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Astronomy 2e

Thought Questions

Astronomy 2eThought Questions

Thought Questions


One of the primary scientific objectives of the Apollo program was the return of lunar material. Why was this so important? What can be learned from samples? Are they still of value now?


Apollo astronaut David Scott dropped a hammer and a feather together on the Moon, and both reached the ground at the same time. What are the two distinct advantages that this experiment on the Moon had over the same kind of experiment as performed by Galileo on Earth?


Galileo thought the lunar maria might be seas of water. If you had no better telescope than the one he had, could you demonstrate that they are not composed of water?


Why did it take so long for geologists to recognize that the lunar craters had an impact origin rather than a volcanic one?


How might a crater made by the impact of a comet with the Moon differ from a crater made by the impact of an asteroid?


Why are the lunar mountains smoothly rounded rather than having sharp, pointed peaks (as they were almost always depicted in science-fiction illustrations and films before the first lunar landings)?


The lunar highlands have about ten times more craters in a given area than do the maria. Does this mean that the highlands are 10 times older? Explain your reasoning.


At the end of the section on the lunar surface, your authors say that lunar night and day each last about two Earth weeks. After looking over the information in Earth, Moon, and Sky and this chapter about the motions of the Moon, can you explain why? (It helps to draw a diagram for yourself.)


Give several reasons Mercury would be a particularly unpleasant place to build an astronomical observatory.


If, in the remote future, we establish a base on Mercury, keeping track of time will be a challenge. Discuss how to define a year on Mercury, and the two ways to define a day. Can you come up with ways that humans raised on Earth might deal with time cycles on Mercury?


The Moon has too little iron, Mercury too much. How can both of these anomalies be the result of giant impacts? Explain how the same process can yield such apparently contradictory results.

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