Hi Reddit!

A little over a year ago, I stumbled into a /r/AskReddit thread to dispel some astronomical misinformation, and before I knew it I was doing my first AMA about astronomy. Since then, I have had the privilege of being "Reddit's astronomer" and sharing my love of astronomy and science on a regular basis with a wide audience. And as part of that, I decided it was high time to post another AMA!

A bit about me: I am a Hungarian-American PhD student in astronomy, currently working in the Netherlands. (I've been living here, PhDing, four years now, and will submit my thesis in late summer 2016.) My interests lie in radio astronomy, specifically with transient radio signals, ie things that turn on and off in the sky instead of being constantly there (as an example of a transient, my first paper was on a black hole that ate a star). My work is with LOFAR- a radio telescope in the eastern Netherlands- specifically on a project where we are trying to image the radio sky every second to look for these transient signals.

In addition to that, I write astronomy articles on a freelance basis for various magazines in the USA, like Discover, Astronomy, and Sky & Telescope. As for non-astronomy hobbies, my shortcut subreddits are /r/travel, /r/lego, /r/CrossStitch, and /r/amateurradio.

My Proof:

Here is my website, and here is a Tweet from my personal account that I'm doing this.

Ok, AMA!

Edit: the most popular question so far is asking how to be a professional astronomer. In short, plan to study a lot of math and physics in college, and plan for graduate school. It is competitive, but I find it rewarding and would do it again in a heartbeat. And finally if you want more details, I wrote a much longer post on this here.

Edit 2: 7 hours in, you guys are awesome! But it's late in the Netherlands, and time for bed. I will be back tomorrow to answer more questions, so feel free to post yours still (or wait a few days and then post it, so I won't miss it).

Comments: 1883 • Responses: 89  • Date: 

jeihkeih803 karma

Do you have glow in the dark stickers on your ceiling?

Andromeda3211025 karma

I did when I was a kid! The constellations were all accurate, right down to the colors of the stars.

LiirFlies436 karma

How often do people ask you for help with astrology?

How adept are you at giving them the guidance they need to get the most out of life?

Andromeda321630 karma

In the real world, maybe once a year. They then get a nice explanation from me on the differences between the two, and I steer the conversation to real astronomy and why I find it exciting.

Bossman1086272 karma

and I steer the conversation to real astronomy and why I find it exciting.

This makes me happy, though I shouldn't have expected any less.

Andromeda321268 karma

Let's just say I'm definitely a "catch more flies with honey than vinegar" kind of person. :) And my experience with people is usually that everyone is enthusiastic, just sometimes uneducated.

EB3031292 karma

Hi there,

when will be the next time an asteroid will pass the Earth with precarious proximity? Do you have any info on that?

Andromeda321414 karma

In astronomy we use the Torino scale to rate if there are any dangerous asteroids that might hit Earth. Currently there are no asteroids above 0 on the scale, meaning the likelihood of a collision is zero.

For a list of asteroids that are coming close in the next few days though (ie a few Earth-moon distances), go to this page and scroll down to the "Near Earth Asteroids" section.

crazyasash202 karma

what is a book on astronomy that you would recommend to a layman to get them interested in the field?

Andromeda321365 karma

It is a little dated but I will forever love Carl Sagan's Cosmos for the enthusiasm and magic he breathed into the topic. I confess I haven't read many new ones in the past few years because I'm reading a lot of boring textbooks over popular astronomy books.

Bossman108673 karma

Cosmos is awesome. Did you like the reboot of the documentary show with Neil deGrasse Tyson?

Andromeda321105 karma

I caught one or two clips but didn't watch the whole thing. I think they did a fine enough job from what I saw.


I know a couple astronomy PhDs who ended up outside the astronomy "industry" after they finished school. Granted, AFAIK, they weren't writing articles for magazines or journals; what are your plans after you finish your degree?

Andromeda321199 karma

Hahaha, good question!

