My short bio:

Astronomer here! Many of you know me from around Reddit, where I show up in various posts to share various bits of astronomical knowledge, from why you should care that we discovered two neutron stars merging to how the universe could end any moment in a false vacuum. Discussing astronomy is a passion of mine, and I feel fortunate to have found such an awesome outlet in Reddit to do so!

In the real world, I am an astronomer at the Dunlap Institute for Astronomy & Astrophysics, University of Toronto, Canada, where I am conducting my PhD research. I spend my days looking at radio signals from outer space- in particular, ones that vary over time, like when a star explodes in a supernova explosion or when a star gets eaten by a black hole. I've also written a smattering of freelance magazine articles for magazines, like Astronomy, Discover, and Scientific American. My personal subreddit is here, and my website is here.

Finally, if you are in the Toronto area, I am giving a public lecture this Friday you may be interested in! I am one of three speakers at Astronomy on Tap Toronto, where three astronomers give TED-style talks on different astronomical topics (plus we have some games, share astro news, and there's a cash bar in the back). It's a very fun event with no prior astronomy knowledge assumed- as a teaser, my talk will be on what would happen if we saw a supernova go off in our galaxy whose light reached us tonight! If you aren't from around here, go to this site to see if there is a Tap near you.

Ok, ask away! :)

My Proof:

My Twitter

Edit: I have tried to answer everyone's questions who posted so far, and intend to keep responding to all the ones I get in the future until this thread is locked. So please still ask your question and I will get back to you!

Comments: 1455 • Responses: 107  • Date: 

darrenmick514 karma

I have an 8 year old daughter who is fascinated with everything space related, I encourage her in anything that keeps her curious and I suspect that a telescope may be under the Christmas tree this year.

What should I look for? Reflector vs. refractor, dimensions, focal length, etc?

Andromeda321842 karma

I think the type doesn't matter as much as having a good, solid mount that won't wobble the second you accidentally touch something, like most "for kids" telescopes unfortunately do. So frustrating!

I always recommend people who buy a telescope also get a copy of Turn Left at Orion. It's a great book to tell you how to find stuff in the sky with a small telescope, including pictures of what things will actually look like!

datlock48 karma

In your travels, have there been any places (in Europe if at all possible) that you'd recommend visiting for stargazing? I'd absolutely love to buy a telescope (and that book!) but live in a very densely packed, light polluted country and will never get the chance to see much of anything here.

Alternatively, do you have any tips to bring down a power grid in a couple hundred km radius?

Andromeda32169 karma

Do the Canary Islands count as part of Europe? I observed at the top of La Palma once and that was AMAZING!

SuaveWarlock166 karma

How can I prove we live on a flat Earth?

Andromeda321444 karma

Go find the edge!

xbnm118 karma

Does your experience as a woman in astronomy differ from that of men? In what ways (if any) has your gender affected how you’re treated by colleagues?

Andromeda321272 karma

It does, unfortunately. I was harassed when I was in undergrad by a professor still prominent in the field, and I have had judgements about my work made by men based on my appearance and demeanor.

Unfortunately I'm not at a point in my career where I can share details, just take notes for my book someday. Thanks for understanding! :)

ChimpVision22 karma

As a man I don’t understand why women get discriminated. I’ve met many women smarter than me and never would I think “aww she doesn’t know what she’s talking about cause she’s a girl.” Even in a peer level I would assume your knowledge would be equivalent to the efforts you put in. Maybe it’s an old way of thinking that will die off.

Andromeda32173 karma

It's rarely an "I'm gonna be an asshole" type thing by an evil villain. Rather it's usually this sort of thing.

Plus there are just asshole men who like to assault and harass women, in all segments of society.

wil_daven_115 karma

Thanks for answering some questions, today! I have a few regarding our nearest neighbor, the Proxima system

What are your thoughts on Dr. Hawking's Starshot Project?

Assuming they succeed in sending a flock of microships to Proxima, what kind of information would you expect and/or like to see returned?

If, as presumed, it turns out Proxima b is tidally locked, what challenges would that eventually present whenever humans try to visit?

