Related: If it's possible, do we want to expand the scope of this site to include astronomy?

Related chat : http://chat.stackexchange.com/rooms/71/conversation/site-merging-chat-event

It seems that we have decided to take all Astro questions, including observational astro (though we are shunting astrophotography to photo.SE).

Though the rest of the astro questions (all of them astrophysics questions) fall well within our scope and title, observational astro questions do not.

In lieu of this, let's discuss whether or not we should:

  • Change the site name to Physics & Astronomy. Maybe keep physics.SE,astro.SE, and physicsandastronomy.SE as URL aliases (I'd say physics.SE should stay as the main one)
  • Explicitly add astrophysics and observational astro to our faq (this has already been addressed in the related question)

Note that the final decision will be made after the merger.

  • $\begingroup$ The issue of changing the FAQ is already addressed - that's what "changing scope" means. People seem to mostly be in favor. $\endgroup$
    – David Z
    Commented May 2, 2012 at 15:55
  • $\begingroup$ @David whoops, changed :) $\endgroup$ Commented May 2, 2012 at 16:00
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    $\begingroup$ stick to the old name; it is still descriptive. And if this is guaranteed, the shorter the name the better. $\endgroup$ Commented May 2, 2012 at 21:21
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    $\begingroup$ In light of the fact that there are actual examples of people getting confused by this (as mentioned in my answer), I think it's important that we resolve the question. Accordingly I'm featuring this for a little while. $\endgroup$
    – David Z
    Commented May 16, 2012 at 20:22

4 Answers 4


I think changing the name is not needed because astrophysics (including the observational and experimental techniques) IS physics ... ;-).

But expanding or updating the faq accordingly is probably a good idea.

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    $\begingroup$ Pretty much my view, though my reasoning for "don't touch the name" leans towards the snobbish side :P $\endgroup$ Commented May 2, 2012 at 12:54
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    $\begingroup$ Yeah, just using the short form astro in the name could be misunderstood as astrology... :-P. $\endgroup$
    – Dilaton
    Commented May 2, 2012 at 12:59
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    $\begingroup$ just so we're on the same track, Astro was my shortform, die to laziness. I meant "Physics & Astronomy" $\endgroup$ Commented May 2, 2012 at 14:01
  • $\begingroup$ I've clarified the post to this point. $\endgroup$ Commented May 2, 2012 at 14:03
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    $\begingroup$ I agree but I would also add the other DNS entries to redirect $\endgroup$
    – Jay
    Commented May 22, 2012 at 16:25
  • $\begingroup$ "Everything in science is either physics or stamp collecting" - who said that? $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 13, 2012 at 23:23
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    $\begingroup$ "Physics & Stamp Collecting" then? $\endgroup$
    – Vortico
    Commented Jun 14, 2012 at 12:48

To present the alternate viewpoint from what others have addressed: the important thing is whether people who will potentially be asking questions on the site, i.e. new users, will understand (observational) astronomy to be within the scope when they just see "Physics" in the title, or not. I believe not. (At least, I would not expect a site that is just named "physics" to incorporate astronomy.) That's why I'm in favor of the name change. Probably very little would be involved, just adding a word to the site logo.

EDIT: since the merger I have seen at least these three examples of people who were confused about the fact that astronomy questions are now on topic for this site:

And these are just the people who thought astronomy was off topic and decided to post anyway. It stands to reason that there are others, perhaps a significant number, who see our site logo and name and decide not to post at all. How many potential questions are we driving away because our site name is misleading?

