This Quiz On Astronomy Is Only For Geniuses

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Astronomy Quizzes & Trivia

Throughout history, scientific geniuses from Galileo to Newton have often believed in completely fantastical things from astrology to alchemy to straight-up magic. Do you think that you are a genius when it comes to astronomy? Test out how true your answer is by tackling this challenging astronomy quiz. Good luck!


Questions and Answers
  • 1. 
    Suppose we imagine the Sun to be about the size of a grapefruit. How big an area would the orbits of the nine planets of the Solar System cover?
    • A. 

      The size of a typical dorm room

    • B. 

      The size of a typical campus building

    • C. 

      The size of a typical campus

    • D. 

      The size of a small city

    • E. 

      The size of a western state (e.g.,Colorado)

  • 2. 
    Earth is made mostly of metals and rocks. Where did this material come from?
    • A. 

      It was produced in the Big Bang.

    • B. 

      It was created by chemical reactions in interstellar space.

    • C. 

      It was produced by nuclear fusion in stars.

    • D. 

      It was made by our Sun.

    • E. 

      It was made by nuclear fission of uranium and other radioactive materials.

  • 3. 
    • A. 

      An explosion caused by putting together two volatile chemicals

    • B. 

      The process of splitting nuclei to produce energy

    • C. 

      The process of turning matter into pure energy

    • D. 

      The process of combining lightweight nuclei to make heavier nuclei

    • E. 

      A process that only occurs in bombs

  • 4. 
    Which of the following statements does not use the term light-year in an appropriate way?
    • A. 

      It's about 4 light-years from here to Alpha Centauri.

    • B. 

      It will take me light-years to complete this homework assignment.

    • C. 

      A light-year is about 10 trillion kilometers.

    • D. 

      It will take the Voyager spacecraft about 20,000 years to travel just 1 light-year.

    • E. 

      The Milky Way Galaxy is about 100,000 light-years in diameter.

  • 5. 
    Suppose we imagine the Sun to be about the size of a grapefruit. Which of the following describes the size and distance of Earth on the same scale?
    • A. 

      Earth is the size of a point about 1 meter away from the Sun.

    • B. 

      Earth is the size of a golf ball about 1 meter away from the Sun.

    • C. 

      Earth is the size of a point about 15 meters away from the Sun.

    • D. 

      Earth is the size of a golf ball about 15 meters away from the Sun.

    • E. 

      Earth is the size of a marble about 25 miles away from the Sun.

  • 6. 
    What is the Sun mainly made of?
    • A. 

      Hydrogen and oxygen

    • B. 

      Hydrogen and helium

    • C. 

      Carbon and nitrogen

    • D. 

      Oxygen and carbon

    • E. 

      Nearly equal portions of all the elements

  • 7. 
    Which of the following is smallest?
    • A. 

      Size of a typical planet

    • B. 

      1 light-second

    • C. 

      1 AU

    • D. 

      Size of a typical star

  • 8. 
    Which of the following is largest?
    • A. 

      Size of a typical galaxy

    • B. 

      Size of Pluto's orbit

    • C. 

      Distance to the nearest star (other than our Sun)

    • D. 

      1 light-year

  • 9. 
    Suppose we imagine the Sun to be about the size of a grapefruit. How far away are the nearest stars (the three stars of Alpha Centauri)?
    • A. 

      The length of a football field

    • B. 

      2.5 miles

    • C. 

      250 miles

    • D. 

      2,500 miles

    • E. 

      25,000 miles

  • 10. 
    Which of the following best describes the Milky Way Galaxy?
    • A. 

      A spiral galaxy with a disk about 100,000 light-years in diameter and containing between 100 billion and 1 trillion stars

    • B. 

      A spiral galaxy with a disk about a billion kilometers in diameter and containing between 100 million and 1 billion stars

    • C. 

      A spiral galaxy with a disk about 100,000 light-years in diameter and containing about 100,000 stars

    • D. 

