General Question

tenureandandlemons's avatar

Do astronomers have to memorize every point of light in the sky?

Asked by tenureandandlemons (148 points ) September 15th, 2013

Like all the near earth asteroids, with all the funky names and numbers. Also to they need to name all the galaxies beyond the Andromeda galaxy?

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15 Answers

snowberry's avatar

No. There are too many. I’m not an astronomer, but Hubby is. I have read some articles in his magazines that mention them by numbers or some such. Maybe those are only known by their locations in the sky. . But they do know the locations and names of many as well.

zenvelo's avatar

There are way too many to memorize, plus they move around a lot. That’s why they have sky maps.

BhacSsylan's avatar

Do you… do you realize how many that is? That would be absurd (seriously, come on). From whence comes this preoccupation with professions memorizing details?

Rarebear's avatar

No, we don’t.

LuckyGuy's avatar

@Rarebear But I’ll bet you know most of the 110 Messier objects. You most likely know most of the “famous” constellations. When you look at the night sky you have an idea of what to expect. The brighter stars are guideposts. I’ll bet on a typical night you can recognize the pattern of at least dozens. Certainly you know the few stars with magnitude brighter than Mag 0. You likely know the ones at Mag 1 and 2. But I’m guessing you know a lot more. If I say Whirlpool galaxy, you know what I mean. If I say M31 that rings a bell and puts an image in your head.. You are an astronomer.

Rarebear's avatar

@LuckyGuy Oh, sure, of course. I know many of the NGC and IC objects as well. But I don’t memorize every point of light in the sky. But this is why God created star charts on ipads.

gailcalled's avatar

We do know the neat stuff like the double star in the handle of the Big Dipper (Alcor and Mizar, the ancient vision test) and the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds, and everything that @LuckyGuy so kindly mentioned.

The stellar nursery in the Orion Nebula. the variable star delta Cephei, the eclipsing binary Algol, the Double Cluster, h and Chi Persei, or NGC 884 and NGC 869, in the northern part of the constellation Perseusnear Cassiopeia…they are all old friends. So are most of the constellations. I don’t pay much attention to the dimmer ones, like some of those of the Zodiac, but I can find them if pushed (using my trusty star charts.

We know when the meteor showers are due. There are geeks who tell us when the comets are arriving…both the old ones and the newly discovered.

@envelo: Most of the stellar objects do not move (or not so we’d notice). Star charts are available to show the sky monthly or seasonally because of the earth’s habit of revolving around the sun. However, the planets do move around relative to both the stellar background and the earth’s motion.

Pachy's avatar

They couldn’t. Not only are there too many stars, asteroids, comets, moons, planets in other solar systems and other “points of light” already discovered, there are too many new ones constantly being found.

gailcalled's avatar

On a very clear night without too much ambient light from a city, there are about 5600 objects visible to the naked eye.

mattbrowne's avatar

With or without the help of telescopes?

gailcalled's avatar

The naked eye, as I said.

mattbrowne's avatar

Memorizing 5600 objects serves no purpose for most astronomers. Astronomers are interested in classifying all objects present in the universe and many types are not visible without the aid of a telescope, e.g. brown dwarfs or large elliptic galaxies.

talljasperman's avatar

@mattbrowne Maybe these things are for computers to memorize.

gailcalled's avatar

The data bases are already computerized.

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