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    $\begingroup$ Hmm.. Makes sense.. I did think of that, but I felt that we were giving asylum to existing questions, not inviting new ones. On second thoughts, I've realised that we do want to invite new questions. So I'm fine-ish with the name change now, especially since it's just a logo change (sort of like EL&U.SE) I also suggest that we redirect astro.SE to P.SE then.. $\endgroup$ Commented May 2, 2012 at 16:04
  • $\begingroup$ It's not something I'd thought of; and is the first good reason for a name change being necessary that I've seen. $\endgroup$ Commented May 2, 2012 at 17:07
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    $\begingroup$ @Man If you're only accepting those questions to provide an asylum for them, without a willingness to allow new questions of the same nature, then you probably shouldn't be doing it in the first place. Not only is it unnecessary that a new home be found for those questions (they're available in data dumps, etc. anyway), but it's potentially very confusing for users to see questions on subjects which they are not allowed to ask about themselves. $\endgroup$ Commented May 3, 2012 at 2:51
  • $\begingroup$ @Cody Yeah, I realises that, which is why i'm now fine-ish.. I hadn't completely thought it through.. The only thing I have against a name change now is 'I don't like it', which isn't a valid reason anyway ;-) $\endgroup$ Commented May 3, 2012 at 3:25
  • $\begingroup$ The way I approach this question is by looking at the college and universities I've studied and works at. All teach and research in both "physics" and "astronomy". Unfortunately exactly two out of four have separate Astronomy departments (and I believe that is close to the global proportion). I don't think the addition to our name would hurt, but I won't cry if it doesn't happen. $\endgroup$ Commented May 3, 2012 at 20:17
  • $\begingroup$ +1 Historically, astronomy was one of the very first and most accessible and popular sciences. So I think that including astronomy in the logo would not only be more welcoming to questions about astronomy, but also bring in people who would then be likely to be asking and answering core physics questions. $\endgroup$
    – nealmcb
    Commented Jun 9, 2012 at 21:27

In the chat transcript I found several tags with ~50-100 questions that appeared to be similarly far from "core physics" as observational astronomy is from astrophysics. For that reason I don't think a renaming is needed.

The examples I listed during the chat were: education (100 questions); electric circuits (48 questions), or computational physics (41 questions). The latter two straddle the gap between electrical engineering and the various cs/programming SE's. If there was a teaching SE, the same would be true of the first.

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for bringing this up, although I don't agree with your characterization of observational astronomy being no further from from "core physics" than those other tags. $\endgroup$
    – David Z
    Commented May 2, 2012 at 15:57

My only hesitation on physics&astronomy is that "Physics" includes many subsets much larger than "astronomy" and putting it in the title sort of gives it a large weight in proportion to its phase space.

Edit after comment: what about Physics&Astro which would include astrophysics and astronomy in the code, and bring to mind "ad astris" :). Also the "eye impression" phase space is more proportional.

edit2 after @Holowitz What about like the PHYSICSmeta, have the log as PHYSICSfromAtoZ, with fromAtoZ in smaller fonts.

  • $\begingroup$ Yeah, that's what I felt as well.. But, astro is a hot topic now, I think it will be good for the site :/ $\endgroup$ Commented May 17, 2012 at 5:13
  • $\begingroup$ Another possibility, to keep the Physics part of the logo like it is, but add in smaller text '& Astronomy' under. $\endgroup$ Commented May 17, 2012 at 6:41
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    $\begingroup$ Maybe due to the structure of the universities in my local physical environment, it seems to me that astrophysics or astronomy is a (nice) part of physics. So highlighting it the title / logo of the site too much would look strange to me, similat to naming thermodynamics or something else explicitely. $\endgroup$
    – Dilaton
    Commented May 17, 2012 at 8:38
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    $\begingroup$ In addition, naming astronomy extra, such as for example physics & astronomy, could be misinterpreted as saying that astronomy is not physics ... $\endgroup$
    – Dilaton
    Commented May 17, 2012 at 8:45
  • $\begingroup$ @Holowitz Thats an idea, like "meta" in the logo here. $\endgroup$
    – anna v
    Commented May 17, 2012 at 12:41
  • $\begingroup$ @Holowitz yes, that's exactly what this proposal is all about. $\endgroup$
    – David Z
    Commented May 18, 2012 at 10:45
  • $\begingroup$ @Nemo but many people would say that astronomy is not physics... not all of it anyway. $\endgroup$
    – David Z
    Commented May 18, 2012 at 10:47

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