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Astronomy 2e

Thought Questions

Astronomy 2eThought Questions

Thought Questions


What happens to the image produced by a lens if the lens is “stopped down” (the aperture reduced, thereby reducing the amount of light passing through the lens) with an iris diaphragm—a device that covers its periphery?


What would be the properties of an ideal astronomical detector? How closely do the actual properties of a CCD approach this ideal?


Many decades ago, the astronomers on the staff of Mount Wilson and Palomar Observatories each received about 60 nights per year for their observing programs. Today, an astronomer feels fortunate to get 10 nights per year on a large telescope. Can you suggest some reasons for this change?


The largest observatory complex in the world is on Maunakea, the tallest mountain on Earth. What are some factors astronomers consider when selecting an observatory site? Don’t forget practical ones. Should astronomers, for example, consider building an observatory on Denali (Mount McKinley) or Mount Everest?


Suppose you are looking for sites for a visible-light observatory, an infrared observatory, and a radio observatory. What are the main criteria of excellence for each? What sites are actually considered the best today?


Radio astronomy involves wavelengths much longer than those of visible light, and many orbiting observatories have probed the universe for radiation of very short wavelengths. What sorts of objects and physical conditions would you expect to be associated with emission of radiation at very long and very short wavelengths?


The dean of a university located near the ocean (who was not a science major in college) proposes building an infrared telescope right on campus and operating it in a nice heated dome so that astronomers will be comfortable on cold winter nights. Criticize this proposal, giving your reasoning.

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