"Ask A Scientist" FAQs

question marks spelling out the letters FAQHow come my question didn’t get answered?

If your question is similar to one that has already been asked and answered, it may have been deleted or merged with someone else’s question that is very similar. We try not to have too many duplicate questions on the message board.

The subject of your question may already be well-covered on the Solar Week website.

Your answer may also already be easily available under Solar Facts.

smart girlWhy do the questions need to be moderated (approved) before they appear on the message board?

We check out your questions before we let them be posted on the website to prevent posts that don’t really relate to Solar Week.

We also try to reduce the repetition of the questions on the message board. Your question may have already been asked recently.

Why does it take a while for scientists to answer my question?

Sometimes that means you asked a really good, hard question! A question that will require a specialist’s answer, and we need to wait for a particular scientist to have time to address it.

Most scientists are specialists in a certain area. The field of space science is so vast, a scientist can’t possibly keep up with everything in every part of science, so they pick a certain area that fascinates them in which to become an expert. It’s kind of like how some doctors are heart doctors or bone doctors, or how one mechanic is an expert on brakes and another an expert on transmissions. Like the human body, the Sun has different parts — which create different effects – for example, solar flares, space weather or auroras. A scientist may know a great deal about one part of the Sun, such as the latest research on the Corona, and less about the interior of the Sun. So, if your question is a challenging one, be patient and check back.

Please remember - the scientists are visiting this board on a volunteer basis. They have busy lives full of research and work, and homes, families and other obligations. We’re happy they find the time to come here, because they want kids to be as excited about what they do as they are! They come to the message board as often as they can, but there may be a lag between when you write your question and how soon they can get to it.

How to Ask a Good Question

Here are some ideas on asking a good question:

  • GROUP LEADERS/TEACHERS, we encourage you to help your students come up with a couple of GREAT group questions rather than a whole bunch of individual questions. Have a lively group discussion -- think of what you've learned from the daily facts and activities. TAKE ONE OR TWO OF YOUR group's MOST INTERESTING QUESTIONS AND POST THOSE.
  • Challenge yourself to make your question a little more interesting and a little bit different from others (look over the bulletin board and see what's been already asked). . Try to think up something that has not been answered before – OR ask something different on a topic that HAS been answered. For instance, don’t just ask  “How hot is the Sun? Instead, ask “Are all parts of the Sun the same temperature?”
  • Ask questions with “WHO, WHAT,WHEN, WHERE, HOW?”
  • Look over the message board and ASK FOR FURTHER EXPLANATION about explanations you didn’t totally understand, for example, “Ms. Scientist, you said an eclipse happens when the Moon covers the Sun, but how does the small Moon cover the big Sun?”
  • Make sure to use a descriptive SUBJECT LINE. For example if you are posting  a question about the color of sunspots in the Sunspots forum a subject line of just "Sunspots" is not going to be descriptive enough, instead you might want to put down something like "Color of Sunspots."
  • If you know how to use TAGS, please use them, it will help others.
Why are all the scientists women?

Oh, you noticed! Ask yourself if you would have noticed if all the scientists were men. This could be a good topic for discussion. We want more girls to consider science for a career. (We want boys to do this too, but right now there are way fewer girls in science and engineering) and one way to encourage girls is to show them grownup girls (a.k.a., women) who are happy with what they do!

For more on this topic, read the results of a survey done by the National Science Foundation,  Back to School: Five Myths About Girls and Science

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