      A spherically shaped collection of stars including our solar system and about a dozen other solar systems, stretching about 4 light-years in diameter

    • E. 

      A spherically shaped collection of about 1 million stars that is about 100 light-years in diameter

  • 11. 
    On the scale of the cosmic calendar, in which the history of the universe is compressed to 1 year, how long has human civilization (i.e., since ancient Egypt) existed?
    • A. 

      About half the year

    • B. 

      About a month about a month about a month

    • C. 

      A few hours

    • D. 

      A few seconds

    • E. 

      Less than a millionth of a second

  • 12. 
    Approximately how fast are you moving with the rotation of Earth?
    • A. 

      13,000 km/hr

    • B. 

      1,300 km/hr

    • C. 

      130 km/hr

    • D. 

      13 km/hr

    • E. 

      Not moving at all

  • 13. 
    • A. 

      10 thousand years

    • B. 

      230 thousand years

    • C. 

      1 million years

    • D. 

      100 million years

    • E. 

      230 million years

  • 14. 
    Which of the following statements about the Milky Way Galaxy is not true?
    • A. 

      It contains between 100 billion and 1 trillion stars.

    • B. 

      Our solar system is located very close to the center of the Milky Way Galaxy.

    • C. 

      The galaxy is about 100,000 light-years in diameter.

    • D. 

      One rotation of the galaxy takes about 200 million years.

  • 15. 
    The distribution of the mass of the Milky Way Galaxy is determined by
    • A. 

      Counting the number of stars.

    • B. 

      Determining the amount of gas and dust.

    • C. 

      Studying how stars are distributed in the Milky Way.

    • D. 

      Studying the rotation of the galaxy.

    • E. 

      Weighing various parts of the Milky Way.

  • 16. 
    Imagine that we put a raisin cake into the oven, with each raisin separated from the others by 1 cm. An hour later, we take it out and the distances between raisins are 3 cm. If you lived in one of the raisins and watched the other raisins as the cake expanded, which of the following would you conclude?
    • A. 

      All raisins would be moving away from you at the same speed.

    • B. 

      More distant raisins would be moving away from you faster.

    • C. 

      More distant raisins would be moving away from you more slowly.

    • D. 

      It depends: If you lived in a raisin near the left side of the cake, you'd see other raisins moving away from you, but they'd be coming toward you if you lived in a raisin near the right side of the cake.

  • 17. 
    Which of the following statements about the celestial equator is true at all latitudes?
    • A. 

      It lies along the band of light we call the Milky Way.

    • B. 

      It represents an extension of Earth's equator onto the celestial sphere.

    • C. 

      It cuts the dome of your local sky exactly in half.

    • D. 

      It extends from your horizon due east, through your zenith, to your horizon due west.

    • E. 

      It extends from your horizon due north, through your zenith, to your horizon due south.

  • 18. 
    If it is midnight in New York, it is
    • A. 

      Daytime in Sydney, Australia.

    • B. 

      Midnight in Sydney, Australia.

    • C. 

      Midnight in Los Angeles.

    • D. 

      Midday in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

    • E. 

      Midnight everywhere.

  • 19. 
    How many arcseconds are in 1°?
    • A. 

      60

    • B. 

      360

    • C. 

      3,600

    • D. 

      100

    • E. 

      10,000

  • 20. 
    What makes the North Star, Polaris, special?
    • A. 

      It is the brightest star in the sky.

    • B. 

      It is the star straight overhead.

    • C. 

      It appears very near the north celestial pole.

    • D. 

      It is the star directly on your northern horizon.

    • E. 

      It can be used to determine your longitude on Earth.

  • 21. 
    You are standing on Earth's equator. Which way is Polaris, the North star?
    • A. 

      30 degrees up, due West

    • B. 

      On the northern horizon

    • C. 

      Directly overhead

    • D. 

      The answer depends on whether it's winter or summer.

    • E. 

      The answer depends on what time of day (or night) it is.

