Welcome to UC Observatories’ Ask an Astronomer page. We are Astronomy & Astrophysics graduate students at UC Santa Cruz and we are here to answer questions the public sends in about astronomy.
We will do our best to answer any questions that come our way, but we ask that you try to follow these guidelines when submitting them.
- Look through our archives before submitting. We may have answered your question before, so if you ask it to us again, we may just point you to one of those answers. Searching your question on Google is also a good idea.
- Make sure you are asking a question that has a definite answer. If you want to know about Saturn’s rings, don’t say “Tell me about Saturn’s rings.” Instead, ask “What are Saturn’s rings made of?” or “How did Saturn’s rings form?”
- We won’t do your homework for you. If you ask a question that seems like it is from a homework assignment or test, we will not answer it unless you promise it isn’t before we answer it. Don’t try to fool us, we’ve seen a lot of homework questions in our educational careers. If you phrase your question more generally (e.g. looking for ideas or clarifying a concept), then we will do our best to help, but we won’t solve your problems.
- Allow for up to 2 weeks to receive a response. We are busy people with variable schedules and sometimes a backlog of questions, so don’t come to us if you need an urgent answer.
- If you’re a student, let us know. We will try to prioritize questions from students, and having information on the educational level of our question askers helps us better tailor our responses.
Before asking a question, take a look at questions we have answered in the past to see if you can find an answer. You might learn some other cool stuff too! Questions are organized roughly by complexity within each subcategory. Beginner answers should be understandable to most people, Intermediate questions require a bit of physics and math background, and Advanced questions get into very difficult astronomical concepts.
Don’t see your question in the archives above?
Brian DiGiorgio has been an astronomy PhD student at UC Santa Cruz since 2017 and has been answering questions for Ask an Astronomer since 2018. When he is not answering questions from the public, he researches galaxy rotation and how to use kinematic information from galaxies to better inform cosmological measurements made with weak gravitational lensing. He also studies kinematic irregularities in galaxies and is producing a catalog of irregular galaxy rotation curves for the MaNGA survey. He enjoys answering emails from Ask an Astronomer because it gives him an outlet to get others excited about astronomy through education and outreach, something he wants to devote more of his career to after grad school.
Madelyn Broome is a first year astronomy PhD student as UC Santa Cruz with her master’s in astrophysics from Cambridge. Answering questions with Ask an Astronomer is an extension one of her greatest joys and long-time commitments: to make science accessible to all through science writing and public outreach. Alongside her efforts to empower, excite, and engage as many people in science as possible, she conducts research into the theory of exoplanet formation and evolution. Her favorite questions from Ask an Astronomer are those that make her think about something close to home in a way she had never thought about it before.