What Do You Know About Astronomy?

Take this quiz to find out!

1

In 1999, astronomers were able to calculate the approximate age of the universe. The number is:

 

about 4,000 years

 

about 13 billion years

 

about 900 billion years

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ANSWER: about 13 billion years

Thanks to new data from telescopes on Earth and in space, astronomers were able to calculate more accurately than ever before how fast the universe is expanding. This measurement, in turn, tells us how much time has passed since the expansion first began—the moment of the Big Bang.

Question 1 of 10
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Earth and Sun
2

Stars and planets are shaped like spheres because:

 

gravity pulled them into that shape as they formed

 

they eroded into round shapes over millions of years

 

round shapes have less wind resistance

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ANSWER: gravity pulled them into that shape as they formed

Gravity is a fundamental force in the universe that affects all matter. If enough matter gathers in one place, the matter will "self-gravitate" and pull itself into a spherical shape. That's why there are almost no square or triangular heavenly bodies.

Question 2 of 10
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3

If you went looking for life in outer space, a good place to look would be

planet Mars

Mars, because it may have liquid water below its surface

planet Neptune

Neptune, because it has weather systems like those on Earth

planet Uranus

Uranus, because its blue-green surface looks as though it could sustain life

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planet Mars
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ANSWER: Mars, because it may have liquid water below its surface

Life as we know it needs liquid water to survive. Astronomers have discovered frozen water in Mars' polar ice caps. They also found evidence that there may be liquid water below the surface where it's warmer.

Question 3 of 10
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bright blobs in the universe
4

In this picture, almost every blob you see is:

 

a star

 

a planet

 

a galaxy

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ANSWER: a galaxy

The area of the sky shown in the image is tiny: about the size of Abraham Lincoln's eye on a U.S. penny held at arm's length. It's like viewing a tiny part of the sky through a very long straw that reaches toward the end of the universe. This picture shows that there are many billions of galaxies in the cosmos beyond our own Milky Way Galaxy.

Question 4 of 10
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bootprint on the Moon
5

Humans walked on the Moon for the first time in July of 1969. How long will their footprints be visible on the Moon's surface?

 

windstorms have already erased them

 

hundreds of thousands of years

 

about fifty years

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ANSWER: hundreds of thousands of years

On July 20, 1969, American astronauts walked on the Moon for the first time. Since there are no wind or water or life on the Moon to disturb them, their footprints will be around for a very long time.

Question 5 of 10
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Milky Way across in the night sky
6

For every evening star you can see from Earth, how many more stars in the Milky Way Galaxy remain unseen?

 

about 20 million

 

about 3,000

 

about 40

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ANSWER: about 20 million

You can see about 5,000 stars in the Milky Way from Earth with the unaided eye. But for each one of those stars, there are over twenty million you can't see! There are about 100 billion stars in the Milky Way Galaxy, and almost all of them are too faint, too far away, or too blocked by cosmic dust to be seen without a telescope.

Question 6 of 10
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Comet ISON streaming across sky
7

A comet's tail can stretch as long as:

 

about 10 miles

 

about 5,000 miles

 

hundreds of millions of miles

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ANSWER: hundreds of millions of miles

Comets are often described as "dirty cosmic snowballs." They travel through the solar system, developing new tails of gas and dust each time their orbits bring them close to the Sun. These stream off into space from the side facing away from the Sun.

Question 7 of 10
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colors of Mercury
8

A "day" on the planet Mercury, from sunrise to sunset, lasts about:

 

six Earth hours

 

six Earth months

 

six Earth years

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ANSWER: six Earth months

Mercury is the smallest planet and the closest to the Sun. Over billions of years, its gravitational interaction with the Sun has slowed its rotation rate so much that, when the Sun rises at any place on Mercury, it's about half an Earth-year later before it sets there. We learned a lot about Mercury from the Spacecraft Mariner 10, which photographed about half of Mercury's surface in the mid-1970s.

Question 8 of 10
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Milky Way spiral galaxy
9

If your spaceship could travel at the speed of light, how long would you take to cross the entire Milky Way Galaxy?

 

about 10 years

 

about 1,000 years

 

about 100,000 years

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ANSWER: about 100,000 years

The Milky Way Galaxy is a huge, pinwheel-shaped collection of stars, dust, and gas. The Sun is located on one of its spiral arms, about 25,000 light-years (150 quadrillion miles!) out from the center of our galaxy.

Question 9 of 10
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massive dying star
10

When a massive star finally dies, what happens?

 

it turns into a white dwarf

 

it explodes in a supernova

 

it becomes a planet

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ANSWER: it explodes in a supernova

A low or intermediate mass star (like our Sun) shines for billions of years before it shrinks into a white dwarf. A massive star, however, will shine for only a few million years before blowing up in a giant explosion called a supernova. The blast hurls the star's remaining matter across space, providing the raw materials to make new stars.

Question 10 of 10
Nice try! Not bad! Stellar! Out of this galaxy! You got out of 10 right on the first guess.
Image Credits:
lagoon nebula background image, courtesy of NASA, ESA, and STScI; Earth and Sun, courtesy of NASA; Mars, courtesy of NASA/Greg Shirah; Neptune, courtesy of NASA/JPL; Uranus, courtesy of NASA/JPL; visible Universe, NASA/ESA/S. Beckwith(STScI) and The HUDF Team; bootprint on the Moon, courtesy of NASA; Milky Way over Thailand, © Matipon Tangmatitham; Comet ISON, Courtesy of Mike Hankey via NASA; Colors of Mercury, courtesy of NASA / JHU Applied Physics Lab / Carnegie Inst. Washington; Milky Way Galaxy, © AMNH; massive dying star, © AMNH.