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WHERE AM I?

Your mind has expanded while you studied astronomy, and you are confused on a much higher level than before. For instance, in the following questions, your mind may be transported in time and space to anywhere in the Universe and any time in the past or future.


Question 1

You are in a place that is extremely hot and dense, making you feel sweaty and claustrophobic. You can't see far because your surroundings are opaque to light. Around you, nuclear fusion is converting carbon to oxygen and other elements. Where are you?

Group of answer choices


1. You are inside a nuclear power plant on Earth.


2. You are in the center of a star very much like our present-day Sun.


3. You are in the center of a massive star near the end of its life.


4. You are in the early Universe during the era of nucleosynthesis.

 

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Question 2

You are on the surface of an object, and you have a fairly clear view out into space. It might be nice, except for two major drawbacks: You are VERY squashed, and the surface emits lots of ultraviolet radiation. The light you observe from distant objects is slightly blueshifted. The surface of the object consists primarily of carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen, the horizon distance is about the same as that on Earth, and you are breathing high-pressure hydrogen and helium gas and talking in a squeaky voice. By observing the stellar background for a few weeks, you realize that there are several natural satellites orbiting your object. Where are you?

Group of answer choices


1. You are on the surface of the planet Mars after the Sun has died and become a white dwarf.


2. You are in an accretion disk around a black hole.


3. You are on the surface of a compact planet that is somewhat less massive than the Earth.


4. You are on the surface of a white dwarf.

 

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Question 3

You find yourself in a place that looks (except for your own presence) perfectly symmetrical. There is no way to distinguish one place from another, all forces are one, the temperature is ridiculously high, and a veritable zoo of weird subatomic particles is bombarding you from all directions as the particles keep appearing and disappearing. With this perfect symmetry, there is no obvious way to define the flow of time, and confusion reigns. Where are you?

Group of answer choices


1. You wound up floating around somehow in the extreme future, trillions of years from now.


2. You are in the center of a young star.


3. You are in the very early Universe, in the first tiny fraction of a second.


4. You are inside the nucleus of an atom.

 

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Question 4

It sure is bright everywhere. You've been able to travel around a bit, and it's clear that you are not in a star. Yet it is as bright as looking directly at the Sun. In your travels through your surroundings, you cannot find a single neutral atom anywhere, nor can you find a nucleus besides hydrogen or helium. And, while it is hot (a few thousand Kelvin), it is nowhere near the temperature needed for nuclear fusion. Where are you?

Group of answer choices


1. You are in the Universe during its first 300,000 years, but after the first few minutes.


2. You are in an accretion disk around a supermassive black hole.


3. You are where the Sun should be located, but about 5 billion years from now.


4. You are trillions of years in the future.

 

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Question 5

You are in a hot, dense place, surrounded by protons and neutrons, some rapidly fusing into helium. You notice that your surroundings are cooling and rapidly dropping in density. Within about 3 minutes, the fusion reactions stop. Where are you?

Group of answer choices


1. You are in the early Universe during the era of nucleosynthesis.


2. You are inside a nuclear power plant on Earth.


3. You are in the center of a star very much like our Sun, just before its core runs out of fuel.


4. You are in the center of a star much smaller than the Sun.

 

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Question 6

You are feeling like spaghetti. Although normally about 2 meters tall, you are now about 25 meters long, and feeling some pain. As you look up over your elongated head, you see things moving pretty quickly in the Universe - but that lasts only for a brief instant, and then you lose all contact with the Universe. Where are you?

Group of answer choices


1. You are crossing the event horizon of a black hole.


2. You are near the center of a star that has just developed an iron core, leading to a supernova.


3. You are being consumed by a "crack" in the spacetime continuum caused by inflation.


4. You are plunging into the Sun.

 

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Question 7

Talk about cold, dark, and empty! As far as you look around you, there seems to be nothing at all. Even the nearest electron is light-years away. And, no matter how far you travel, you can find no solid matter, not even a single proton. You do, however, detect a few strong gravitational fields - probably due to black holes - at enormous distances away from you. Where are you?