Firstly, while I don't think I will ultimately be an astronomy researcher type person I won't say that I'm done with research astronomy just yet. There are still some questions in research I would really like to work on, plus it's a great excuse to go live in a new city for a few years, so I'm definitely not ruling out a postdoc. I'm also seriously considering applying to the next NASA call for astronauts because I now qualify for it, but I don't think anyone does so seriously considering it a career path you can plan on (they get several thousand applications for maybe a dozen spots!).

Beyond that, as you note, I love to write. In an ideal world I would spend the year after I finish my PhD writing a book for the public on radio astronomy while keeping an eye out on the astronomy job register. Because let's face it, radio astronomy is kickass, and it would be a great excuse to chat with people like Jocelyn Bell!

Icandigsushi105 karma

I really hope you get one of those spots so you can do an AMA from the ISS. And you know, go to space in general.

Andromeda321125 karma

Me too! If I make it, I promise I'll do an AMA from up there. Get on it, Reddit!

Icandigsushi47 karma

Submitting my question now. What device/gadget is directly to your left?

Andromeda32161 karma


02Alien29 karma

What about your right?

Andromeda32140 karma

Nothing but my sofa pillow.

I_Say_I_Say122 karma

Amateur astronomer here! What is your favorite space fact?

Andromeda321270 karma

Oooooh, tough one. I've been pretty fascinated by magnetars lately though, ie highly magnetized neutron stars. How strong is strong? Well it's so strong that if you went within 1,000 miles of one the magnetic field would kill you.

rephan101 karma


Here's a couple of questions you probably have answered in the past, but I am too lazy to go look:

\1. Do you think aliens exist, and if so, how/when if ever, will they make contact?

\2. Do you think we'll ever have the resources and science down to be able to travel from one end of space to another freely?

Bonus: By when do you think, if ever possible, we will be colonizing other planets?

Andromeda321175 karma

1) I think they exist, but not that they have come here to Earth lately to draw crop circles in a field. I also think the discovery of life will be like the discovery of water on Mars (to use a recent example)- there's been a headline every few years telling us there's water there, and each time it's a bigger piece of the puzzle and a more general case. So for life I think we'll see some signatures in exoplanet atmospheres typically associated with life on Earth (ie, free oxygen in large quantities) and we will get more and more specific evidence from that point.

2) In one lifetime, no, the universe is too big. In several? I will never say never...

Bonus: I hope the lunar colony will be established before I get too old to visit it. It is possible if we make it a priority!

rephan59 karma

So you are suggesting that perhaps we might find fossils or traces of civilizations that may have moved to other planets, or perished?

Thank you for doing the AMA. You are a lady and a scholar.

edit: words

Andromeda321102 karma

Actually, I'm a woman. But thanks. ;-)

rephan51 karma

I know, it just sounds weird saying gentlewoman.

How about I use lady instead?

Andromeda32156 karma

I'm down!

Armadylspark23 karma

How do you reconcile that belief with the Fermi paradox, if at all?

Andromeda321129 karma

I think the Fermi paradox is really overblown on Reddit. This is because making the measurements to show there's life out there is really difficult- the sky is big, signals are faint, and the more I do astronomy the more I'm not surprised we never found such signatures before. Cutting-edge astronomy is hard!

Instead, I think finding alien life is at a similar stage to where extrasolar planet thoughts were in the early 1990s, before the first discovery of them. Back then many astronomers argued planets were going to be super rare and hardly exist... and now you can even go so far as to say statistically all stars have planets! So now in hindsight it seems silly to say such sweeping statements when we couldn't yet make observations on just how many planets there are out there, so why would you do the same for alien life?

davisdamen16 karma

For those who don't know (like me), what is the Fermi paradox?

Andromeda32127 karma

The idea that if aliens were out there we should be able to see them everywhere, in short. But we don't, so where is everybody?

Jew_Soap97 karma

What do you think is the biggest misconception about astronomy?

