Kids' questions answered by members of The Royal Astronomical Society - Ottawa Centre
Jenn, age 11 asks... Will someone go to Mars?
Plans for getting astronauts to Mars are still far from certain. Before
scientists dare send a person to Mars they must answer many important questions
like how to breath, Mars has no oxygen, what is the climate like, are there
germs, radiation etc. A trip would take 11 months just to get there. A
long time for people to be in space. How would they stay alive and healthy
that long? NASA has already begun sending a series of instruments to study
Mars so they can answer important questions like these. Within the next
twenty years, many new and better ideas will come along before the exciting
day when the first astronauts blast off for Mars.
Greg, age 11 asks... How long would it take for a satellite to get to
NASA has plans to send two spacecraft called The Pluto express in
the next decade. They will each take about 12 years to reach Pluto and
it's moon Charon. The satellites will photograph and map the tiny planet
and its moon and we will be the first people in history to get a good view
of our smallest planet.
Jenn, age 11 asks... Is there a tenth planet?
William Herschel discovered Uranus in 1781 and astronomers noticed there
was a gravitational field tugging at the planet. This began the search
for planet X. Neptune and Pluto were discovered but didn't explain Uranus'
movements. So the search continues. But some astronomers dismiss the idea
of Planet X altogether.
Shervin, age 11 asks... How far away is Pluto?
About five and a half billion kilometres away. Pluto is so far that scientists
do not have a detailed picture of it. To imagine how far it really is,
think of a scaled down model of the solar system with the Sun 27 inches
across the middle. At this scale the Earth would be the size of a pea and
245 feet away from the Sun. Pluto would be the size of a period at the
end of a sentence and roughly three km. away from the 27 inch sun.
Jenny, age 11 asks... When will the Sun explode?
Our Sun will not explode but in about five billion years, the Sun will
run out of material to burn. This will make it swell up to the size of
Venus' orbit. Then it will take billions of years to cool off.
Rachel, age 9 asks... Where is the biggest telescope on the Earth?
The Keck Telescope is on the largest Island-mountain on the Earth called
Mauna Kea in Hawaii. It is a 1000 centimeter diameter telescope. It is
the largest optical telescope. The observatory is so high up the mountain
(13,800 feet) that astronomers and visitors often experience headaches
and dizziness on the mountain top because of the low oxygen level.
Jamie, age 11 asks... How do black holes form?
Really massive stars at least eight times the mass of our Sun don't fade
but die with an enormous bang called a supernova. The leftover material
is squeezed to infinite density at the core and has a gravity field so
strong that not even light can escape from it. Astronomers cant see black
holes but they can see the effect of it's gravity on nearby stars.
Alison, age 11 asks... How many stars are there in the universe?
Our Galaxy called the Milky Way contains about 100 billion stars. There
are believed to be some fifty billion galaxies in the observable universe.
Wow, that's a lot of stars!
You can email any questions you have about astronomy to Debra Tigner
at STARTALKS@webtv.net Include your first name and age. The questions and answers will
be added to this page.