  • 22. 
    Why is it summer in the Northern Hemisphere when it is winter in the Southern Hemisphere?
    • A. 

      The Northern Hemisphere is closer to the Sun than the Southern Hemisphere.

    • B. 

      The Northern Hemisphere is "on top" of Earth and therefore receives more sunlight.

    • C. 

      The Northern Hemisphere is tilted toward the Sun and receives more direct sunlight.

    • D. 

      The Northern Hemisphere is tilted away from the Sun and receives more indirect sunlight.

    • E. 

      It isn't: both hemispheres have the same seasons at the same time.

  • 23. 
    Which of the following statements is true?
    • A. 

      Both the Northern and Southern hemispheres receive the same amount of sunlight on the equinoxes.

    • B. 

      Both the Northern and Southern hemispheres receive the same amount of sunlight on the solstices.

    • C. 

      The Northern Hemisphere receives the most direct sunlight on the summer solstice.

    • D. 

      The Southern Hemisphere receives the most direct sunlight on the summer solstice.

    • E. 

      Both A and C are true.

  • 24. 
    Which of the following statements about constellations is false?
    • A. 

      There are only 88 official constellations.

    • B. 

      Some constellations can be seen from both the Northern and Southern hemispheres.

    • C. 

      Some constellations can be seen in both the winter and summer.

    • D. 

      It is possible to see all the constellations from Earth's equator.

    • E. 

      Most constellations will be unrecognizable hundreds of years from now.

  • 25. 
    Which of the following statements about the Moon is true?
    • A. 

      The Moon goes through a cycle of phases because it always has the same side facing Earth.

    • B. 

      If you see a full Moon from North America, someone in South America would see a new moon.

    • C. 

      The Moon's distance from Earth varies during its orbit.

    • D. 

      The Moon is visible only at night.

    • E. 

      The side of the Moon facing away from Earth is in perpetual darkness.

  • 26. 
    What effect or effects would be most significant if the Moon's orbital plane were exactly the same as the ecliptic plane?
    • A. 

      Solar eclipses would be much rarer.

    • B. 

      Solar eclipses would be much more frequent.

    • C. 

      Total solar eclipses would last much longer.

    • D. 

      Both A and C

    • E. 

      Both B and C

  • 27. 
    What conditions are required for a solar eclipse?
    • A. 

      The phase of the Moon must be new, and the nodes of the Moon's orbit must be nearly aligned with Earth and the Sun.

    • B. 

      The phase of the Moon must be full, and the nodes of the Moon's orbit must be nearly 6 aligned with Earth and the Sun.

    • C. 

      The phase of the Moon can be new or full, and the nodes of the Moon's orbit must be nearly aligned with Earth and the Sun.

    • D. 

      The phase of the Moon must be new, and the Moon's orbital plane must lie in the ecliptic.

    • E. 

      The phase of the Moon must be full, and the Moon's orbital plane must lie in the ecliptic.

  • 28. 
    What conditions are required for a lunar eclipse?
    • A. 

      The phase of the Moon must be new, and the nodes of the Moon's orbit must be nearly aligned with Earth and the Sun.

    • B. 

      The phase of the Moon must be full, and the nodes of the Moon's orbit must be nearly aligned with Earth and the Sun

    • C. 

      The phase of the Moon can be new or full, and the nodes of the Moon's orbit must be nearly aligned with Earth and the Sun.

    • D. 

      The phase of the Moon must be new, and the Moon's orbital plane must lie in the ecliptic.

    • E. 

      The phase of the Moon must be full, and the Moon's orbital plane must lie in the ecliptic.

  • 29. 
    • A. 

      In the spring and fall

    • B. 

      In the summer and winter

    • C. 

      When the nodes of the Moon's orbit are nearly aligned with the Sun

    • D. 

      When Earth, the Sun, and the Moon are exactly aligned for an eclipse

    • E. 

      During an eclipse

  • 30. 
    What happens during the apparent retrograde motion of a planet?
    • A. 

      The planet rises in the west and sets in the east.