Andromeda321203 karma

We don't actually go to our telescopes much! In fact, I've never really had much reason to visit mine, and have only been there twice in the past four years, and it was never for observing. Instead, I go to an office building and download the data from a supercomputer.

darth141263 karma

So you don't star gaze (just to chill and enjoying and appreciating the view) in your free time ? If you do, what do you use instead?

Andromeda321135 karma

I like chilling and enjoying the view for sure! But I also live in a rather light polluted city in a very light polluted country I'm afraid. :(

Bossman108619 karma

Do you own a personal telescope?

Andromeda32146 karma

I did as a teenager- a nice 8". These days I don't because my apartment isn't big enough, and I live in a city in the Netherlands which is not very good for stargazing.

Smartnership84 karma

When creating a map of the large scale structure of the universe, how do you account for the more distant objects having moved during the time it took for the light to reach us? (in comparison to the more foreground objects)

In other words, can a 'snapshot' of the currently observed large scale structure be accurate?

Andromeda321182 karma

Hah, I know people in the public don't agree with this often, but in astronomy we really don't care about where things are now, or that stars we see might be burned out now, compared to our observations in the past of them. Why? Well there's absolutely nothing you can do to get a current observation so our observations are as current as any information can be. Further, we are more interested in "big picture" questions like "how do galaxies evolve?" so what a specific galaxy is doing now doesn't matter as much as what the population does.

Does that make sense?

But yeah, snapshots like this won't try to update to the modern day for this reason.

shaggorama75 karma

What's the last thing you licked?

Andromeda321116 karma

A cappuccino spoon.

Bossman108662 karma

If you could only talk about one topic of your field to try and get someone interested in astronomy, what would it be?

Andromeda32179 karma

I think what I do, transient radio astronomy, is amazing because we really don't know yet what things go bump in the night so to speak. I have discussed Fast Radio Bursts a bit in this AMA elsewhere, a new exotic signal, but we also have weird things like the Wow! signal and the Great Galactic Burper and a myriad of other things we only saw once and never saw again.

I think because astronomy is at its core a field where we ponder "what's out there?", the fact that we can still say "we don't know" to so many things is exciting!

Your_Jaws_My_Balls58 karma

You are like a real life Dr. Ellie Arroway from Contact. I see you posting all the time and your posts are always informative. Thank you for that and for this AMA. I am 36 years old and my question is, what significant celestial event(s) do I have a chance of experiencing during the remainder of my lifetime?

Andromeda32175 karma

Thanks! :)

I am really looking forward to the total solar eclipse in August 2017 that will go coast to coast in the USA. Namely because when I was a kid getting interested in the subject around 1999 I was despairing that I would likely not see a total solar eclipse until then, as I'd be so old!

Yeah, about that 13 year old me...

DeathisLaughing58 karma

Hi, your comment about the theory of the universe being a false vaccume is one of my favorite posts about vague existential horror on reddit...what is a theory from another field that you find completely horrifying?

Andromeda32169 karma

I find the odds of humanity undergoing another epidemic like the 1918 influenza epidemic pretty realistic, and pretty horrifying.

celeryburger256 karma

How much actual math is involved? astronomy was something I considered when going to college but I struggle in math in opted out.

Andromeda32192 karma

I was required to go as far as multivariable calculus and differential equations. So I'd say a lot.

lasvegas51s42 karma

Do you think any college student could be sufficient in multivariable calculus with enough work? Or do you think that one has to be mathematically inclined in the first place to understand that level of math?

I'm in the same boat as /u/celeryburger2, super interested in astronomy, but kind of struggling with calculus as it is.

Andromeda32159 karma

I was never really good either, too many mistakes in the algebra! I pulled solid Bs in my math classes.

You basically don't have to be the best ever, but do be prepared to have to put in more work than people more naturally inclined to do it well.

