Article written by: Heather Alexander
This article has been inspired by the many questions we get asked here at the Armagh Observatory and Planetarium. We love being asked questions but we thought it would be funny to have a look at the questions you really should never ask an Astronomer. We hope this gives you a bit of a laugh!
Can you name every star in the sky?
This is a silly question to ask anyone, not just an astronomer. Yes, we know a lot of star names, but to know all of them is impossible. You have to realise that some stars have names such as VY Canis Majoris, which is easy to remember, but others have names that are just a series of letters and numbers, which is not so easy to remember.
Can I have a look through your telescope?
Common question and the answer is no. A lot of the time people think astronomers are sitting on chairs actually looking through telescopes, however that is not how it is done now. We have to gain access to the telescopes we require and then you remotely observe. You then get the results on your computer screen and you then have to decipher the data. It’s not as simple as looking through a telescope and seeing a star. Also do you know how long we’ve waited to get access to remotely observe? We’re going to be selfish and keep that to yourselves!
Is the Earth flat?
You can ask this question but we’ll just walk away. Okay, we won’t just walk away, we will tell you why the Earth is definitely not flat, and then walk away.
What have you discovered lately?
Our question to you is “well…what have you discovered recently?” We don’t discover new things every day. Sometimes our research can take years upon years to complete, if we even can complete it. If we discover something along the way, that is absolutely fantastic, name it after us and we will keep working on what we’ve been doing.
Do you know (insert famous astronomer name here)?
The field of astronomy and astrophysics is a much bigger field than you think. We may have heard of the person you’re referring to, and appreciate the work they do, but there is a chance we may never have met them.
Have you ever been to space?
We’re astronomers, not astronauts so sadly we have not been to space. It would be really cool though!
Do you only work at night?
You may be surprised to learn this but astronomers don’t only work at night! Some of us do, but most of the time we try and work a regular day, like everyone else.
Did people really walk on the moon?
You will get the same reaction to this question as you would to question 3. We will explain to you that people definitely did walk on the moon, and then walk away.
Can you name all the moons of Jupiter?
This is a bit like question 1. Jupiter has 69 moons. Knowing every single one is a bit tricky. Some of us might know them all, and it’s a great party trick, but we need to be focusing more on our research and our particular area of interest.
What was that thing I saw in the sky last night?
Please do ask us this! One thing we will advise though is either try and take a photograph, or make sure you know exactly which direction you’re looking. The more information you can give us, the more likely we are to be able to answer this question. If it had red blinking lights, it was an aeroplane.
Well what did you think? Was this article able to give you a bit of a chuckle? Is there anything you would really LOVE to ask us? Leave a comment below and we will try and answer as many questions as possible.