    • B. 

      The planet appears to move eastward with respect to the stars over a period of many nights.

    • C. 

      The planet moves backward through the sky.

    • D. 

      The planet moves backward in its orbit around the Sun.

    • E. 

      The planet moves through constellations that are not part of the zodiac.

  • 31. 
    What causes the apparent retrograde motion of the planets?
    • A. 

      As Earth passes another planet, its gravitational pull slows down the other planet so that it appears to be traveling backward.

    • B. 

      When planets are farther from the Sun, they move slower than when they are nearer the Sun; it is during this slower period that they appear to move backwards.

    • C. 

      The other planets never really appear to move backward; the background stars shift due to Earth's revolution around the Sun.

    • D. 

      As Earth passes another planet, the other planet appears to move backward with respect to the background stars, but the planet's motion does not really change.

    • E. 

      Apparent retrograde motion is an illusion created by turbulence in Earth's atmosphere.

  • 32. 
    Which of the following never goes in retrograde motion?
    • A. 

      The Sun

    • B. 

      Venus

    • C. 

      Mars

    • D. 

      Jupiter

    • E. 

      Saturn

  • 33. 
    Which of the following statements about stellar parallax is true?
    • A. 

      We observe all stars to exhibit at least a slight amount of parallax.

    • B. 

      Stellar parallax was first observed by ancient Greek astronomers.

    • C. 

      The amount of parallax we see depends on how fast a star is moving relative to us.

    • D. 

      It takes at least 10 years of observation to measure a star's parallax.

    • E. 

      The closer a star is to us, the more parallax it exhibits.

  • 34. 
    People of central Africa predicted the weather by
    • A. 

      Recording the seasonal changes in average temperature.

    • B. 

      Observing the path of the planets across the sky.

    • C. 

      Observing the length of the lunar cycle.

    • D. 

      Observing the orientation of the crescent moon relative to the horizon.

    • E. 

      Observing the location of the Moon relative to the Sun in the sky.

  • 35. 
    At the Sun Dagger in New Mexico, a dagger-shaped beam of sunlight pierces a spiral
    • A. 

      Every day at noon.

    • B. 

      At noon on the summer solstice.

    • C. 

      At sunset on the spring equinox.

    • D. 

      At noon on the day of full moon each month.

    • E. 

      During the totality of a total solar eclipse.

  • 36. 
    The Metonic cycle is the
    • A. 

      29 1/2–day period of the lunar cycle.

    • B. 

      12-month period of a lunar calendar.

    • C. 

      19-year period over which the lunar phases occur on about the same dates.

    • D. 

      18-year, 11-day period over which the pattern of eclipses repeats.

    • E. 

      Period between successive Easters.

  • 37. 
    The path that led to modern science emerged from ancient civilizations in which part of the world?
    • A. 

      Central and South America

    • B. 

      The Mediterranean and the Middle East

    • C. 

      North America

    • D. 

      China

    • E. 

      Southern Asia

  • 38. 
    • A. 

      From A.D. 600 to A.D. 1800 in Greece

    • B. 

      From A.D. 600 to A.D. 1800 in Egypt

    • C. 

      From 300 B.C. to A.D. 400 in Rome

    • D. 

      From 300 B.C. to A.D. 400 in Greece

    • E. 

      From 300 B.C. to A.D. 400 in Egypt

  • 39. 
    Which of the following statements about scientific models is true?
    • A. 

      A model tries to represent all aspects of nature.

    • B. 

      A model tries to represent only one aspect of nature.

    • C. 

      A model can be used to explain and predict real phenomena.

    • D. 

      All models that explain nature well are correct.

    • E. 

      All current models are correct.

  • 40. 
    • A. 

      About 5000 years ago

    • B. 

      About 2000 years ago

    • C. 

      About 1000 years ago

    • D. 

      About 500 years ago

    • E. 

      About 100 years ago

  • 41. 
    • A. 

      To explain why more distant planets take longer to make a circuit through the constellations of the zodiac

    • B. 