Malgio36 karma

This one is a bit long, but I'm really interested in your answer =):

Do you believe it is detrimental to the field that mathematics seems to be something people have to "pull through" instead of obtain a deep understanding? On one hand, pretty pictures of space make more people interested in the field, but I believe that it is also harmful in that it creates a shallow interest that breaks apart at the first sign of hard work.

I remember in my BS (Astrophysics) that a lot of my classmates claimed to be passionate about science, but it seemed like they just like looking at stars and avoided math (which is our most important tool imo) at all costs. (Most of them either took years to get their BS or could not get into grad school)

Andromeda32163 karma

I really don't see how one can be seriously studying astronomy without understanding the underlying physics, and in turn how you would do physics without math.

That said, just because people don't know the calculations behind what goes into a building doesn't mean they can't admire the final architecture.

astroFizzics52 karma

High-five fellow astro-PhD grad! Every grad's favorite question:

When are you going to graduate?

Andromeda32152 karma

Hahahaha wellllllll, my funding runs out in August so I hope to submit by then. At my university though you are required to then twiddle your thumbs for 14 weeks after you submit before your defense (during which you cannot edit the manuscript). So I'll have the PhD in hand by the end of 2016 I hope!

phedre35 karma

In your opinion, what's the most exciting recent discovery that's been made in astronomy?

Andromeda32178 karma

There are these newly discovered things in the sky called Fast Radio Bursts. They only last for about a millisecond, are one of the brightest things in the sky when on, and appear to originate from beyond the galaxy. No one predicted them, and no one has a clue what could be creating them.

It's very exciting for the field, and has potential to be the biggest thing since the discovery of pulsars!

baal_zebub17 karma

Follow up question, you say no one has a clue what they are, but do you have any inkling / feeling / vague guess to that end?

Andromeda32135 karma

The issue is right now there are like a dozen FRBs in the literature. With such few numbers there are basically more theories than bursts. People have suggested flare stars, magnetars, neutron stars colliding, black hole jets... all sorts of things really!

ubspirit3 karma

Could fast radio bursts be an attempt by an alien species to communicate?

Andromeda3214 karma

Maybe. But they come from all directions, not just one spot.

siouxsie_siouxv234 karma

How do you feel about the state of public education when it comes to science?

Andromeda321130 karma

It would be good if people focused not just on science per se, but also on critical thinking skills. Science if it's done by rote memorization is not the most useful thing. Teaching people to think in a methodical way and how to weigh evidence, on the other hand, is the best gift science classes can give, and it can apply to many things in your life from the latest climate change report to this new investment your cousin wants you to get in on.

lilcheap234 karma

I'm a Capricorn, will I find love this year?

Andromeda321130 karma

Dwengo30 karma

Just how feasible is Armageddon?

Andromeda321121 karma

I played a drinking game once where we watched that movie and had to drink at each scientific inaccuracy. Let's just say I don't remember much beyond a guy stumbling around without a spacesuit on an asteroid with fire all around him.

Silent_Sky30 karma

Hey Andromeda!

Back in college when I first learned how radio telescopes work, I've had a thought in the back of my head you might be able to address.

Let's assume we have plenty of funding and the tech to establish a long term lunar base. Would it be useful for us to clear out (remove boulders and debris) a properly shaped crater on the lunar far side and adapt it for use as a radio telescope, a lá Arecibo? I realize it wouldn't be able to change direction (unless moving the subreflector gives you some wiggle room) but even so, would such a thing be useful for radio astronomy?

It'd be difficult, but we'd end up with a colossal telescope bigger than anything we can build that would be insulated from earth's radio chatter by thousands of miles of rock. Is such a project even worth the effort? This is something I've always wondered. Thanks for doing the AMA!

Andromeda32144 karma

Actually, there are feasibility studies involving building radio telescopes on the far side of the moon because you're right, it would be insulated. As you can imagine, cost is the main issue! But ultimately after the SKA is built that is going to likely be the next thing we have to do in radio astronomy to get deeper signals.

