Related topics: galaxies · planets · universe

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 ...

Gamma-ray blazars in the sky

When the supermassive black holes at the center of galaxies accrete material, they can eject powerful jets of charged particles at speeds approaching that of light. These particles in turn emit radiation across the electromagnetic ...

Listening to quantum radio

Researchers at Delft University of Technology have created a quantum circuit to listen to the weakest radio signal allowed by quantum mechanics. This new quantum circuit opens the door to possible future applications in areas ...

Solving the jet/cocoon riddle of a gravitational wave event

An international research team including astronomers from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has combined radio telescopes from five continents to prove the existence of a narrow stream of material, ...

Cosmic dust forms in supernovae blasts

Scientists claim to have solved a longstanding mystery as to how cosmic dust, the building blocks of stars and planets, forms across the Universe.

Lifting the veil on star formation in the Orion Nebula

The stellar wind from a newborn star in the Orion Nebula prevents more new stars from forming nearby. That is the result of new research conducted by an international research team led by the University of Cologne (Germany) ...

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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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