      To explain the fact that planets sometimes appear to move westward, rather than eastward, relative to the stars in our sky

    • C. 

      To explain why the Greeks were unable to detect stellar parallax

    • D. 

      To properly account for the varying distances of the planets from Earth

    • E. 

      To explain why Venus goes through phases as seen from Earth

  • 42. 
    The controversial book of this famous person, published in 1543 (the year of his death), suggested that Earth and other planets orbit the Sun.
    • A. 

      Tycho Brahe

    • B. 

      Copernicus

    • C. 

      Kepler

    • D. 

      Galileo

    • E. 

      Ptolemy

  • 43. 
    He developed a system for predicting planetary positions that remained in use for some 1,500 years.
    • A. 

      Tycho Brahe

    • B. 

      Copernicus

    • C. 

      Kepler

    • D. 

      Galileo

    • E. 

      Ptolemy

  • 44. 
    He discovered that the orbits of planets are ellipses.
    • A. 

      Tycho Brahe

    • B. 

      Copernicus

    • C. 

      Kepler

    • D. 

      Galileo

    • E. 

      Ptolemy

  • 45. 
    He discovered that Jupiter has moons.
    • A. 

      Tycho Brahe

    • B. 

      Aristotle

    • C. 

      Kepler

    • D. 

      Galileo

    • E. 

      Ptolemy

  • 46. 
    He discovered what we now call Newton's first law of motion.
    • A. 

      Tycho Brahe

    • B. 

      Copernicus

    • C. 

      Kepler

    • D. 

      Galileo

    • E. 

      Ptolemy

  • 47. 
    One of the "nails in the coffin" for the Earth-centered universe was
    • A. 

      The retrograde motion of the planets.

    • B. 

      The phases of the Moon.

    • C. 

      Eclipses of the Sun.

    • D. 

      Galileo's observation of stars in the Milky Way.

    • E. 

      Galileo's observations of the moons of Jupiter.

  • 48. 
    Kepler's second law, which states that as a planet moves around its orbit it sweeps out equal areas in equal times, means that
    • A. 

      A planet travels faster when it is nearer to the Sun and slower when it is farther from the Sun.

    • B. 

      A planet's period does not depend on the eccentricity of its orbit.

    • C. 

      Planets that are farther from the Sun move at slower average speeds than nearer planets.

    • D. 

      The period of a planet does not depend on its mass.

    • E. 

      Planets have circular orbits.

  • 49. 
    • A. 

      A conundrum or unexplained set of facts

    • B. 

      A radical change in scientific thought

    • C. 

      A generally well established scientific theory or set of theories

    • D. 

      A pseudoscientific idea

    • E. 

      A historical theory that has been proved inaccurate

  • 50. 
    Which of the following statements about scientific theories is not true?
    • A. 

      A theory cannot be taken seriously by scientists if it contradicts other theories developed by scientists over the past several hundred years.

    • B. 

      A theory is a model designed to explain a number of observed facts.

    • C. 

      If even a single new fact is discovered that contradicts what we expect according to a particular theory, then the theory must be revised or discarded.

    • D. 

      A theory must make predictions that can be checked by observation or experiment.

    • E. 

      A theory can never be proved beyond all doubt; we can only hope to collect more and more evidence that might support it.

  • 51. 
    The ancient goal of astrology was to
    • A. 

      Understand the origin of Earth.

    • B. 

      Make a more accurate model of the universe.

    • C. 

      Predict the passing of the seasons.

    • D. 

      Predict human events.

    • E. 

      Antagonize astronomers.

  • 52. 
    Which of the following is the reason for the solar day being longer than a sidereal day?
    • A. 

      Precession of Earth's axis

    • B. 

      The tilt of Earth's axis

    • C. 

      The combined effect of the rotation of Earth and its orbit about the Sun

    • D. 

      Earth year being a non-integer number of Earth days

    • E. 

      The non-circular orbit of Earth around the Sun