FAQ

    Check here first before submitting your question!

We’ll be adding to this list continually, so check back often!


  • Q.) Why “Cepheus” ?
    A.) Inside Joke! While the constellation Cepheus is supposed to be a King, the actual shape resembles a house.
  • Q.) Can I re-publish one of your stories on my blog/website/news site?
    A.) Absolutely! Please feel free to re-publish any articles on Dear Astronomer Just be sure to give proper credit – something like “Ray Sanders at Dear Astronomer writes:” Where “Dear Astronomer is the link text to the specific article. That’s all I ask in return.
  • Q.) Whats the difference between an asteroid, a comet and a meteor?
    A.)Asteroids are chunks of metal or rock – there’s a large asteroid belt between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter.
    Comets are of similar origin (dust grains and rock at their core) but have much more ice built up on them,
    hence the tail of a comet. Meteors are just small asteroids, which happen to enter the atmosphere.
    Meteorites are meteors that make it to the ground intact.
  • Q.) Why is Mars Red?
    A.) Simply put, Mars is rusty! – The Martian soil has high amounts of Iron Oxides, otherwise known as “Rust”
  • Q.) What did Pluto ever do to you?
    A.)A thousand years ago, everyone KNEW the Earth was the center of the Universe, Five hundred years ago, everyone KNEW the world was flat. As we learn more about the Universe, we must remain open to new ideas and methodologies. We’ve since discovered many more objects similar to Pluto in the Kuiper belt. It’s really that simple.
  • Q.)Why are sunrises/sunsets and moonrises/moonsets red sometimes?
    A.)Our atmosphere is very good at scattering blue light. (this is why the sky is blue!) When the Sun or Moon are close to the horizon, the effect is intensified and nearly all blue light is absent. This phenomenon is called “Rayleigh scattering”.
  • Q.)Will Mars will be as big as the Moon during it’s closest approach?
    A.)I certainly hope not! While Mars is much larger than our Moon, Our Moon is only a bit over 200,000 miles away, whereas Mars is anywhere from over 30 million miles to over 200 million miles away! If Mars’s disk is larger than our Moon, we’ll have some serious problems to deal with!
  • Q.)How do I get started in Astronomy?
    A.)Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need a Telescope to get started. A star atlas or Planisphere is all you really need. Once you become familiar with the night sky, (bright stars, constellations, clusters) you can look into purchasing a pair of binoculars, or a starter telescope.
  • Q.)How does one make money as an Astronomer?
    A.)Like many professions, becoming a professional Astronomer requires a significant investment in an education.
    Most “professionals” carry PHD’s in Astronomy or Astrophysics – although some are quite successful with only a Bachelor’s or Masters degree. These days with better access to technology, the line between “amateur” and “professional” is very blurry indeed. There are many “amateurs” who take breathtaking shots of Nebulae, Galaxies, etc and sell prints of their photos. There are also many “amateurs” who have made extremely important discoveries in the field of Astronomy.
    My advice is to hone your craft, and the money will surely follow – chances are you won’t earn millions, but it is quite possible to make a good living as an Astronomer.
  • Q.)What kind of telescope should I buy?
    A.)The simplest answer to this question is: “The one you’ll use often”.
    In all siriusness (get it? SIRIUSness?) If you are wanting to get started in Astronomy, do not make a telescope your first purchase. Go to your local astronomy club and look through some of their telescopes. Figure out what you are interested in viewing (the moon, planets, nebulae, clusters, galaxies) and then do research on what telescope best fits your budget and allows you to achieve your goals. Stay away from department store telescopes!
  • Q.)Do I need to be away from the city to do Astronomy?
    A.)Not necessarily. You can purchase “light pollution” filters for telescopes which are relatively inexpensive and filter out the light from most street lights. The filters, like any other filter do reduce the total incoming light that reaches your eye through the telescope, so you won’t get as good a view as you would away from the city lights. If you’d like to learn more about light pollution, visit http://www.darksky.org
  • Q.)What is some good Astronomy software to use?
    A.)If you want to go the “free” route, take a look at Stellarium , or you can Check out Voyager by Carina Software. One other piece of software is Starry Night. If you have an Android based phone, you can also get Google Sky Map
  • Q.)Will my question make it onto the site?
    A.)We can’t guarantee a response to all questions/emails/comments submitted, but we’ll do our best to answer all questions submitted to the site in a clear and concise manner.
  • Q.)What’s with the ads?
    A.)Gotta pay the hosting bills somehow! We do try to limit the ads that appear to ones that may directly interest you, our readers.
  • Q.)Will you help me with my Astronomy project/homework/term paper?
    A.)There are plenty of sites on the internet to help with Astronomy homework. As much as we’d like to help, we can’t guarantee an answer within any certain time frame. Basically, we’d hate to let anyone down, so try not to ask any questions you need answered in a short time frame. Sorry.
  • Q.)Any good Astronomy forums?
    A.)Cloudy Nights forums are hands down some of the most informative and friendly Astronomy forums on the internet.
  • Q.)How many Astronomers does it take to change a lightbulb?
    A.)Two. One to replace the bulb, and the other to complain about the light pollution.
  • Q.)Do you believe there is life elsewhere in the Universe?
    A.)Don’t believe what anyone tells you to believe. Make up your own mind based on your own analysis of evidence you have gathered. Test your own theories, be a scientist and a skeptic! Based on evidence I have seen, data presented and the sheer size of the Universe, my belief is that it’s a matter of “when” and not “if.”
  • Q.)Any good Astronomy Magazines?
    A.)Yes. There are two I regularly subscribe to: Astronomy and Sky & Telescope
  • Q.)Why do the stars move so slowly in the sky even though The Earth spins so fast?
    A.)Notice when you are driving that things in the distance appear to move slowly, while road signs a few feet away zip by?
    Same phenomenon. Even though the earth is rotating quickly ( about 1600 km/h ) the closest celestial object (The Moon) is 384,000 km away. The closest star, Proxima Centauri is 3.97×1013 km away! If you want to experience the apparent motion of the stars across the sky, simply view one in a non-motorized telescope. The star will wander out of the field of view within a minute or so.
  • Q.)Did we REALLY land on the moon?
    A.) Yes, and if you’d like to argue otherwise, you may want to watch this video and see what Buzz Aldrin did to the last guy who argued otherwise:
  • Follow On Twitter

    Current Moon Phase

    CURRENT MOON