Andromeda321142 karma

I think the biggest issue in the starshot project is probably not getting there, but getting any sort of signal back to Earth! We could probably not even detect our normal radio broadcasts from that distance, so how are you going to tell it from a nano bot thingy?! more info here on this problem

wil_daven_28 karma

Interesting, thank you! I'll be sure to read through that...

Follow up:

Since their plan involves sending multiple craft, would it be possible for them to create a 'network' of sorts (i.e. wirelessly tie them together), to boost the signal? Or would they not have enough payload in order to do something like that?

Andromeda32145 karma

I confess I haven't followed the engineering plans enough to give a real answer to this one, sorry! I mean, the real question is surface area and power, so the former could be addressed via interferometry between the little bits. I'm still not sure about how a nano whatever would generate enough power.

potofus107 karma

Hello, i am noob but fascinated by astronomy. What is the outcome of the observation of the collision of neutron stars? Is it completing any major incomplete fundamental theory ? Completing our understanding of the universe? of its creation ?

Also quickely checked the proof .... Really ? punched by wild mountain gorilla ? Care to tell the tale ?

Andromeda321138 karma

Which observation? :)

What I study lately is a star that exploded whose light reached us 30 years ago, called Supernova (SN) 1987A. It's a really interesting because even though it's 170,000 light years away from us, in a satellite galaxy of our Milky Way, it's the closest supernova to us since the invention of the telescope! They are that rare!

My research involves making radio images of this supernova over time- here's a simple gif. This is the best detail we can get of how such an exploding star interacts with its surrounding system, and no one's looked at the radio data I'm going to publish since 2013, and lots of cool stuff has been happening lately!

As for the gorilla, I was trekking in Uganda to see the gorillas some years ago, and there was a teenage male in the troop we were going to see named Punchy in the local language. Because he had this game of "I punch you, you punch me back" familiar to teenage males of many species. Luckily it was just a "test punch" so didn't hurt, the rangers dragging you back hurt far more!

potofus37 karma

Sry i edited my question. I was talking about the 2 neutron stars colliding

Andromeda32146 karma

Ah, ok! I did a pretty long writeup here about just this! Check it out and give a shout if something doesn't make sense. :)

graaahh13 karma

Is the supernova in that gif being gravitationally lensed?

Andromeda32121 karma

No, the shockwave is destroying a ring of gas that was around the star before it exploded! :)

graaahh14 karma

That's so cool! Is it gas that was in an accretion disk around the star, or gas that was expelled shortly before its explosion?

Andromeda32120 karma

We think it was gas that was expelled tens of thousands of years before the star died, perhaps when two stars merged. :)

jigga1978 karma

Which would you rather discover, 100 comet-sized Jupiters, or a Jupiter-sized comet?

Andromeda32196 karma

Ooooh, I'm actually spending way too much time thinking about this one because both would be really interesting! Probably 100 comet-sized Jupiters because that would drive my planetary evolution friends mad!

jigga1914 karma

Follow up, as I had little to think about on my walk home from class: if you were to compress the size AND mass of Jupiter down to the size of an average comet, what would be the result?

Andromeda32142 karma

Probably a miniature star because that pressure would be enough to get fusion going.

sluuuurp5 karma

If you compressed the size and mass, wouldn't it have the same density as Jupiter, which is not pressurized enough to get fusion going?

Andromeda32118 karma

No because we're compressing a ton of mass into a small size was how I read it.

xbnm72 karma

How did you decide on astronomy instead of some other branch of physics?

Andromeda321116 karma

Honestly, I've always been mainly interested in astronomy, and then learned you need to know physics to do astronomy (I have a BSc and MSc in physics, actually, not astro). So I confess I never really was interested in particle physics or solid state or anything else.

As to why astronomy, the answer is I had a long bus ride as a kid to school so spent the time reading, and one day picked up a book on astronomy in the library when I was 13. By the time I was done with that book, I knew I wanted to be an astronomer, and haven't wavered in that since!

maschnitz6 karma

Gotta ask: which book? Sounds like a good one.

Andromeda32116 karma

Out of print and probably not the best resource today with current knowledge (like, exoplanets didn't exist yet!). I did post a book list on my subreddit that may interest you though.

ravenHR1 karma

You have no curiosity whatsoever about those parts of our universe?

