I have been going through some questions on astronomy.stackexchange.com and noticed that some questions were merged from space.stackexchange.com and vise versa. My question is simply what is the difference? Would it be a good idea to combine the two websites? If not, why not?


Space exploration is an enterprise, but Astronomy is a study.

As specifically mentioned in the Space Exploration help center:

Space Exploration is primarily about spacecraft, how to send them to space, and their functions there. Specifically, questions on these topics are encouraged.

  • Space exploration
  • Satellite design and operation
  • Systems with potential use in space
  • Scientific discoveries made by space probes

Questions these topics (and many others) are not on topic here:

  • The study of exosolar objects, except as they relate to space travel.
  • Physical sciences, such as geology, astronomy, meteorology, except as they relate to spacecraft and space exploration.

Here on Astronomy we explain in our help center:

Astronomy Stack Exchange is a Question and Answer site about astronomy and astronomy related topics; the study of objects and matter outside the Earth's atmosphere and of their physical and chemical properties

The purpose of this site is to provide expert level answers to questions on:

  • Setting up, using and maintaining your astronomy related equipment

  • Astronomical observations, for all celestial objects across the entire spectral range.

  • Astrophysics and Cosmology

  • Planetary Science and Celestial mechanics

  • Data returned by space missions such as probes, rovers and satellites

  • What type of equipment will allow you to see a certain entity

What questions are off topic here?

  • Earth science, unless directly related to phenomena observable on other celestials, Solar system in general of which Earth is a constituent part, or as an origin of observational astronomy where its movement, local and global phenomena might affect observations and measurements in any way, is off-topic on Astronomy but can be asked on Physics now or Geoscience once this Stack Exchange site proposal reaches public beta.

  • Questions about maintenance and general use-age of equipment such as the Curiosity Rover. A question can be about data returned by these pieces of equipment, such as atmospheric composition and planetary composition, but questions about the tools on the rover or how the rover cleans its solar panel are off-topic

  • Questions that are purely hypothetical, for example a question such as 'Could a black hole destroy the universe' or 'What if our solar system had two suns'

  • Questions about artificial satellites whose purpose is not directly related to astronomy. You may ask about their orbit, but not their purpose, use-age and safety features

  • Questions asking for a specific brand or model of telescope, these are very time and opinion specific and are likely to incite debate

It is important that we have these distinctions because these two areas are separate in the career world as well. They certainly have a large degree of overlap, but Space Exploration has a strong engineering emphasis whereas Astronomy has a strong science emphasis.

Space Exploration has a strong enough following to hold itself as a separate area, and Astronomy is growing a similar base.

  • $\begingroup$ Thank you for the detailed response but can you also directly state the difference between Space Exploration and Astronomy? I still don't quite get it or maybe I missed it. I always thought that space exploration was a branch of astronomy. I feel like just because it is two separate career bases is also not a good argument but that could be because I'm not old enough to be looking for a career yet. Also, I have noticed that both sites are in beta so wouldn't the production rate of the two sites increase if they were to merge? $\endgroup$ – Baked Potato Jul 23 '14 at 20:32
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    $\begingroup$ @BakedPotato Actually, beta status around here isn't directly related to production rate. Space Exploration, as I mentioned, is largely an engineering enterprise. Astronomers could care less how the James Webb telescope gets to space; they want to use it for their study. Space exploration is an enterprise, but Astronomy is a study. Space Exploration is concerned largely with where humans (or their devices) can go. Astronomy is concerned with the science of the cosmos. $\endgroup$ – called2voyage Jul 23 '14 at 20:51
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    $\begingroup$ @BakedPotato Wikipedia puts it nicely: "While the study of space is carried out mainly by astronomers with telescopes, the physical exploration of space is conducted both by unmanned robotic probes and human spaceflight." $\endgroup$ – called2voyage Jul 23 '14 at 20:52
  • $\begingroup$ Thank you for clearing things up for me! I like the part "Space exploration is an enterprise, but Astronomy is a study". You should include that in your actual answer. $\endgroup$ – Baked Potato Jul 23 '14 at 20:54

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