Rotating Question Curious About Astronomy? Ask an Astronomer

Rules for submitting a question

Before sending us your question, please read the following rules:

Things you should do:

  • Make sure your email account will accept mail from us. You will probably receive a reply from an address ending with "astro.cornell.edu" or "cornell.edu". If your account will only allow email from certain addresses, make sure we are on the list.
  • If you are referring to one of our previous answers, an online news article, or any other webpage, please send us the Internet address (URL). It will be much easier for us to answer if we can quickly find the material that you are talking about. Also, if you read something in the news or see it on TV, please give us as much information as possible, so we can try to look it up--or even better, see if you can find it online somewhere.
  • Please give us an idea of your background. Let us know: Are you a knowledgeable amateur astronomer? A fifth-grader? A high school teacher? A Ph.D. in physics? Or just a curious person who doesn't know too much about astronomy but wants to learn more? The more you tell us about yourself, the better we can tailor our response to your question.

Things you should not do:

  • Please don't ask us to answer your homework questions. That would be unethical for both of us. We cannot respond to such requests.
  • Please don't request bulk information. (Example: "Send me some information about black holes.") For this kind of research, you're better off looking for ready-to-serve websites on the topic. Good places to start include our pages about individual areas of astronomy listed on the site menu (on the left side of this page). There you will find basic information, links and previously answered questions about each topic. You might also want to look at our astronomy links or use an Internet search engine such as Google.
  • Please don't ask us to review manuscripts discussing your theories on physics, astronomy, or cosmology. The proper place for scientific reviews is through the peer review process in the appropriate scientific journals.
  • Before you ask "What was that I saw in the sky last night?", remember that we weren't there with you and in many cases would only be guessing at what you saw. Try Sky and Telescope and Astronomy magazines (where you can obtain star charts with planetary positions, plus up-to-date information on sky happenings like comets and meteor showers), Heavens Above (where you can make customized star charts and get information about artificial satellites that are visible) or the interactive planetarium at Your Sky.
  • Before you ask us to help you with a school project, remember that we are volunteers and might not be able to respond in time for your deadline. We're happy to answer questions about careers in astronomy, but if your assignment is to interview a scientist, you're better off finding someone you can interview in person or on the telephone. We'll try to respond to requests for email interviews, but we might not be able to meet your deadline and can't always write a personal response to every one of your questions. (Note: If you're a teacher who wants to use this site as part of a class project, please look at our teachers page.)

How long will it take to get a response?

Typical turnaround times are about one to two weeks. Unfortunately, due to the high volume of questions we receive, we're unable to answer each and every one of them, but we try to answer as many as we can (and do eventually answer most). Occasionally we have to pass over entire batches of questions when we get behind, so if you don't get a response on your first try, feel free to try again.

What happens to my question, email address and personal information once it gets to you?

In short, we do not distribute anything about you to anyone. For more information, check out our privacy policy.

Can I use your answer to my question in a school project or otherwise reproduce it?

In short, yes, as long as you properly cite us as the source of your information. For more details, see our copyright notice.

We try to answer your questions as best we can; however, please note that we cannot take responsibility for anything resulting from these answers. See our disclaimer for details.

Submit your question here:

You can submit your question using the form below. Thank you for your question!

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In a few words, tell us about your astronomy and science background (e.g., 2nd grade student, amateur astronomer, curious person). The more you tell us about yourself, the better we can tailor our response to your question:
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Last modified: May 13, 2011 8:01:17 PM

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