Andromeda3214 karma

I do, but I only have one lifetime I'm afraid. :(

I confess also if I wasn't going to be an astronomer, I think I'd be a geologist. So, there's that.

Astromachine69 karma

Whats your favorite space themed SciFi show?

Andromeda321205 karma

Futurama.

nowyouseemenowyoudo252 karma

If you could smell any object in space, what would it be?

Andromeda321212 karma

There are giant clouds of alcohol floating in space that contain enough alcohol in them to take care of everyone's alcoholic needs on Earth... for the age of the solar system. It turns out at least one of the alcoholic clouds out there has the same stuff in it that makes raspberries taste like raspberries, and smells like rum. So space booze is delicious and smells good!

oopsimdrunk9 karma

My question is how do we know this? Are we getting all of this info from just the color of it or what? I'm not educated in the field, but I'm pretty sure we don't have a space bartender out there tasting these things for us.

Andromeda32124 karma

Basically what we do is take a spectrum of the cloud (so yes, its light) and see what lines are missing in the light at certain wavelengths. Think of it the rainbow you get from a prism, but way more detailed. Clusters of missing lines correspond with an element or molecule where the electrons took exactly that amount of energy to go to change levels in their orbit, and we can confirm these levels thanks to tests in chemistry labs on Earth.

So in the case of space booze, you would go and see these lines that correspond with what molecule smells like raspberries. TBH usually the real issue in a molecular cloud is actually distinguishing lines because you have so many of them!

Sonnescheint46 karma

Hi! Space is my favorite thing, and you're my favorite redditor because of the things you do.

My question is, what do you do in your spare time or days off?

Andromeda32150 karma

Firstly, I love to travel, even if it's just for a day trip- I have only lived in Canada since January, so there's been a ton of those to do. Last weekend I finally made the weekend trip to Ottawa, and was pleasantly surprised at how nice it was given how much Canadians knock it.

Beyond that, I am really into geocaching, cross stitch (here's one I made of Orion!), reading, downhill skiing, and trying new beers. I also am one of those people who bikes everywhere, but more because I lived in the Netherlands for several years than being one of those bike people.

Yes_Indeed11 karma

Favorite beer in Toronto?

Andromeda32125 karma

Steamwhistle is probably my default "nice pilsner" kind of beer- fun beer tour too! :)

joshuar94767 karma

Hello fellow goecacher from a one in Indiana! There used to be a great series caches in Bloomington, IN. The dome on the courthouse is the "sun" and each planet is its own cache. It is a 1:133,700,000 scale model of the solar system. Neptune (GC31N1v) is still active as are a few others. It's very informative and a great way to teach the scale of it all (Neptune is 20.7 miles away from the "sun").

Andromeda3214 karma

Cool! I remember I was looking once at an observatory in Australia and they had a similar system there (and there's one across the state of Georgia). Always though it would be super fun to do a series like that.

orangegluon44 karma

I've seen you comment a lot on a few different subreddits answering physics and astronomy questions, misconceptions, etc. How do you feel your involvement in online forums is a part of your job as an astronomer, if it's any part at all?

Andromeda321111 karma

Oh, it's not at all- this is just a hobby/ thing to do during my lunch break! I did submit an abstract though to a communicating astronomy conference next spring though about Reddit, so fingers crossed it gets accepted.

I did once go to a conference (on my research topic) where another grad student said "are you Andromeda321? I've been looking forward to meeting you for weeks!" That was a little weird.

Foil76741 karma

Omg I'm early to an AMA that I'm actually interested in!

As a freshman in high school, I've always been interested in astronomy. I am planning on asking around the high school to see if there is a class on astronomy, but where would I start trying to learn about this subject?

Andromeda32136 karma

I wrote a book list here that might interest you!

Beyond that, it's very likely that your area has an amateur astronomy club, and that club likely has open star parties as well as monthly lectures for members and things like that. Check Google!

brijjen39 karma

What are ways for people who are bad at math to develop a deeper understanding of astronomy? Who are authors you would recommend for the interested, educated layperson?

Andromeda32144 karma

I wrote a book list once here that might interest you!

