Today, I found an email in my inbox that the question

Who should I contact if I see an unknown object in the sky?

has been closed today as off-topic.

The question has been asked and answered in June 2011.

I think that it is ridiculous and inappropriate and shows a complete lack of respect for the way a community develops.

Obviously, there is no point reopening it because it is already answered. However, you showed me your disrespect and disdain and I want to express my disdain in return.

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    $\begingroup$ I have removed a comment which suggested that the code of conduct has been changed so that “disrespect and disdain” are acceptable now. Anyone who wants to have a good-faith discussion about that can start their own Meta post. $\endgroup$
    – rob Mod
    Commented Jul 9, 2021 at 15:27
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    $\begingroup$ For what it’s worth, your question attracted a random spam answer (which was deleted after 48 seconds). That activity put it on the “recently active” list which is the default for the homepage. $\endgroup$
    – rob Mod
    Commented Jul 9, 2021 at 15:33
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    $\begingroup$ While your reaction is understandable, what is your question here? $\endgroup$
    – jng224
    Commented Jul 9, 2021 at 15:37
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    $\begingroup$ Everything on the site can be edited by other people (with modest reputation requirements) and answered and voted up or down and so on. If you use the site you need to accept that the community (and not you or me or any individual) controls what happens and it's not personal when such a community action happens. As five individuals voted independently to close, it's not personal. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 11, 2021 at 18:00

5 Answers 5


Closing questions is not an expression of disdain. It's merely saying that a question like this is not suitable for the site as it is today, in this instance because it is not inside the scope of physics as a natural science.

When the scope of a site changes, which inevitably happens over the course of the years (and in particular we are today simply stricter about many of the policies that in principle existed already ten years ago), questions that once were on-topic become off-topic. It is right that they can be closed after the fact, and age is not a reason not to close them (but there's usually no pressing need to go hunting for old, now off-topic questions), because users contributing to the site today often look at the questions that are already here to figure out what kinds of questions they can ask.

So in order to signpost that certain kinds of questions would no longer be considered on-topic if they were asked today, old questions can and should be closed. Note that, since it is upvoted and has upvoted answers, the question will not be deleted, and you did not lose any reputation you gained from it. We recognize that it is not your fault that the question was once welcomed here but no longer would be, and there is no negative effect beyond users no longer being able to add new answers to the question.

To make a somewhat silly simile, I would ask you to think of this not as a lack of respect for site history, but as the equivalent of preserving relics of old - they will last and can be viewed, but no longer be touched or used by members of the public.


Since my motives are being questioned, let me add this.

I voted to close this question because I didn't think it was about physics as defined in the scope of this site. That's all.

I don't see that the age of the post (which I didn't notice) makes any difference. Perhaps the criteria have changed in the 10 years since this question was asked? There isn't any statute of limitations. If there were, then such questions would not be close-able and wouldn't appear in the review queue.

When I vote to close a question I am not showing "disdain" or "disrespect" to the person who asked the question.

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    $\begingroup$ I was also one of the users who voted to close. I was about to write the exact same thing but you beat me to it. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 9, 2021 at 15:18
  • $\begingroup$ I agree. Age of posts doesn't matter. If it is off-topic then it should be closed. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 16, 2021 at 10:13
  • $\begingroup$ The comment by DavidZ on the question suggests that the question did receive close votes or have some since-deleted discussion about closure at the time it was asked, FWIW. But I agree that age doesn't matter. $\endgroup$
    – Brick
    Commented Jul 19, 2021 at 17:07

Someone (I don't know who it is) has been going back through old questions and voting to close old questions that don't meet our current guidelines. While I admire the commitment involved I'm not sure it helps the site that much.

Anyhow, I suspect your question received a close vote as part of this activity, and once a question has received one close vote it appears in the review queues where other site users will see it and can also vote to close. I can see why people have voted to close your question, as these days we'd probably migrate it to the Astronomy Stack Exchange since it isn't really a question about physics. Of course the Astronomy Stack Exchange didn't exist in 2011 when you posted your question.

I don't recall seeing your question in the review queues, but if I had I would have voted to leave it open as I think it's perfectly good question and I see no benefit to anyone in closing it. Anyhow while I cannot speak for those who did vote to close, I doubt they intended any criticism. The close votes would simply have been because it's a question about astronomy rather than physics.

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    $\begingroup$ The current Astronomy SE site did not exist in 2011, but there was a previous beta (which was eventually closed) that, curiously, opened about a week after OP posted the question at issue. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 9, 2021 at 13:17
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    $\begingroup$ In general Astronomy doesn't do much more than close questions like this when there is no detail given to suggest it's an astronomy related issue (and they will also be closed if they're related to in atmosphere sightings). So please don't migrate these questions to Astronomy SE unless there's a clear link to astronomy. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 11, 2021 at 17:53

Closing the question in order to:

  • make it explicit that it is legacy and is no longer on-topic.
  • prevent others from adding new answers.

is a good thing.

Were I the author of such a question, I wouldn't feel offended.

On the other hand, it's far from a good thing that it now begins with a totally inappropriate suggestion:

"Want to improve this question? Update the question so it's on-topic for Physics Stack Exchange."


I saw this question in the review queue, and I voted to close it because it is not on topic. I typically do not check the age of a question when I see it in review - nor does the guidance for the workflow of the queue or the norm on any site that I use suggest that I should.

Whether it's worth it to go back through old questions to start this type of process is a matter of opinion, but once it's in the queue, I think it's definitely worth following through. As a representative example, not long after you posted your meta here, we got another meta question Why would my question on tachyons be closed as off topic if most other questions on tachyons are still open? that basically says that there are old questions open with (perceived) similar topic matter to this user's new question, so his/her question should stay open too. Having off-topic questions draw more off-topic questions isn't great - And closing the old questions is the only available tool.


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