Common astronomy misconceptions

School visits bring a lot of great questions from children. From the behaviour of fire in zero gravity to the theory of black holes (both have been asked). There are also a few common misconceptions that are brought up. With it being school holidays we are in our quiet period now, but it seems a good idea to give some of the regular misconceptions a mention on here as they arise. Here are a few from recent visits that have been quoted.

‘The Moon has a dark side’.  You may well here the phrase ‘dark side of the moon’ (or Pink Floyd album!), but there is no permanent dark side – only a side that we can never see from the Earth. Every part of the Moon receives 2 weeks of daylight and 2 weeks of night, but we can only ever see the Earth facing side. During a new moon the side we cannot see is in full sunlight and during a full moon the side we cannot see is in darkness.

‘There is no gravity on the ISS’. This is a half truth. The Earth’s gravity is actually around 89% the strength on the ISS as it is on the ground. The reason that astronauts float is because the ISS is in constant free full, but moving so fast that it never crashes to Earth. The exact same effect can be had on a parabolic flight where an aircraft descends at an angle of 42 degrees, causing weightlessness for the period of the dive. Professor Stephen Hawking took one in 2007.



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