I confess though I don't spend much spare time reading astronomy books, because after working on it all day it's not what I'm interested in reading. So other Redditors may well have better suggestions than those on my list.

jeihkeih38 karma

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

Andromeda32155 karma

I do! My mom bought me some for Christmas this past year, because she is awesome.

CthulhuHasRisen26 karma

If I may ask only a semi serious question: what does sci-fi/science fantasy almost always seem to get wrong about Astronomy? What do they usualy get right that is surprising?

Andromeda32149 karma

There is no sound in space. I of course know why they do it- Star Wars space battles would be really boring without sound- but that's probably the most common thing you'll see.

I've noticed lately often the visuals of an explosion or black hole or whatever are pretty fantastic and on the level with what we expect- a great use of applying astronomical theories! ;-)

FrostSurge24 karma

Hi, I've been a big fan of your posts, thanks for sharing so much fascinating informations about space! I've never been more excited on reddit than to see an "Astronomer here!".

Although it's completely impossible to predict, but perhaps from your beliefs, do you think we will ever discover other signs of life in the universe in our lifetime?

Andromeda32143 karma

Signs of life? Yes!

Mind, I don't think it will be in the form of radio signals, or flying saucers, or anything Hollywood has led you to believe. Instead, exoplanet research these days is amazing- we can actually detect some elemental compositions of these planets now. Eventually, if someone detects free oxygen in large quantities in an atmosphere, that would be very hard to explain without life actively putting it there like plants do on Earth, because oxygen on its own rapidly oxidizes within a few thousand years.

I suspect though this process will be a bit like finding water on Mars, where first you find some evidence, but lots of caveats, then a bit more, until today pretty much everyone agrees there was water on Mars (and it's probably still there in some form). That's how the real scientific process tends to go, so I imagine life on other planets will be the same.

nypvtt17 karma

Is their anything special about the WOW signal?

Andromeda32125 karma

Not as much as Reddit thinks it was. It was honestly probably just what's called Radio Frequency Interference (RFI), which is a fancy way of saying "manmade signals."

nypvtt12 karma

All the media hoopla over that signal and it's nothing more than RFI caused by I Love Lucy reruns. I'm kind of disappointed.

Andromeda32117 karma

The media is unfortunately really good at picking up anything Wow! signal related without really doing much follow-up. For example, there was some buzz about how comets caused the signal a few months ago- I wrote a rant here about why it was completely bogus.

marculiu15 karma

[deleted]

Andromeda32135 karma

No, but I have my eye on you, Milky Way...

javapivo4 karma

What name would you give to our beloved galaxy?

Andromeda3215 karma

I think Milky Way is a pretty good name actually. Is that boring?

DanielXD44447 karma

Why not Twix or Bounty, if you are naming it after candybars?

Andromeda32115 karma

Copyright infringement.

preggit14 karma

With the JWST launch expected in 2019, when will we expect to observe anything new that previous space telescopes were incapable of seeing? What are some potential discoveries that the JWST could facilitate?

Andromeda32123 karma

So many things! JWST is hopefully going to be able to see the first stars, see how the first galaxies form, and even do unprecedented work in extrasolar planets. You can read more about the science goals here.

We will probably also find a few things we just plain weren't expecting, based on how Hubble turned out.

1118151413 karma

I think I remember you talked about maybe putting out a book at one point. Is that something you're still considering? Anything in the works?

Andromeda32130 karma

I would still love to do it (have a book proposal pretty well done!), but unfortunately this PhD has taken longer than I was planning. :( But I guess my thesis will arguably be my first book.

I will however have the cover story for the February 2018 issue of Astronomy, which will come out late December. Keep an eye out!

SherrickM13 karma

I have two girls who are young school age and they both love space. What are some things I can do to encourage their leaning process and love of space? We have a great science center locally which we visit often, and they have books and some TV they watch in that regard. My oldest is a voracious learner in second grade and needs some direction.

Andromeda32116 karma

Any chance of them getting a telescope for Christmas or whatever holiday? :)

kingofblades4212 karma

Hi there! I am an undergrad at UofT and I am considering becoming an astronomer. What is the most rewarding part about astronomy to you? What recent discovery in any field of astronomy is the most exciting for you and why?