DrGhostfire27 karma

Perhaps a common question (sorry if so), but you obviously share similarities with unidan, as you are famous on reddit for sharing infomation, have you ever (like unidan) had any offers from companies, people or even job offers based off of your reddit knowledge spreading?

Andromeda32148 karma

I did once get a pitch accepted by my editor at Discover for an idea that I basically said "so this did really well on Reddit..."

Beyond that though, no, I haven't.

spacebear34625 karma

Why is radio astronomy cooler than xray astronomy?

Andromeda32141 karma

Because X-Ray astronomy requires expensive space satellites in order to do- luckily for us X-Rays don't penetrate the atmosphere.

On the other hand, radio waves come straight through better than any other kind of signal, in what is called the radio window.

46Romeo23 karma

What is the most beautiful image you've seen from Hubble?

Andromeda32152 karma

The Tadpole Galaxy

It might sound strange but it's not so much the galaxy I love so much as all the galaxies behind it.

halinttd23 karma

Can you fast-track me on the next shuttle to mars/other planets we are visiting? I'll literally do anything.

Andromeda32150 karma

NASA is doing a call for its next astronaut class, applications open in December and close in February. Sorry though I can't fast track you, I'm probably applying myself. ;-)

tiga4life2222 karma

What movie do you believe is fairly accurate regarding astronomy?

Andromeda32180 karma

Interstellar was actually remarkably accurate- they even published a scientific paper out of some of the simulations!

I will also always have a soft spot in my heart for Contact.

ghosttrainhobo6 karma

Do wormholes exist? Have we ever detected a white hole?

Andromeda32115 karma

We don't know, and no.

CaptainFairchild21 karma

What were the circumstances around you being punched by a wild mountain gorilla?

Andromeda32139 karma

I was in Uganda and there was a gorilla in the herd we were visiting who was a teenage male. Teenage males of many species have a game called "I punch you, you punch me back."

It was a test punch to see if I wanted to play so didn't really hurt though!

pottertown11 karma

Did you think about punching back?

Andromeda32137 karma

The guards dragged me away before I could.

PoolSiide20 karma

How long do you think it will be until we are able to observe the Oort Cloud? If the asteroid belt was prevented form forming into a planet because of Jupiter, then what held back the Oort Cloud?

Andromeda32123 karma

IRC, the current idea behind the Oort cloud is not that the stuff in it formed there, but rather it's made up of stuff that formed further in and got ejected during the early days of the solar system. Observing stuff out there is going to take a looooong time for us to get to, but luckily we have lots of comets that come in from there that we can observe! (Astronomers also get really excited whenever a comet from the Oort cloud comes in for the first time- yes, we can usually tell thanks to its orbital dynamics.)

PoolSiide9 karma

Thanks! Follow up question: Would the radiation on Europa and Enceladus prevent life from forming there, even with Europa's hydrothermal vents?

Andromeda32123 karma

I'd never say never. There is bacterial life inside nuclear reactors on Earth, for example.

dsobz18 karma

Hello there! Thanks for this AMA. Would you happen to be able to give you opinion on that "alien mega structure theory" up to date?

Andromeda32125 karma

I think it's fun to think about, but there are more likely natural forces at play.

I should also mention though, I worked at SETI back in the day during a summer internship, and I've heard that they just spent two weeks looking at the system with the Allen Telescope Array. No signal. :(

dsobz11 karma

Dang :( There are also theories of light escaping a black hole? How the hell is that possible? This is interesting, and thank you again for your input.

Andromeda32118 karma

It's not light escaping the black hole, but rather stuff happening as material goes in and interacts with the black hole before passing the event horizon.

crazyasash14 karma

what's the weirdest question you've been asked about your job?

Andromeda32162 karma

If I believe in relativity. I find that really weird because a. physics doesn't give a crap if I believe in it or not, and b. relativity has plenty of proof behind it. For example, the GPS satellite system would no longer work after just a half hour if we didn't account for relativity!

