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I think we'll get more and more into deep trouble if the astronomy proposal is becoming another active site competing with at least this one. I observe more and more questions here, which could perfectly belong into astronomy but are also valid questions here. (I will compile a list if requested.)

Merging astronomy and space exploration has been proposed before, with mixed responses. See e.g. the following discussion: https://area51.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/6193/boundary-between-space-exploration-and-astronomy-sites

I hereby acknowledge, that astronomy is its own independent field of science with some rather unique questions, instruments, traditions and philosophies. Still, the overlap with "exploring space" is enormous. Space exploration missions are started for answering astronomical questions. Astronomical equipment is used for communicating with space probes in deep space and even to complement their data by looking at e.g. objects in the solar system. A lot of engineering problems can be found in both fields equally. Scientific stuff like Radio Science Subsystems included in e.g. Cassini can clearly not be put into either category. Recent topics like exoplanets are more and more uniting scientists of "space exploration disciplines" (planetology, geophysics, etc.) and astronomy. In a way, space exploration has emerged from astronomy and is going back to its roots.

Ignoring the scientists, I see one more way of looking at it. In my day to day life, I am asked quiet a lot about space stuff from non-experts (people know, that I am interested and professionally involved in it). I experience a lot of actually, well, dumb questions. There is no better way to express this. There is e.g. a lack of respect for astronomical distances or other, rather fundamental facts. Still, people who ask such questions are in fact interested and deserve a proper answer. So how do you handle questions like "Why aren't we flying astronauts to exoplanets?" or "Why do not we build better telescopes, so we can see the aliens wave at us?" ... Dumb, for sure, but they need a lot of explanation in terms of today's space exploration capabilities, the concepts of astronomy and, well, a lot of basic science, unfortunately. If we want to catch peoples attention, we can not ignore such questions, especially not in an open online community like this. If we want space exploration to succeed, its needs backing from the general public rather than kicks in the ass by so-called professionals.

I see two possible scenarios: First, we keep it separated. It might cause a lot of confusion with where to ask a number of questions and it will eventually require very very very good FAQs on both sites. To emphasize this statement, if we were to successfully separate the two by a scientifically sound, fundamental definition, we could as well aim for a Nobel price. Second possibility, we merge (and adjust the name). This may also cause trouble with convincing people etc. and it would require a very good set of tags, tag-wikis and tagging guide-lines.

After all, we all are interested in exploring space.

Dropping the massive clanger - here I go. Any thoughts?

(I do not have any problem with being voted down, but be fair, explain, why you think that I am wrong.)

(2014-08-02 / symbolic edit on a user's request)

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    $\begingroup$ Don't take my downvote as discouragement, I simply don't agree. That's all :) $\endgroup$ – Undo Jul 18 '13 at 19:01
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    $\begingroup$ I don't agree because in Astronomy you could ask a question like "What is the name of that point of light" which would be off topic for Space Exploration. $\endgroup$ – user39 Jul 19 '13 at 7:09
  • $\begingroup$ @kurtnelle: I do not see the logic - only 50 years ago people could ask "What is this huge bright thing up there in the night sky with lots of interesting dark areas?" and it was a question of astronomy, clearly. Now, people have even walked on the Moon. But there is still some lunar exploration going on in terms of astronomy using telescopes. Asking about other points of light is just another way of asking about details on objects in space, for which our options of studying them are currently limited to methods of astronomy (and astrophysics etc). $\endgroup$ – s-m-e Jul 19 '13 at 9:14
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    $\begingroup$ Personally, I'm quite interested in space exploration, but I'm not interested in astronomy. I don't think NASA and ESA employ a lot of astronomers either. $\endgroup$ – gerrit Aug 16 '13 at 12:29
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    $\begingroup$ Astronomy is about looking into space. Space Exploration is about going into space. $\endgroup$ – Bob Stein Mar 7 '14 at 21:32
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    $\begingroup$ Update, 2019: both sites near the mean size of the graduation. (Checking all the sites, we can see the average site size, where the SE allows a site to become graduated, is around 10000 questions. Both sites near it. I expect a graduation in at most 1 or 2 years.) $\endgroup$ – user259412 Jul 22 at 21:19
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Fundementally, Stack Exchange likes to have something about the size of a college department. At my University (University of Arizona), there were 4 college departments that fall roughly in to the space of this site, to some extent.