Also, I would really like to hear about what happened with the mild mountain gorilla.

Andromeda32119 karma

Hi! :) UofT is a great place to be an astronomer! I personally like astronomy because I love stories, and astronomy is the biggest story I can think up. And there is nothing quite like the feeling where you know something about the universe no one else knows (though in my case this doesn't last long, I'm usually texting friends and family in excitement within moments).

Most exciting recent story has to be the LIGO neutron star merger. Which, by the way, has a UofT connection- the person who took the spectrum and discovered all the gold and rare elements created in that merger is a Dunlap fellow, and just accepted a faculty offer!

As for the wild mountain gorilla, I touched on that here.

Naranjas111 karma

Will space-based telescopes ever get to a level of precision where we can image exoplanets directly / see features of these planets?

Deletrious269 karma

How important is your birth sign?

Andromeda32142 karma

Not important whatsoever!

rosser87788 karma

Hello aspiring astronomer currently attending college for the subject. Space has always intrigued me since a young age. Any advice on how to get more involved in the astronomy scene? I read lots of articles and have tried to find groups for this sort of thing at the university I attend but it has been to no avail. Also what do you think about the trending theory on black holes possibly being gateways to 2D microverses.

Andromeda3218 karma

If you're an undergrad, definitely try and get into research! Look up REUs if you don't have any profs in your department who can offer research.

TheSaucedBoy7 karma

What mysteries about the cosmos do you wish/hope/think will be solved or better understood in your lifetime?

Thanks for taking the time to answer and do this AMA. You're my favorite redditor. Whenever a post starts with "Astronomer here!" I know I'm about to learn some dope space shit. Please never stop sharing.

Andromeda3218 karma

Aww, thanks! :)

Beyond life on other planets (aka the boring question), I would really love to see quantum mechanics and gravity reconciled because that would explain so much about the underpinnings of our universe! Unfortunately I think there's a very good chance that doesn't happen in my lifetime- Newton and Einstein were separated by a few hundred years, for example.

TheSaucedBoy2 karma

Wow thanks so much for answering! A follow up question to your response if you have the time.

Do we experience gaps in our understanding of cosmic scale mechanics the same way we do at the quantum level? Since quantum physics seem to differentiate or deviate from the laws of physics to some extent (or entirely in some cases), is the same true on a much larger scale? Are there observations of grand scale cosmic activity that are inconsistent with our current understanding and theories of astrophysics?

Andromeda3214 karma

You're thinking about this wrong- it's not that quantum mechanics physics is wrong (there's actually twice as much evidence that it's right than gravitational physics!) but rather that they are not reconciled. Like, there is a very basic kind of math that you use in one, but does not work in the other, and that's the issue behind it.

Dark energy is probably the best example of something we do not understand in astrophysics, because no one expected it and no one has a clue on what it may be yet.

probably-not-a-fox7 karma

Why should I care about astronomy?
I mean no disrespect, but most of astronomy has always felt like it doesn't matter to life. There are some amazing pictures, but it's not like we are likely to make it past the closest stars if even remotely close to that. Most sciences have obvious relevance to life because we are impacted by them, but I have never felt that with Astronomy. I know Neil DeGrasse Tyson uses dangerous asteroids as an example, but outside of that.

Andromeda32124 karma

Because you never know where crucial knowledge will come from. Radio astronomy research is what makes wifi possible, for example!

plinytheballer6 karma

Hey Andromeda! Love your subreddit and all you share with us. I don't have any great science questions up my sleeve, so:

Do you ever play around with amateur astronomy at all? I realize it doesn't have anything to do with real, professional astronomy but as a hobbyist I'm always interested if you folks ever dabble with backyard scopes at all.

And what are your top three beers?

Andromeda3219 karma

Whoa man, I'm kinda stuck on the beers thing right now. I am a big fan of anything out of Browerij t'IJ in Amsterdam (it's a brewery by a windmill! you can't lose!), especially the Natte and Zatte. To say an American one, I will usually order a Harpoon UFO when I'm in New England, and get crazy excited whenever I stumble across an Alaskan Amber.

