Frequently Asked Questions

  1. I want to know more about various astronomical topics. Can you help?
  2. I would like to know about the distribution of astronomers in my country, and also how they distribute on gender.
  3. Can I use the IAU videos and images?
  4. Can I buy a star?
  5. I have written a scientific paper detailing a new theory. Can you please review it?
  6. I have a query about the public vote to name Pluto’s new moons
  7. Can the IAU rename this deep-sky object?
  8. I observed an object in the sky. Can you please identify it?
  9. What global events exist to celebrate astronomy?
  10. Can you advise me about pursuing a career in astronomy research?
  11. Why isn’t Pluto a planet?
  12. How can you calculate the position of the planets on a specific date?
  13. Is it correct to refer to a natural satellite around a planet other than the Earth as a “moon”?
  14. Where can I verify the name of a planetary feature and the origin of its name?

Q1: I want to know more about various astronomical topics. Can you help?

A: Unfortunately we don't have the manpower to answer emails about specific astronomical topics. However, there are several websites that can give you detailed information if you post a question. For example:

http://curious.astro.cornell.edu/
http://imagine.gsfc.nasa.gov/docs/ask_astro/ask_an_astronomer.html
http://www.nrao.edu/index.php/resources/Astronomer%20Question%20Sent

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Q2: I would like to know about the distribution of astronomers in my country, and also how they are distributed by gender.

A: Please take a look at the web page called Geographical Distribution of Individual Members, which is updated for every new member. http://iau.org/administration/membership/individual/distribution/

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Q3: Can I use the IAU videos and images?

A: Yes, the IAU videos and images are released under a Creative Commons license, so yes you can use it for your purpose as long as you credit the IAU. Please see the full conditions on this webpage: http://www.iau.org/copyright/

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Q4: Can I buy a star?

A: The IAU dissociates itself entirely from the commercial practice of "selling" fictitious star names or "real estate" on other planets or moons in the Solar System.

The IAU doesn't offer a star-naming service. There is no official alternative to the commercial practice of "selling" fictitious star names or "real estate" on other planets or moons in the Solar System. Read more on: http://www.iau.org/public/buying_star_names/  and http://www.iau.org/public/naming/

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Q5: I have written a scientific paper detailing a new theory. Can you please review it?

A: The IAU only has one peer-reviewed journal for research papers and articles concerning astronomy public outreach, which is called “Communicating Astronomy with the Public journal” (www.capjournal.org). We cannot accept scientific papers. Instead, we recommend that you submit your paper to a scientific publisher, such as Nature (www.nature.com/nature/index.html), Science (www.sciencemag.org/journals), Astronomy & Astrophysics (www.aanda.org/), IOP Science (http://iopscience.iop.org/1538-3881) and AAS (http://aas.org/publications/publications). (Please note that this list is not exhaustive.)  Additionally, one can always send an article to: http://www.skyandtelescope.com/

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Q6: I have a query about the public vote to name Pluto’s new moons

A: The poll was conducted by the SETI Institute and by Dr. Mark Showalter on behalf of the P4/P5 discovery team. It is not affiliated with the International Astronomical Union (IAU).

The IAU has been the arbiter of planetary and satellite nomenclature since its inception in 1919. The various IAU Working Groups normally handle this process. For more information, please see: http://www.iau.org/public/naming/

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Q7: Can the IAU rename this deep-sky object?

A: The official name for deep-sky objects involves an acronym that specifies the catalogue or collection or sources, followed by a unique sequence (usually of numerical characters). Examples include NGC 2392 and IC 349.

Sometimes objects are referred to by common names. for example, NGC 2392 is commonly known as the Eskimo Nebula. Common names for deep-sky objects are usually assigned for either the constellation where the object is situated, or to honor the discoverer, or to describe the object's appearance in a way easy to remember; but there are currently no rules for assigning common names.

For more information, please see: www.iau.org/public/naming/

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Q8: I observed an object in the sky. Can you please identify it?

A: Unfortunately, at this time we are unable to investigate an individual's observations. We recommend that you contact your local amateur astronomy club and attend one of their observing sessions to find out more information. 

List of Astronomy Clubs by Country:

http://iau.org/public/clubslist/

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Q9: What global events exist to celebrate astronomy?

A: There are many global celebrations of astronomy and space. A short list is given below:

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Q10: Can you advise me about pursuing a career in astronomy research?

A: A good background in maths, physics, chemistry and computer science is required to be a modern astronomer — this means a scientific high school curriculum followed by earning a physics or maths or engineering university degree and a PhD in astronomy or astrophysics.

Read more at: http://www.iau.org/public/careers/

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Q11: Why isn’t Pluto a planet?

A: The IAU has been responsible for the naming and nomenclature of planetary bodies and their satellites since the early 1900s.

The first draft proposal for the definition of a planet was debated vigorously by astronomers at the 2006 IAU General Assembly in Prague. By the end of the Prague General Assembly, its members voted that the Resolution B5 on the definition of a planet in the Solar System would be as follows:

A celestial body that (a) is in orbit around the Sun, (b) has sufficient mass for its self-gravity to overcome rigid body forces so that it assumes a hydrostatic equilibrium (nearly round) shape, and (c) has cleared the neighbourhood around its orbit.

Pluto does not satisfy this criteria, and it is therefore not a planet, but a dwarf planet. For more information, please read: http://www.iau.org/public/pluto/

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Q12: How can you calculate the position of the planets on a specific date?

A: NASA's JPL Horizons website has an online tool for calculating the position of planets: http://ssd.jpl.nasa.gov/horizons.cgi For years earlier than 1000, include 'AD' or 'BC' in the ‘Time Span’ field.

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Q13: Is it correct to refer to a natural satellite around a planet other than the Earth as a “moon”?

A: It is perfectly acceptable to refer to natural satellites of other planets as "moons". However, the IAU formally recommends that only the Earth's natural satellite, the Moon, should start with a capital letter.

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Q14: Where can I verify the name of a planetary feature and the origin of its name?

A: Approved names for planetary features are entered into the Gazetteer of Planetary Nomenclature and added to the following website:http://planetarynames.wr.usgs.gov/

Read more on:  http://www.iau.org/public/themes/naming/

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