Frequently Asked Questions: The Universe

Q. Comets don't burn yet they glow. Why?
A. Comets are made of frozen gas and rock. When they are exposed to sunlight, the gas begins to evaporate, leaving behind a trail of gas which appears to glow because of the sunlight.

Q. Halley's Comet has often been associated with destruction, because it orbits quite close to earth every 76 years. How old will I be when it orbits close to the earth again?
A. Halley's Comet was last seen close to earth in 1986, so the next sighting will be in the year 2062.

Q. What is the difference between a meteor and a meteorite?
A. A meteor is a rock travelling through space in no particular orbit. When the meteor collides with a planet's surface, it is then called a meteorite.

Q. NASA is the organisation which is in charge of all space launches. For what does the acronym NASA stand?
A. NASA stands for National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Q. Who was the first astronaut/cosmonaut in space?
A. The first cosmonaut in space was the Russian fighter pilot Yuri Gagarin.

Q. Why are astronauts not allowed to have fizzy softdrinks?
A. Burping occurs due to gravity. As there is little gravity in space, they cannot burp easily. The gas build-up would cause discomfort.

Q. Why do some space robots have six legs and walk like insects?
A. As insects walk, they have two legs on one side on the ground (that is, front and back legs), and only the middle leg on the ground on the other side. This forms a very stable base for walking over rough terrain such as that encountered on many planets and the moon. In actual fact, the mobile robots expected to be used on Mars are probably going to using caterpillar tyres like army tanks.

Q. What is the largest telescope in the southern hemisphere?
A. The Australia Telescope is the largest array of 6 radio telescopes in the southern hemisphere. They run along railway tracks in Narrabri in NSW.

Q. Who was the astronomer who found the first Black Hole?
A. No astronomer has yet found a black hole.