As for amateur astronomy, I definitely did more when I was a teenager and had the lovely misconception that all astronomers know their constellations and can find stuff with telescopes. :) I will still volunteer once a month at the Toronto AstroTours where we get to play around with telescopes, but that's the extent of it right now!

plinytheballer3 karma

Unsolicited follow-up question then: Did you have/do you have a favourite observing target when you dabbled on the amateur side?

Andromeda32110 karma

Saturn. Those rings! <3

For deep sky objects, I really love the Ring Nebula.

Bohnanza6 karma

Hey, what's up?

Andromeda32113 karma

Not much, doing an AMA. You?

Scirocco-MRK15 karma

Does it just feel weird knowing that the signals you are receiving and analyzing happened so long ago?

Side question: Do you have insurance against Mike Tyson? :)

Andromeda3218 karma

I honestly don't know anyone in astronomy who thinks about things like this, as we tend to always just discuss events in our Earth reference frame. It would be impossibly confusing otherwise, and statistically it doesn't really matter anyway (for example, we saw that neutron star collision millions of light years away, but if one's happening every few years does it really matter which one you see?).

I don't really know what your second question's about, so guess the answer is no!

Qiousei5 karma

What is the space related event (large sense, could be astronomical or let's say a telescope starting to produce images, or satellite getting into orbit) that you are most excited for in the future?

Andromeda32111 karma

I am pretty psyched right now about a new radio telescope that just came online in Canada, called CHIME. It's hoping to address two fundamental mysteries in the universe, dark energy and Fast Radio Bursts!

Other than that, I saw the total solar eclipse last August and it was by far the coolest thing I've ever seen, so I'm really hoping to start seeing more of them ASAP. Chile 2019 FTW!

zryan35645 karma

Do we know anything more about planet 9? Second questions, is there any further evidence that helps us determine what might be going around star KIC 8462852 or tabby's causing the odd dimming? What do you personally think it is?

Andromeda3217 karma

Tabby's star is most likely a weird comet swarm I think is where the money is.

Re: planet nine, I went to a cool talk about it and posted the notes onto my sub from that. Read about it here!

Tucko295 karma

What's your favorite fact about the universe?

What are you the most excited about in the near future?

Andromeda32115 karma

In the near future, I'm signed up for this super sweet beer and history walking tour of Toronto this weekend. Or did you mean astronomical? ;-)

Soooo hard to choose a favorite fact. I'm gonna wimp out and say that I never feel scared about the universe and how big it is. Instead I just love the fact that we are small but a part of it all, and clearly a rare and special one because of all the places we've looked in the universe we're the only ones capable of staring back.

surZyx5 karma

So I have a friend who is a female going into physics for her major. She says she is super interested in astronomy, and I have recommend some youtube channels (Sixty Symbols, PBS Space Time) Do you have any other youtube channels to reccomend? I would be interested as well!

Andromeda3215 karma

I'm actually really terrible at YouTube videos because when I'm done with work I'm usually not wanting to unwind watching more astronomy stuff. :( But definitely delve into PBS Nova if you haven't yet!

I do have one lecture of mine on YouTube you may find interesting though, about my research. Dunno if you're interested in that.

DontPressAltF44 karma

What's a jackdaw?

Andromeda32110 karma

Dunno, I don't give a crap.

jskoker4 karma

So a few years ago I saw something I thought was a meteorite, but it was much lower and was on fire. It was fast and lasted a few seconds. It was bright but not light up the sky bright. More like a headlight in the distance. Would you know what it might have been? It also made an whooshing noise.

Andromeda32110 karma

It could have still been a meteor! (Meteorite= when they hit the ground) My experience is people tend to under-estimate the distance when one's closer to the horizon, and the atmosphere can do weird things if they enter at a low angle.

Unfortunately, I really can't say much more based on your description. Like, it could have also been some rocket reentry type thing, but that's more likely in certain parts of the world over others.

ImperfectlyCromulent3 karma

Who is your favorite sister, and why is it Linda?

Andromeda3215 karma

Dude, have you MET Linda?! How could you ask for a better sister?! :D

scansinboy3 karma

What astronomical events that have happened recently or will happen soon(ish, next 10 years or so) are truely "Once in a lifetime" events that we should try to witness?

