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What Is Astronomy?

written by: Victoria Trix•edited by: RC Davison•updated: 9/9/2009

Astronomy is the study of the universe but it encompasses so much more. Here we will explain to you what it is and the additional science that helps us understand it.

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    Study of Astronomy and its Specific Fields

    Astronomy, in its most basic definition, is the study of the universe beyond the atmosphere of the Earth. Unlike Astrology which uses the stars and universal patterns to predict your future, astronomy is a science. It uses physics and practiced mathematical formulas to explain how the universe was formed – and is still forming today. It is considered the oldest science known to mankind, but it has only been within the last fifty years that man has been able to study the universe in more detail thanks to the technological advances that have been made in telescopes and other ways to look at the night sky.

    Astronomy itself covers many different fields. Cosmology studies the entire universe from its beginnings and everything since then. Astrometry studies the measure of distances between celestial bodies. Planetology studies all planets, both in our Solar System and others beyond ours. Radio astronomy utilizes radio telescopes to study the universe and the many different sounds and variations within it. And mathematical astronomy is the use of math to explain to universe and how it works. Additionally, astronomy encompasses other sciences in order to study how the universe around us actually works. We’ve already mentioned the science of math, by chemistry, biology, geology, and physics are also involved. Physics has its own field even, called astrophysics.

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    History of Astronomy

    Prior to the invention of telescopes and other technology, people used to use the stars to base a variety of different things around. Celebrations, planting and harvest cycles, and the reading of the seasons. The ancient Greeks were the first to develop astronomical theories about how the universe was designed. Since those ancient astronomers first began to study the stars and the blackness beyond, there have been others who have published their research and added to the field of astronomy. Some of the well known names associated with the field include Copernicus, Galileo Galilei, Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein, Edwin P. Hubble, Carl Sagan, and Stephen Hawking.

    There is still a lot about the stars and the universe we don’t know and the field of astronomy is consistently growing every day. With every question we answer, however, two more take its place, leaving us even more and more curious about the universe around us. With the Hubble telescope orbiting our own planet, and repaired to the point where it is no longer suffering from near-sightedness, we may be able to learn one day how our universe came to be and whether or not we are truly are alone in the universe.