FAQ

    • What was that bright thing I saw in the sky last night?
      We will need more information to answer this question! But in most cases it was probably a planet. Planets like Mars and Jupiter are much brighter than stars and can look red compared to most white stars. In one night, planets do not move relative to the surrounding stars. To check what planets are up in the sky each night, and in what part of the sky, try the Melbourne Planetarium’s Sky Notes or the Sydney Observatory’s Monthly Sky Guide.
    • What was that bright thing I saw flash across the sky last night?
      Again we will need more information to answer this question, but in most cases it was probably a meteor or ‘shooting star’. Meteors can be quite spectacular, appearing as a very bright streak of light that flashes across the sky with what appears to be very long tails. For more information, see these links about shooting stars, meteors, and fireballs.
    • Was that thing I saw moving across the sky last night a satellite?
      When you see satellites, they look like a tiny white dot that moves quite quickly through the sky. The light you see is actually reflected sunlight – not “lights” on the satellite itself. The Heavens Above website will give you satellite viewing times.
    • What is the best telescope I should buy?
      People are often surprised to learn that most professional astronomers know very little about amateur telescopes! We suggest that you contact your local amateur society, as they are usually very happy to help and have a great deal of knowledge. Find your local amateur society!
    • Can I buy a star?
      The ASA’s position on “buying” stars is described here.
    • I want to become an astronomer. What do I need to do?
      To become a professional astronomer these days you generally need a PhD, which means an undergraduate degree in science or equivalent, plus some research experience either via an honours degree or a Masters by research. You can find information about how to come an astronomer here. For details on astronomy courses in Australia, follow this link.
    • Where can I go to look through a telescope tonight?
      There are a range of amateur observatories around Australia that are open to the public. Some professional observatories have visitor centres, but none will let you look through their telescopes! However, they can be interesting to visit.
    • Can I get an astronomer to visit my school/organisation to give a talk?
      The ASA does not organise speakers. However, you could try contacting local university astronomy departments or local amateur astronomy societies.
    • I am doing a school project on astronomy and I want to ask some question. Can you answer my astronomy questions for me?
      Firstly, we are not here to do your homework for you! We can help you find resources, but you need to answer your own homework questions. If your school projects requires that you interview an astronomer, we’d be happy to help out. But please make sure that your email includes the name of your school and your teacher’s contact details.

Your question isn’t here? Maybe try ‘Ask the Astronomer’ question archive compiled by Dr. Sten Odenwald, containing over 3000 questions about astronomy and space science. The answers to the questions are indexed and grouped by category for easy access.

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