Andromeda3213 karma

The total solar eclipse!!!! Coolest thing I've ever seen and everyone should make an attempt to see one in their lifetime for sure! :D

scansinboy2 karma

Fully agreed, but toal solar eclipses happen roughly once every year and a half somewhere on earth.

What I meant was what recent or near future event(s) will only happen (probably) once in our lifetime?

Andromeda3219 karma

Ah! Well I can't remember the details, but sometime in the 2020s there will be an asteroid that will fly so close to Earth you will see it with your naked eye streaking across the sky (from Europe/Africa, IRC). I'll probably get on a plane to see that because it sounds amazing.

Luk3ling3 karma

I've always been highly fascinated by space and everything in it but I never took it farther than the enjoyment I get from gathering miscellaneous bits of knowledge to myself and I still regularly find myself in moments of awe when learning new things..

My question is: How often do you find yourself blown away by what your work brings to you? How often do you go.. "Whoa.."

Andromeda32110 karma

I will still literally jump up and down and put on Queen's "Don't Stop Me Now" once or twice a year when something really cool is going on. :) That requires an exceptional level of excitement though!

hobbitsden3 karma

I understand our Moon's rotation is at such a speed that the same face faces the Earth and does not vary more than a degree or two. Do all moons do this? Do any planets do this to their respective suns?

Andromeda3218 karma

To answer your second question, no- none of our solar system planets do this with our sun for example!

What you're talking about is called tidal locking and depends on the size of the body in question and its distance from the other body. (So that's why our planets don't do this with the sun- they're all too far out.) Most major moons are tidally locked with their planets in our solar system though, as are Pluto and Charon to each other.

inkseep13 karma

When articles state the distance to an object in billion light years, I assume it is proper distance. However, with inflation and expanding universe, how old is the light really? How much closer was the object when an event like a supernova occurred?

Andromeda3216 karma

It depends. Things that are local (in our galaxy or cluster of galaxies) are gravitationally bound more than something like the acceleration of the universe would affect them. When we talk about something much further away (in billions of years) it depends how distant it is to us- astronomers in fact will use redshift as the unit of measure for very distant things.

Jynx33 karma

How are you?

Andromeda3215 karma

Doing good but pretty busy with this AMA taking off

code_Synacks3 karma

Have you ever been mistaken for an astrologist? Asked for a horoscope or something. Is that an annoyance for astronomers?

Andromeda3216 karma

It's happened. More awkward than anything.

noobishchan3 karma

You seem really smart. How long have you been watching Rick and Morty?

Andromeda3213 karma

I only ever watched one episode and it was the one with the planet of ricks and mortys and didn't really interest me.

Jim1053 karma

Do you own a pair of space pants?

Andromeda3215 karma

No. A few space dresses though!

nowurjusfuckinwithme2 karma

After studying the Universe, do you believe in God and or a grand design ?

Andromeda3212 karma

No.

SleepNowMyThrowaway2 karma

Since it’s been established that Gold is created by neutron stars crashing together, what age would you estimate terrestial gold is, and would you opine if it’s from the same or different neutron star collisions?

Andromeda32111 karma

It's all at least ~4.5 billion years old, because we know that's how old Earth is.

I really don't know the answer to the second yet, but then no one else does either. Right now we still don't know how far the gold spreads from one of these collisions.

fringeHomonid3 karma

Could we determine a lower limit on the dating based on when the first neutron stars were estimated to have formed and died?

Andromeda3218 karma

We could if we knew when the first stars were, but we haven't detected them yet.

fringeHomonid2 karma

Is the James Webb large enough to look that far (far back?)? Or are we going to need something the size of the new Chinese super scope, but in space?

Andromeda3215 karma

It is one of the key science goals for JWST!

Re: the Chinese space telescope, radio wavelengths are very different than what you see by eye, so you can't really compare one telescope to the other like that.

fringeHomonid2 karma

That's so awesome to know! Are the science for the JWST objectives on NASA's website? Also, I meant creating a telescope that functions like JWST but the at size of the Chinese telescope.

Andromeda3213 karma

Not that I'm aware, sorry.