SkylerPC14 karma

My sister has a great passion for space.

What would you say to the newer generation to make them pursue a career in astronomy ? What do you love most about your work?

Andromeda32120 karma

Be ready to study a lot of math and physics, and to work hard, and in exchange you can be paid to study stars all day!

I love that when things work, wow, it is so neat to know things about the universe no one else does. And my colleagues are awesome.

Sinatra9414 karma

Hello! Do you or any colleagues/friends play Kerbal Space Program? If so, what do you enjoy most from the game?

Andromeda32115 karma

I have a lot of friends who play it (I spent an observing run once looking over a colleague's shoulder while he tried to do a Mars mission), but I don't myself sorry!

nepalirex13 karma

How did you become interested on astronomy?

Andromeda32157 karma

I had a really long school bus ride as a kid (like, an hour each direction long) and spent most of the time reading. For reasons I'm not certain of, when I was 13 I picked up a book on astronomy from the library for the ride home. By the time I finished that book I knew I wanted to be an astronomer. :)

alanjnr13 karma

If you could go anywhere in the world to watch the sky without a telescope where would it be?

Andromeda32128 karma

A few years ago, I was lucky enough to go observing on La Palma in the Canary Islands. Even without a telescope, the sunsets and dark skies there were incredible!

Frankly, watching the sunset there was the sort of thing that made you think if this really is all there is, well, I'm pretty ok with that.

Flight71410 karma

I'm thinking of picking up a lotto ticket on the way home from work: What numbers should I choose?

Andromeda32164 karma

4, 8, 15, 16, 23 and 42.

GodsKnight710 karma

As someone who's just began to fall in love with astronomy and the likes, I'm considering on pursuing a career in astronomy. Mostly the kind where I can observe distant things in space and learn about them. Any tips or advice I should know?

Andromeda32113 karma

Be prepared on doing a lot of math and physics in college. Read this post for more details.

GriffsWorkComputer10 karma

I live in NYC, lots of light pollution. besides going to the planetarium there really isn't a way to view the night sky is there?

Andromeda32120 karma

A little telescope would still give you jaw-dropping views of the moon and planets. Beyond that though, yes, I'm afraid there aren't many stars to see. This dark sky map might help you figure out how far out to go to see some really cool dark skies though!

Beyond that, I'm sure there's an awesome amateur astronomy club in NYC that organizes events. Google would know!

suaveitguy9 karma

Are there microscopic equivalents of black holes or other enormous space-based phenomena?

Andromeda32120 karma

Actually, astronomers have looked in the past for tiny black holes, as they would have some predictable signatures! But have turned up empty handed, so if they exist they are really rare.

built_for_sin8 karma

What is your favorite "End of the universe scenario?" Mine is the Big crunch. I love the thought that the universe could in theory be in a never ending cycle of life, death, and rebirth.

Andromeda32111 karma

I'm writing an article on this for Discover actually that will be out sometime next summer! I'm sorry to tell you though that the Big Crunch is not a very likely scenario these days because dark energy shows the universe's acceleration is expanding.

I think a false vacuum is an interesting theory.

underthew00d8 karma

I am just finishing my PhD in theoretical molecular spectroscopy. I am still a bit unsure of where to go next as the thesis has really taken its toll on me!

However, I have always been interested in outreach; I've done a few presentations for school children. I was wondering how you got into the journalism side of things?

Andromeda32110 karma

I just started sending pitches to magazines- easy as that! Eventually they said yes. :) (I should note that I wrote a lot of other stuff before getting paid to write, so I had great clips on hand and the like.)

I will say regarding outreach, my sister is actually really involved in it and her advice is it's not enough these days to just have a PhD and be interested in outreach to get a proper job in outreach. So do stuff like keep a blog on interesting science topics, or go to schools to give talks on astronomy, things like that.

Good luck!

bonzo147 karma

Why is searching the sky with radio such a prevalent method? What other methods should we be on the lookout for?

