Who is behind the "Ask an Astrophysicist" service?
The "Ask an Astrophysicist" service is provided by a small number
of volunteers at the
Astrophysics Science Division (http://astrophysics.gsfc.nasa.gov/) at
Goddard Space Flight Center (http://www.nasa.gov/goddard),
and is a part of the Imagine
the Universe! public education/outreach site.
We do not represent the entirety of NASA. In particular, there are far
better experts on human space flight and planetary explorations,
two popular topics of incoming questions, elsewhere at various NASA centers.
What is our place within NASA?
NASA has its headquarters in downtown Washington, DC, and 'centers' all
around the US. For example, Johnson Space Center (http://www.jsc.nasa.gov/) in Houston, Texas, is the primary center for human space
flight, Kennedy Space Center (http://www.ksc.nasa.gov/) in
Cape Canaveral, Florida, is the primary center for launch operations, and
Jet Propulsion Laboratory (http://www.jpl.nasa.gov) in Pasadena,
California is the primary center for planetary explorations.
A full listing of NASA centers (http://www.nasa.gov/about/sites/index.html), as well as
news releasesfrom NASA (http://www.nasa.gov/news/highlights/index.html), are available on the web.
Goddard Space Flight Center (http://www.nasa.gov/goddard) in
Greenbelt, Maryland (near Washington, DC) is the primary center for
Earth and Space sciences. Groups within the latter study the Sun,
the solar wind and the magnetosphere, as well as objects outside the
solar system. Scientists in the
Astrophysics Science Division (http://astrophysics.gsfc.nasa.gov/)
study the universe outside the solar system using electromagnetic
radiation from microwaves to gamma-rays; using cosmic-rays; and
are preparing to use gravitational waves.
What questions do we answer?
As a group, our current volunteers have expertise in space-based
astronomy and cosmology, particularly in in X-ray, gamma-ray, and
cosmic-ray astrophysics, and of astronomy of exotic objects in general.
The questions we welcome the most are the ones that we are uniquely qualified
to answer: questions about the objects and processes that we observe
using satellite based instruments, or in some closely related areas
of astronomy or physics.
Common reasons for not answering a question
We may not answer your question if:
The last reason, unfortunately, is becoming more commonplace. Since
our service relies on volunteer efforts of busy scientists, engineers,
and programmers, we cannot answer all the questions we now receive.
In particular, we have declared certain popular topic areas
(space travel, solar system objects etc.) off-limits, since these
are outside our areas of expertise.
- It wasn't really a question.
- You entered an invalid e-mail address.
- It was a blatant case of "can you do my homework for me."
- It was completely outside our areas of expertise.
- You could have found the answer on our website, if you just
made a little bit of effort.
- We ran out of time.
Where else can you look for information/ask questions?
- Search engines --- You can find a lot of information if you know how to
use them effectively.
- Learn to do a web search.
- AskA+ locator (http://www.vrd.org/locator/subject.shtml)
of the Virtual Reference Desk can point you to various "Ask an expert"
- On each subject page of our archive, we suggest a few good sites.