Mortal_Mc2 karma

I’ve heard many theories as to what quasars actually are, the most common I’ve heard is that there young galaxies, is this correct and if not then what in your expert opinion are they?

Andromeda3213 karma

Quasars are thought to be the supermassive black holes in young galaxies that are very active. Active probably means "lots of material falling into it."

Mageant2 karma

What do you think of the Electric Universe Model?

Andromeda3212 karma

I think LIGO pretty well killed it.

budzabit472 karma

I am currently in highschool! what classes should I take and what should I go into for college to become an astronomer? How hard was it for you?

Andromeda3216 karma

I get this question a lot, actually, and I wrote up a post here on how to be an astronomer. Check it out, and let me know if you have further questions!

BaidDSB2 karma

What is your Opinion about the Great Attracter? What do you think it can be?

Andromeda3219 karma

An even bigger group of galaxies. I don't think anyone really expects it to be something else.

jostler572 karma

Andromeda3215 karma

So I'm not gonna knock Interstellar because they really tried to make it as accurate as possible and I give a lot for good faith.

That said, the ice clouds were dumb.

TimAA20172 karma

What's your thoughts on the ninth and tenth planet?

Andromeda3214 karma

The ninth is interesting but will be really hard to detect because there isn't much light out there. People are nevertheless trying!

I don't know anyone seriously thinking there's a tenth.

skylinrcr011 karma

Hi! So my sign is a Scorpio, I was wondering..j/k What's your favorite observatory you've gone to? Or do you more work out of a lab and look at computer output most of the time?

Andromeda3212 karma

I rarely ever go to an observatory for my work- these days you usually download the data onto your computer and analyze it in your office.

That said I did once do a week in La Palma, in the Canary Islands. You're on the edge of a giant caldera there, and I saw the green flash three times that week at sunset! Food was great too. :)

Scottzilla391 karma

My 6 year old wants to be an astronomer when she grows up. Last week, her class had a Future Career Day where they had to dress up like the profession they want to be. So, what do astronomers wear to work every day?

Andromeda3213 karma

Jeans and t-shirts. We are boring.

tupe121 karma

Besides bright stars, what are other “Do not look at” bodies in space?

Andromeda3212 karma

I don't get your question. Why would we not look at something in space?

tupe121 karma

I mean stuff that isn’t safe to look at

Andromeda3213 karma

Nothing is unsafe to look at, except for the sun with your eyes directly. :)

bleke_xyz1 karma

open space makes me freak the fuck out, what do you do about that?

Andromeda3212 karma

I dunno, because it never freaks me out! Maybe it's a selection bias amongst astronomers, you probably wouldn't get into this if it freaks you out.

Jaxier1 karma

What would you suggest I begin with when introducing astronomy to pre-teenaged kids? I am hoping to see some passion sparks in mine but I don't want to overwhelm them from the beginning.

Andromeda3212 karma

Is looking through a telescope an option? That's always the ultimate best place to start!

Demographiccausation1 karma

How are you on the front page with only 270 doot doots?

Andromeda3213 karma

Because I'm awesome.

IAMAVelociraptorAMA1 karma

sup

what's your favorite thing about astronomy that other people might not be so interested in? if that makes sense

Andromeda3212 karma

Hmmm... I'm pretty fascinated by magnetic fields around other planets, and how they can spark crazy bright radio bursts (like Jupiter can be the brightest radio thing in our sky during these outbursts!). Some have suggested we could detect extrasolar planets this way too, which would be so cool!

xsited11 karma

What do you plan to do after you get your PhD? Do you have any positions lined up?

Andromeda3212 karma

Not yet!

I would really love to write a book, then go do a postdoc. Depends on what kind of jobs are on offer though when I finish. :)

bpaddnme-1 karma

The Universe is infinite. Do you know this?

Andromeda3211 karma

Yep!

bpaddnme-3 karma

Oh thank heavens...

Is this common knowledge for people in your trade? I've been told it isn't. I hope it is so, because I knew as child.

Andromeda3212 karma

Well we do have a distinction between the universe as an idea, and the observable universe which is ~13.8 billion years in radius. Often astronomers are referring to the latter over the former, because we can't say much about the parts we can't see.