Group of answer choices


1. You are in the central regions of a quasar.


2. You are in the Universe when it is trillions of years old.


3. You are in the outskirts of a young cluster of galaxies.


4. You are in Fresno on Saturday night at 10:00 PM.

 

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Question 8

You are surrounded by high temperature (millions K) gas and plasma, subjecting you to intense radiation including X-rays. The iron fillings in your teeth get ripped out and fly in the direction of increasing temperature. Bursts of X-rays emanate from the direction in which the fillings disappeared. From the opposite direction, a hot wind of H/He gas buffets you, the sky is very bright in that direction. The stars in the other direction rotate rapidly with a period of about 10 days. Where are you?

Group of answer choices


1. You are just outside the event horizon of a black hole that has a high magnetic field.


2. You are near the outer edge of an accretion disk in a "red giant star - neutron star" binary pair; the neutron star has an intense magnetic field.


3. You are trapped in between two neutron stars orbiting each other that are about to merge.


4. You are in orbit around Jupiter, inside Io's orbit. Volcanic material from Io's surface is falling onto Jupiter creating most of your uncomfortable conditions.

 

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Question 9

At last you are in a place where the heat and high density are no longer bothering you. However, although the density is very low, the gas around you is extremely high in temperature. In fact, the temperature is so high that it is emitting lots of X rays, which are creating cancer-causing mutations in your body at a rapid rate. At least the view is great! There are no stars anywhere within about 10,000 light-years of you, but at slightly greater distances your sky is brightened by many beautiful, star-filled structures, some with majestic spiral shapes. Where are you?

Group of answer choices


1. You are in the center of the Milky Way Galaxy, looking outward into the Local Group.


2. You are in the Universe when it was about 200 million years old, just before galaxies began forming.


3. You are in the outskirts of a galaxy whose nucleus is a powerful quasar.


4. You are in a void between several superclusters of galaxies making up part of the "great wall".

 

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Question 10

At last, someplace fairly comfortable. Very weak gravity is holding you to the surface of the small object on which you sit (30-40 km in size). Your object is apparently moving away from a star, perhaps one that it orbits with a period of a few thousand years. Around you, geysers are spouting gas into space. Looking back along the object's orbit, you see particles of dust that the geysers apparently blew off the object when it was nearer to the star that it is now leaving behind. You conclude that the geysers were recently much more active but are now settling down into a quiescent state that may last for millennia. You also soon realize that you are closer to home than you have been in all your previous journeys. Perhaps if you can somehow find a small rocket, a heat shield, and a good parachute, you can escape and head home and turn in your final exam after reading all the infernal instructions. Where are you?

Group of answer choices


1. You are on a comet heading away from the Sun and passing the orbit of Earth.


2. You are surfing a jet of gas from a quasar that is headed away from the direction of an ordinary star.


3. You are on the asteroid "DUNFOR" near the center of a galaxy, heading directly toward a massive black hole.


4. You have been shrunk in size by your English instructor (these people are well-known for these type of shenanigans) and are riding a grain of interstellar dust.

 

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Question 11

You feel oppressed by the pressure from a dense atmosphere of carbon dioxide, and the entire landscape is barren and smells of sulfuric acid. Your weight is near normal. The gold fillings in your teeth begin to melt from the intense heat. The light is reddish, you can't see through the clouds with your miserably inadequate visible light eyes, and periods of light are over 100 Earth-days long. The temperature remains high during both periods of light and dark. Where are you?

Group of answer choices


1. Jupiter's moon Io.


2. Jupiter's atmosphere, just above the dense layers of hydrogen that make up most of Jupiter's mass.


3. The surface of Venus.


4. Saturn's moon Titan, 5 billion years in the future.

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