Stargazing with David Reneke

Planets, stars, galaxies - What are the most commonly asked questions in astronomy?
Credit: NASA
Planets, stars, galaxies - What are the most commonly asked questions in astronomy? Credit: NASA

Of all the sciences, people still don’t completely understand what’s going on upstairs.

This week we thought we would cover some of the more common things astronomers get asked.

We contacted Dave Reneke from Australasian Science for some answers.

Ready? Let’s go!

What is the difference between astronomy and astrology?

Believe it or not, this is the most asked question I hear. Many people don’t understand the difference.

In ancient times, they were considered one and the same. Astrology is a practice of using the locations of the planets to look into a person's personality or predict the future. It’s not a science.

By contrast, astronomy is the scientific study of the universe.

Do I need an expensive telescope to enjoy astronomy?

Many people hesitate to get involved with astronomy because they believe it requires expensive equipment.

The only thing you really need to enjoy the night sky is your eyes, a dark viewing location, and some patience.

To get a better look at things, a pair of binoculars can provide a really good view.

A simple camera tripod to steady the binoculars is also a good idea, since your arms can get tired very quickly.

Why can't I see very many stars at night?

If you live near a big city, you may not be able to see a lot of stars. The reason for this is light pollution.

To truly appreciate the night sky, you must get as far away from city lights as possible.

I can’t think of many better sights than the band of the Milky Way stretching across a dark Australian sky.

Where does space begin?

Wow, this is a tricky one, but we now have an answer. Earth’s atmosphere just gradually thins out as you move farther away from the Earth.

NASA and US aviation officials have now decreed space officially starts at 100 kilometres high. You could drive there in one hour at highway speeds!

Why are sunsets red?

In the evening at sunset we see the red and orange colours mainly because the thicker layer of air we’re looking through filters out all the light except red. Easy huh?

Did Galileo invent the telescope?

The short answer is no, but he was the first to turn it to the heavens.

It was actually a Dutch spectacle maker who assembled the first lenses into a tube.

Galileo simply copied the idea.  

Galileo was first to observe the craters on the moon, the rings of Saturn, and the moons of Jupiter.

He’s known as the father of modern astronomy.

If you have any questions feel free to contact Dave via his website, www.davidreneke.com