5 Pet Peeves of Every Astronomer

Every astronomer has had to explain one of the following facts to an amateur! It can often get quite frustrating to reiterate the same point over and over again. Thus, I have created this guide for amateur astronomers, so that they don’t make silly mistakes!

1. I have seen images of the Milky Way in its entirety. 
That’s not possible because we have never taken photos of the Milky Way. It’s like trying to take a photo of India while sipping on your Chai Latte in Juhu, Mumbai. How can you take a photo of an entire country if you are residing in that country? You would have to be in space to see India in its entirety, right? That’s the same with the Milky Way! You need to be outside our galaxy to take photos of it. Unfortunately, the Milky way stretches 1,000,000,000,000,000,000 km (30kpc) so it would take an inconceivable 100,000 years if you were traveling at the speed of light – a velocity that we can’t even fathom let alone replicate – to traverse from one end of the Milky Way to the other.Image result for milky way

When you see images like this, it is important to understand that this is only a small section of the Milky Way.

2. The Great Wall of China is visible from space.

It is not visible from space with the naked eye even in a low Earth orbit. That’s because it is too thin and narrow to make it the Great Wall. In addition, it camouflages with the surroundings. However, many other man-made objects such as bridges and dams are visible.

3. If black holes can suck light, nothing can escape them.

Black holes, in fact, don’t suck everything around them. It is perfectly possible for celestial bodies to gravitate around them in a stable orbit because black holes exhibit a gravitational field too!!! Bodies are likely to fall into the black hole or “get sucked” only if it gets too close to the event horizon.

4. The Universe is vibrant.

All of us have seen these images and been impressed by the surreal beauty of the Universe. The colours blending around a black abyss look so appealing that we fall into the trap of believing that this is actually how the Universe looks. However, the Universe isn’t remotely as vibrant and vivid as these pictures. These snapshots depict different wavelengths of electromagnetic radiation, which are denoted by specific colours. For instance, blue could represent electromagnetic radiations of wavelengths 300nm to 350nm. (This is just an arbitrary example.) Thus, the pictures aren’t an accurate representation of our Universe.

5. Meteor, meteoroid, and Meteorite all refer to the same thing.

Meteoroid, meteor, and meteorite are three of the most misused words in astronomy!

  • A meteoroid is a piece of rock or iron debris floating about in space.
  • A meteor (aka a shooting star) is a piece of rock that enters and burns up in Earth’s atmosphere.
  • A meteorite is a piece of rock that is durable enough to reach the Earth’s surface without being vaporized.

Bibliography
Images:
Milky Way: https://qph.ec.quoracdn.net/main-qimg-f41db4522ff1015bc982c6f50f7653d0-c
Galaxy on the left: https://www.pexels.com/search/universe/
Galaxy on the right: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uSJSPRQdLd8
Texts: http://listverse.com/2011/02/05/15-common-astronomy-myths/ 

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