(Apologies in advance if I seem to wander in this post. I'm having a multitude of thoughts and I'm not quite sure how t organize them)
Ever since I've joined, I've been a bit uneasy about this site. Mainly, I couldn't exactly see what niche it filled.
Firstly, the site was already a strict subset of Physics. Scope-wise:
Which is not a complete disaster, because the audiences may not match. However, audience wise:
From day one, I kept feeling like I was on Space.SE. The audience felt the same, the users were the same, and since both sites were on the beta theme, I couldn't tell them apart. At all. I still get confused as to which site I've seen a particular question on.
This actually partially answers the question about the niche it has to fill. Astro.SE seems to fill the niche of an enthusiast astronomy site pretty well. This was part of the initial motivation for creating the site.
But the site can't just be an enthusiast site. SE sites traditionally are geared towards expert questions, and we need those too.
Which makes me question where this site stands, again. ChrisWhite (an astrophysics grad student and Physics.SE high rep) managed to put some of my uneasiness into words:
but I don't condone their "and astrophysics" bit
that's the problem - the fact that the amateurs who wanted it were afraid to ask astrophysics questions here means they don't want the kind of answer i'd give
The site was started with the intention of having a place for astronomy away from Physics.SE. This starts conflicting with the expert portion of the site.
One major issue is that if the site goes public, are we going to have enough expert questions? Physics already has quite a few astronomy/astrophysics experts and most questions asked there get answered beautifully. If someone wants an expert answer, why would they not just ask there? While we can seed the site with expert questions right now, that is not sustainable.
One idea that comes to mind is to merge this (both content wise and scope wise) with Space Exploration, creating a site about Space in general. The communities are already very much alike, and I don't think that the scope merge will be a big issue. With Space Exploration, this site has a much better chance of survival.
Any thoughts on the matter (in general, not just merging with Space)? What exactly is the purpose of this site?