  1. Lunar and Planetary Laboratory- Science of space rocks, moons, etc, with a focus on data from spacecraft.
  2. Astronomy and Steward Observatory- This focused on stars, etc, using telescopes and other electromagnetic radiation telescopes to observe them. Significant work in computer models as well, but focused on the cosmos.
  3. Physics- Focused on non-stellar physics.
  4. Aeronautical and Mechanical Engineering.

Of these, we fit almost exclusively as the LPL listed first, with some slight engineering to account for spacecraft and rocket design. All colleges have some interdisciplinary studies, but it seems to be a pretty clean fit.

I would like to see if this site can sustain a purely Space Exploration focus, because I know that's personally what I am interested in for a site, and there are a large number of people who are also interested in such a site.

Furthermore, while there is a fair amount of overlap between those interested in Astronomy and Space Exploration, the overlap only resulted in 18% of those committing for Space Exploration to commit to Astronomy. I am one of those, and I see them as separate sites.

I should add that I am not opposed to discussing combining them if one or the other site is shown to be struggling. I just want to give each site a chance independently, and merge them only if required.

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  • $\begingroup$ In a college (or university), I would agree. I also would know where to go. In fact, I do. I assume, not all people on the internet would and not all of them will scroll through a long and complicated FAQ. I do not care about only 18% overlap in numbers. I very much care that space exploration has a significant future and therefore I very much care that sites like this have a future. We need them. The question remains, how do we handle it with respect to "boundaries"? $\endgroup$ – s-m-e Jul 18 '13 at 19:09
  • $\begingroup$ @ernestopheles: See my edit. Basically, if one or both sites has a problem, then I could see merging them, otherwise, I'd prefer to keep the separate. $\endgroup$ – PearsonArtPhoto Jul 18 '13 at 19:11
  • $\begingroup$ Good to know. Let's keep this question open and let's keep a careful eye on how things work out. Besides, how do we proceed as long as Astronomy is still a proposal? We cant just kick such questions ... $\endgroup$ – s-m-e Jul 18 '13 at 19:48
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    $\begingroup$ We can migrate them to Physics, which currently contains virtually the entire scope of Astronomy. $\endgroup$ – PearsonArtPhoto Jul 18 '13 at 19:50
  • $\begingroup$ Does Lunar and Planetary include Earth? i think Earth observation from space should certainly be on-topic on this site — it's a major application for NASA, ESA, etc., and it's not astronomy. $\endgroup$ – gerrit Aug 16 '13 at 12:27
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    $\begingroup$ Astronomy is struggling and space is not setting any records for performance. I think it is time to seriously consider a merge. $\endgroup$ – James Jenkins Aug 2 '14 at 16:28
  • $\begingroup$ They both look okay too me, I don't think either of them is in serious jeopardy of not existing, and both sites are growing slowly. $\endgroup$ – PearsonArtPhoto Aug 2 '14 at 18:18
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Erg, I don't know about this.

It does seem a little radical, and I'm not sure if it's the best fit.

In my opinion, they are completely different subjects. Astronomy is the study of the stars, etc.

From the Astronomy proposal, it's a site for

astronomers and astrophysicists.

From what I understand, here we are a site for questions about the engineering of space exploration, technical hurdles, the how of space, where Astronomy is more about the what of space.

I would think that merging the two sites together would make a site simply too broad. You would have questions about everything from what Ganymede is made of to how to get to Ganymede to why Curiosity used the Skycrane system.

It would just be too broad of a site.

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The original Astronomy proposal never got out of beta - it was eaten up by Physics, where it seems to sit quite well.

If the new Astronomy proposal gets into Beta I am not sure what would happen to the questions from the old Astronomy site - perhaps they would go into the new one? Or maybe the new site will suffer the same fate and lose its Physics based questions to Physics.SE and space exploration questions to us.

I don't think Astronomy merging with us makes as much sense as merging with Physics.

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I don't think it is a good idea. Astronomy is a science. Space flight is about engineering, business, politics. I don't think that many who are involved with space flight have studied much astronomy. Space flight is closer to air flight than to astronomy.

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