The Top Ten Space Questions

deep space engenders questions
What's out there? Why do stars twinkle? Ask questions, get answers!. Image Credit: ESA/NASA

Space Basics and Astronomy Facts


Astronomy and space exploration are topics that really get people thinking about faraway worlds and distant galaxies. When you're out stargazing under a starry sky or surfing the Web looking at images from telescopes, your imagination gets fired up by what you see. If you have a telescope or pair of binoculars, you may well have magnified your view of the Moon or a planet, a distant star cluster, or a galaxy.

So, you know what these things look like. The next thing that crosses your mind is a question about them. You muse about those amazing objects, how they formed and where they are in the cosmos. Sometimes you wonder if anyone else is out there looking back at us!  

Stargazing does pique a lot of questions in people's minds. Astronomers get a lot of interesting queries, as do planetarium directors, science teachers, scout leaders, astronauts, and many others who research and teach the subjects. 

There are literally millions of questions you could ask about these subjects. Each one you ask (and answer) leads to another...and another. That's the essence of good science: asking questions, getting answers, and asking more questions!  

Questions are at the Heart of Astronomy (and All Science)!

The science of astronomy began with questions about what objects in the sky were. In ancient times, they were thought to be gods, or goddesses, or the fires of the dead, or many other supernatural explanations.

As time went by and people began to get better at observing and developing instruments to study the sky, the questions were aimed more at understanding the processes that created stars, planets, galaxies, and nebulae. Astronomers queried how they formed, how they exist, and how they die.

Questions about the Cosmos

Nowadays, astronomers are also asking questions about the origin and evolution of the cosmos itself, and the curious collisions that result in the galaxies we see scattered through space.

Those queries form the heart of a science called "cosmology', and it seeks to learn the origin and evolution of the universe from the Big Bang (or possibly even BEFORE it) to the current, modern universe. 

Regular Folk Ask Questions, Too

Astronomers aren't the only ones asking questions about the sky. Ordinary folks are curious about those object they see through their binoculars and telescopes on dark nights. Hundreds of thousands of people around the world who don't work in astronomy still make time to observe and explore on their own. Some of these so-called "amateur astronomers" are quite knowledgeable about the sky. Yet, each one began his or her journey by asking questions about objects they observed.

Beyond them, people in government and industry are curious about specific objects, particularly the Sun. It has a definite effect on our world, our lives, and our technology. So, asking and answering questions about things is really important.

Top 10 Space Questions! 

We took some of the most-often asked questions that astronomers and planetarium people get about space, astronomy, and exploration, and pulled them together here, along with links to articles that explain the answers in more detail.

Just browse through these and see if what you've been wondering about is answered here. 

1. Where does space begin? Just look up!  How far away is outer space? Could you drive there in a short time? Or a long time?  

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2. What is the universe made of? This is one of those questions that has an answer that will expand your mind as it expands your understanding of the cosmos. 

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3. Will the universe ever end? The universe had a definite beginning, called the Big Bang. As it expands and grows, we know that it is also cooling. But, will it ever just stop expanding? What will happen? 

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4. How many stars can you see at night? What you see in the night-time sky depends on many factors, including how much light pollution interferes with the view.  Find a more exact number! 

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5. What kinds of stars are out there?

I've heard of giants and super giants and dwarfs. What about those? 

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6. Why do some stars appear to twinkle? The children's nursery rhyme about "Twinkle, twinkle little star" actually poses a very sophisticated science question about what stars are. But, it doesn't explain why they twinkle! 

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7. What is the Moon made of?  What are those shadowy markings on its surface? Learn more about our nearest neighbor in space. 

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8. What are Moon phases? We all see the Moon during the night, and sometimes during the day and early morning hours. Find out why it looks the way it does throughout the month.

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9. How did the universe begin? To understand that, you need to look back billions of years to a momentous event. Have you ever heard of the Big Bang? 

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10. How long does a star live? Compared to humans, stars live incredibly long lives, but how long? 

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Bonus Questions

These questions are runners-up in the top questions category, and we really couldn't ignore them.So, here is some more fascinating information for you. Happy reading! 

What's in the space between stars?  Is it a complete vacuum? 

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What's it like to live and work in space?  Dozens and dozens of people have done it, and many more will in the future!

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What happens to a human body in vacuum? Do the movies get it right? 

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What happens when black holes collide? People are fascinated by black holes and their actions in the universe. Find out more!

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Edited and updated by Carolyn Collins Petersen.