Andromeda32121 karma

It's prevalent because radio signals are a great way to send information with low energy a great distance. There's hardly any energy in radio waves because of their super long wavelength- one common example is the act of you unfolding a piece of paper will have more energy in it than all the radio signals we've ever received in radio astronomy!

That said, Optical SETI is a thing, ie people who think aliens would send us signals via lasers and are looking for those.

DeepDiamond7 karma

Can you suggest me some cool smartphone apps about astronomy?

Andromeda32110 karma

I really like Sputnik! (on iPhone). Tells you when the next ISS passes and Iridium flares (bright satellite flashes) are going to happen at your location.

jimmy1god06 karma

Weinberg, Filippenko, or Kaku?

Andromeda3219 karma

I have a neutral opinion on all three to be honest.

wmyttimft6 karma

How many languages do you know? You're Hungarian-American, so I would assume at least two, but you live in The Netherlands, where the average person knows like over 4.

Andromeda32113 karma

I am fluent in English and Hungarian. Beyond that, I'm not really good at languages I'm afraid- I took Latin in school, and know a decent smattering of Dutch.

Thank goodness I learned English natively is all I can say, all my other languages are not super useful.

Weshalljoinourhouses5 karma

What inspired you to become an Astronomer?

What is your favorite science fiction movie and/or book?

Andromeda32111 karma

A book I read when I was 13. Also, Comet Hyukatake when it came around- I was 10 years old then.

So hard to pick a favorite, but I think Contact wins in both categories. :)

ronysgames5 karma

Hey, I'm really interested in astronomy but not so good at math. Do you need to be good at math to study astronomy?

Andromeda3216 karma

I wasn't the best mathematician- I got straight Bs in math in college- but you do have to be willing to put in a lot of work if you're like me and not the best at it.

suaveitguy3 karma

Assuming it was possible etc... what would the impact on our ecosystem be if someone brought resources from space to earth on an industrial scale? e.g. We bring 50,000,000,000 litres of fresh water to earth or 75,000,000 kg of gold.

Andromeda3217 karma

Gold would be devalued. I think no one would really complain about more freshwater.

chrismilk3 karma

Which sky objects are the most amazing when viewed with an ametuer telescopes?

Andromeda3214 karma

Saturn or Jupiter. Depends on the tilt of Saturn's rings, which changes over time, and how many of Jupiter's moons are visible.

Mind, both are really awesome.

Cho-Chang3 karma


I had a question about us passing through our local ISM. I have read of an upcoming satellite that aims to capture actual particles in space. Given the spacing and randomness of dust in space, what kind of information can we hope to infer from what we capture?

Andromeda3216 karma

Ah, cool project! Basically it would be interesting because the conditions that our solar system formed in are likely not the conditions everywhere else in the universe (as our particular long-ago nebula was likely different than another patch). So if you're interested in stuff like formation, such information would be very valuable.

bransull3 karma

As an astronomer who see's and attempts to understand the vastness of the universe, do you believe in a Creator?

Andromeda32113 karma


fezzedfoofeeziks2 karma

Hello! Undergraduate Physics student from Australia here, looking to specialise in Astrophysics eventually. I'm interested to know if working in the astronomy/astrophysics industry can potentially take me to places around the world? I'd love to travel, and if I could do that with a job of sorts that would be ideal.

Andromeda3213 karma

Haha yes, we travel a lot for both observing and conferences. Also doing a postdoc, where you go live somewhere for a few years to do research, is pretty much required and a great excuse for moving abroad for a few years.

Good luck!

littleostrich2 karma

Hi there! I'm a high school student graduating this spring. I've also been interested in astronomy from a young age, ever since i borrowed an astronomy book from the library in 2nd grade. As college comes near I've been thinking about going into the astrophysics field. I have a couple of questions.

1)Would you happen to know the differences between astronomers and astrophysicists in terms of job difficulty and the path it gets there?

