Related topics: galaxies · planets · universe

Highly anticipated nuclear experiment underway

Neutron stars were recently in the news because the gravitational wave observatory, LIGO, detected a neutron star merger. Neutron stars are very interesting objects. A teaspoon of neutron star matter is so dense it would ...

From points of light to worlds: UA explores the solar system

A determined bunch of scientists set out to map the moon in preparation of the Apollo landings, but that was only the beginning. A new field of science blossomed, and UA scientists have been involved in nearly every U.S. ...

Magnetic field may be keeping Milky Way's black hole quiet

Supermassive black holes exist at the center of most galaxies, and our Milky Way is no exception. But many other galaxies have highly active black holes, meaning a lot of material is falling into them, emitting high-energy ...

The building blocks for astronomically literate citizens

What does it mean for a citizen to be literate in astronomy? Astronomers who participate in outreach to the general public experience various degrees of astronomical knowledge among people. But so far, there had not been ...

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Astronomy

Astronomy (from the Greek words astron (ἄστρον), "star", and nomos (νόμος), "law") is the scientific study of celestial objects (such as stars, planets, comets, and galaxies) and phenomena that originate outside the Earth's atmosphere (such as the cosmic background radiation). It is concerned with the evolution, physics, chemistry, meteorology, and motion of celestial objects, as well as the formation and development of the universe.

Astronomy is one of the oldest sciences. Astronomers of early civilizations performed methodical observations of the night sky, and astronomical artifacts have been found from much earlier periods. However, the invention of the telescope was required before astronomy was able to develop into a modern science. Historically, astronomy has included disciplines as diverse as astrometry, celestial navigation, observational astronomy, the making of calendars, and even astrology, but professional astronomy is nowadays often considered to be synonymous with astrophysics.

Since the 20th century, the field of professional astronomy split into observational and theoretical branches. Observational astronomy is focused on acquiring and analyzing data, mainly using basic principles of physics. Theoretical astronomy is oriented towards the development of computer or analytical models to describe astronomical objects and phenomena. The two fields complement each other, with theoretical astronomy seeking to explain the observational results, and observations being used to confirm theoretical results.

Amateur astronomers have contributed to many important astronomical discoveries, and astronomy is one of the few sciences where amateurs can still play an active role, especially in the discovery and observation of transient phenomena.

Old or even ancient astronomy is not to be confused with astrology, the belief system which claims that human affairs are correlated with the positions of celestial objects. Although the two fields share a common origin and a part of their methods (namely, the use of ephemerides), they are distinct.

2009 has been declared by the UN to be the International Year of Astronomy 2009 (IYA2009). The focus is on enhancing the public’s understanding and engagement with astronomy.

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