Welcome to Ask an Astronomer at Cornell University
Since they first stepped out of the proverbial cave, humans have always been intrigued by the beauty and wonder of the night sky and the almost infinite possibilities of space.
Indeed, astronomy is both the closest and the most distant science from common experience. Every curious person who gazes at the night sky becomes an astronomer, and yet the things we see in outer space are wholly outside our earthbound experience.
That is why astronomy is both the oldest and the youngest science of them all.
Oldest because almost every ancient culture, understanding the need to predict the coming of the seasons, became expert at tracking and predicting the motions of the sun, moon and planets. Many of the prehistoric monuments that still exist today are aligned in some astronomical direction or another. The Egyptian Pyramids, Stonehenge, and a panoply of Native American, Mayan and Aztec temples all are complex astronomical observatories designed for direction-finding or the prediction of the planets and seasons.
And yet astronomy is a young science, too. Only in the last century or so have we truly come to understand the size and age of the universe we live in; only in the last fifty or sixty years have we truly begun to understand the physics which drives the universe and makes exotic objects like black holes, neutron stars and a menagerie of other astronomical oddities possible. And finally, only in the last few years have we been able to find planets in orbit around other stars and the real possibility of life beyond the Earth.
It's no surprise, then, that students, writers of fiction and nonscientists in general are so interested in this particular scientific endeavor. That's why we, as astronomers, are so anxious to "get the word out," as they say.
And that's the purpose of this site. When you send an astronomy question to us, it will be forwarded to one of the participating scientists here at Cornell. Most of us are graduate students studying for PhDs in astronomy, and all of us are actively involved in astronomy research, but we love to take time out from our work to share our knowledge with those who are curious.
We hope you enjoy browsing our site!
Want to ask us a question? Find the topic you're interested in from the archive on our site menu, or go here for help.
This page has been accessed 224492 times since January 14, 2013.
Last modified: May 23, 2011 10:06:54 PM
Ask an Astronomer is hosted by the Astronomy Department at Cornell University and is produced with PHP and MySQL.
Warning: Your browser is misbehaving! This page might look ugly. (Details)