2) I'm just beginning to get into programming. Would you say there is a lot of programming involved?

3) What undergraduate major(s) would you suggest? Would you suggest to major in astronomy if a school offers it or just stick with physics?

4) My grades aren't the best because of some difficulties I've faced throughout the years. However, I would still consider myself to be smart and quick to conceptualize (not to be vain), but I have trouble getting to the work and practice sometimes. I guess I love learning but have trouble with the tedious work. Do you think this path is still a good choice for me?

Andromeda3213 karma

1) There's no real difference between the two.

2) Yes!

3) Physics, astronomy, or maybe engineering or mathematics.

4) I didn't have the best grades either, but it's possible to succeed if you are willing to work hard in spite of that. But it's not the easiest route.

I also wrote this post which has a lot more info on this topic- good luck!

Weshalljoinourhouses2 karma

Is there any way a nuclear explosion could occur on an exoplanet that isn't caused by life?

Andromeda3215 karma

suaveitguy1 karma

What has the fallout been on the Australian telescope that investigated the mysterious emissions of their microwave for twenty years? That had to have been embarassing at best. Did they lose funding/credibility?

Andromeda3214 karma

They did not study their microwave for 20 years! This was a seriously mangled story in the media!!!

Basically, we have these new things called Fast Radio Bursts in astronomy, first discovered in 2007 or so. At this stage people think they are probably real astronomical sources as multiple telescopes have seen them, but for awhile Parkes in Australia was the only one that did. And Parkes also saw a signal that was pretty FRB-like but was slightly different, dubbed perytons. Basically a radio telescope has multiple beams it observes with at a time, and real FRBs were only showing up in one beam, but these perytons were similar but seen in all telescope beams. This told astronomers that perytons were local sources, and the concern at the time was that FRBs were just generated further away, perhaps in thunderstorms.

Anyway, science progressed as it does, and a colleague of mine actually figured out that the peryton signals were ultimately from the microwave. She also found new signatures from perytons that FRBs do not display at higher frequencies (and checked to confirm that they're using different microwaves at the other radio telescopes). It's how science works!

I hope that helps clarify this issue!

ceraith1 karma

Hi there! Just wanna say thanks for putting your time into this AMA. My question is what made you decide between being an astronomer and not an astrophysicist? I'm an aspiring astrophysicist and sometimes I hear people saying that there is no big difference since both use physics.

Andromeda3211 karma

I would agree, there's no real difference. My background before this (ie BSc/MSc) was from a physics department, and I'm now obviously in an astronomy one.

rotiroti1 karma

When did you first decide that you wanted to be an astronomer, were you always interested in astronomy or was it something you discovered later in your education?

Andromeda3212 karma

I wanted to be an astronomer since I was 13 and read a book about it. I'm lucky that I found my passion in life really early, even if it was a pretty uncool passion to have as a teenage girl. :)

LapineDeity1 karma

I think I read somewhere that Andromeda will collide with the Milky way. 1.What'll happen when it does? 2.Out of curiosity, what're the scientific names of the milky way and and Andromeda as I've only heard those names. 3. I've heard our photos of the milky way aren't actually the milky way. What galaxy is it if it's not our own?

Andromeda3214 karma

1) The collision will occur in about 4 billion years. Mark your calendar!

2) The Milky Way and Andromeda (though sometimes Andromeda is also called M31). It's like how Earth is just called Earth.

3) The pictures of our galaxy when you're seeing the full galaxy, ie not just the strip of stars across the sky kind of thing, is usually Andromeda. It's believed the two galaxies are about the same size.

jaxon123451 karma

Do you have an "office" and do you even do productive things daily?

Andromeda3211 karma

Of course I have an office! A desk, even! (I share the office room with three other people.) I do science things every day, yes- today I had a meeting with my advisor, made a plot for a conference I'm going to in a few weeks, and discussed a bit of theory with a colleague. And drank a lot of coffee, that's important.