Answers for the Most Asked Question Around the World

Could intelligent life reverse the fate of the Universe?

The Universe is destined to expand forever, doomed to become a realm of extreme cold and extreme chaos, devoid of galaxies, of stars, of energy, where life is no longer possible. Faced with such a woeful destiny, could some form of intelligent life possibly take over before it is too late, inject order into disorder,… read more »

Where are the best astronomical sites?

In blue-gray, the regions of the globe where over 25% of the sky is covered with clouds 50% of the time (yearly average). Arrows indicate the location of the main cold water ocean currents. What makes a good observatory site? Many cloudless nights and, for good images, minimal atmospheric turbulence. For cloudless nights, the favorable… read more »

Could life evolve based on a chemical element other than carbon?

Life as we know it on Earth is based on carbon’s ability to form complex molecules thanks to its four valence “arms”. Silicon, which is just below carbon in the periodic table of elements, has also a valence of four, and can form chains and rings as carbon does. Since silicon is almost as abundant… read more »

Where else in the Solar System could life exist?

For a while, in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, several astronomers were convinced that they were seeing canals on Mars. Some even went so far as to propose that they were irrigation canals built by an intelligent civilization. More careful observations did not confirm the discovery, however, and spectroscopic analysis also began to… read more »

How could we detect the presence of life outside the Solar System?

Imagine looking at Earth and the other planets from a position in space far outside the solar system. If we analyzed the light coming from each of the planets as a function of wavelength, Earth would stand out because its “spectrum” would have unique features. The light coming from a planet is either reflected sunlight… read more »

Why did ancient astronomers study the sky so intently?

The Sun dictates our daily activ- ities, and the change of seasons governs our agriculture and live- stock management. From earliest times, our ancestors have watched the sky, derived the time of the day by the position of the Sun, and tracked it and other celestial bodies at night to predict the change of seasons… read more »

Who was the first astronomer to use a telescope?

Galileo is traditionally credited with being the first to look at the sky with a telescope – this, in early December 1609, soon after he had heard about the new Dutch inven- tion and built his own instrument. But recent evidence has shown that an Englishman, Thomas Harriot, actually preceeded him by a few months…. read more »