10 Sky and Space Misconceptions

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Space is a mysterious thing. To unravel the mystery a bit, here are ten common astronomy misconceptions that you can avoid!

One of the most common misconceptions relating to astronomy involves the equinoxes. We read each year that days and nights are equal on the date of an equinox. However, if you were to look at the sunrise and sunset times listed on your smartphone, you would see that those times didn’t match up. There was more day than night!

Astronomy misconceptions are prevalent even when it’s not the equinox. Here’s a top 10 list of common space and astronomy errors.

  1. Total solar eclipses do not turn the day pitch black. It’s brighter during totality than during a full Moon.
  2. It’s wrong to say the Moon doesn’t spin. It whirls completely around every two weeks.
  3. Water does not spiral down drains in different directions in different hemispheres. It goes down randomly.  
  4. From Pluto, the Sun is not “just a bright star.” From there, the Sun is an unbearably dazzling point of light 300 times brighter than the full Moon—still too dangerous to look at. If Pluto had an atmosphere like ours, the Sun would make it look blue.

  5. Space Station astronauts do not float around because they’ve escaped Earth’s gravity. There’s 90% as much gravity 230 miles up as there is in your bathtub. Orbiting astronauts are merely falling freely.

  6. The Moon does not have a permanent “dark side.” Writers often allude to the “dark side” of the Moon when they really mean the “far side.”

  7. Mars is not red, any more than a pumpkin is red. It’s more of an orange-red, which is caused by the iron in its soil. mars_full_width.jpg

  8. Meteors are not hot when they land. The lower atmosphere’s subzero temperatures cool them before they hit the ground.

  9. The sky is not blue because it’s reflecting our blue oceans. Actually, it’s blue because the light from the Sun scatters when it reaches Earth’s atmosphere and the shorter, smaller waves are blue. ocean_full_width.jpg

  10. Black holes do not suck up stars or planets; their diet is almost entirely subatomic particles!

About The Author

Bob Berman

Bob Berman, astronomer editor for The Old Farmer’s Almanac, covers everything under the Sun (and Moon)! Bob is the world’s most widely read astronomer and has written ten popular books. Read More from Bob Berman

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