in the sky. Over the course of a few seconds it builds up to a bright point of light then fades away again. The flares are reflections of sunlight from a particular type of satellite—the Iridium communications satellite. The times and positions of the flares are predictable, [more…]

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Apr
25
2009
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When and where can I see a solar eclipse?

Photographer Astrowoosie, a fan of solar eclipses, traveled to get pictures of the eclipse visible in Turkey on March 29, 2006. CC-BY.A solar eclipse occurs when the moon comes between the sun and the Earth. Coincidentally — or did God just plan things that way so we mortals could enjoy the beauty? — the moon has essentially the same apparent diameter as the sun (it’s much smaller but also much closer), so when the moon and [more…]

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Jan
21
2009
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What is archaeoastronomy?

Mayan Observatory - courtesy ground.zero - CC-BYThroughout history, we have looked to the skies for a wide variety of reasons. Archaeoastronomy is a fairly new field of study which allows us to find out more about our ancestors history of viewing and trying to explain the cosmos. Archaeoastronomy is a combination of two words (archaeology and astronomy) and is the study [more…]

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Jan
15
2009
1

Why is Pluto no longer considered a planet?

This drawing, modified by Image Editor from a NASA graphic, shows the orbits of the eight planets. Also shown are Ceres (between Mars and Jupiter) and three dwarf planets in the outer reaches of the solar system: Pluto, Eris and Makamake. CC-BYAll of us who write here at Quezi learned in school that our solar system has nine planets. But if you have kids in school, you might have heard that they’re learning now that there are only eight planets in our solar system. The reason: Pluto is no longer counted as a planet. Pluto has [more…]

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Jan
04
2009
3

What is meant by the “dark side of the moon”?

Moon in Dec 2005 (photo by joka2000 - CC-BY)We often hear the references to “the dark side of the moon”. But what does it mean? Does the moon really have a dark side? The phrase conjures up an image of part of the moon being forever shrouded in darkness, never seeing the sun’s rays. But that simply does not happen. The moon rotates [more…]

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