What is Astronomy?

In simple terms, astronomy is a multidisciplinary branch of science that focuses on the study of the universe, celestial objects, and space. “Astronomy” is derived from Greek origin, with “astr” translating to star and “nomos” meaning arrangement. Astronomers have been able to hypothesize the answers to philosophical questions presented throughout history. Some of these questions include, “how did life begin,” “is there life on other planets,” and “did the big bang theory occur”? The world today would not operate the same without the knowledge amassed throughout the centuries. For instance, cosmic events and weather patterns would be nothing but a mystery. To many, the idea of studying astronomy has very few practical implications. In reality, the astounding discoveries made by astrologists are being applied to improve our current technology and modern medicine.

What is Astronomy?

Branches of Astronomy

Astronomy, defined as a multidisciplinary subject is composed of 17 sub branches. Biology, physics, chemistry, mathematics, geology, and computer science are all fundamental aspects that intertwine with one another. Astrophysics and astrobiology are branches of astronomy that have resulted in significant technological advancements. By understanding the cosmic events that occur throughout the universe, humans are now aware of the impacts they have on our planet.

Astrobiology. Astrobiology focuses on the distribution, origin, and evolution of life in the universe. There are several basic but equally important concepts that astrobiologists are trying to understand. These ideas revolve around the origin of the building blocks of life and the role these elements play. Another important question to keep in mind is how do these compounds interact and combine with one another? The goal of astrobiology is to find different resources, minerals, and whether life exists on other planets. By applying this knowledge, there is potential to reconfigure many initial assumptions about the origin of life. Eventually, the creation of suitable living environments on Mars and other galaxies may be a possibility in the future.

Astrophysics. Astrophysics is a branch of astronomy that focuses on the physical properties and behavior of celestial bodies. Scientists can better understand their internal processes by applying the laws of chemistry and physics. Astrologists can utilize this information and determine if these celestial objects will have any negative impact on the earth. The patterns and characteristics of cosmic events also allow scientists to improve on current technology. These improvements can range anywhere from increasing the durability of satellites to sustain less damage from solar flares to utilizing modeling techniques developed in astrophysics to help diagnose dementia.

Astronomical Instruments

Tools used by astronomers to collect and record data fall into two distinct categories, observational and auxiliary equipment. Both types work in synch with one another and are required to analyze information accurately.

Observational Equipment. Observational equipment has two primary functions, determining exact coordinates and collecting radiation emitted by celestial bodies. Telescopes, photometers, spectrometers, and radio dishes are commonly used. Telescopes collect light and other forms of electromagnetic radiation. Filters, spectrometers, and photometers are special attachments that are used to resolve images and make them visible to the human eye.

Auxiliary Equipment. Auxiliary equipment records and analyzes all information collected from observational instruments. Determining the brightness of stars or accurately recording their spectra is just a few of their primary functions. Some examples are radiation/infrared detectors, diffraction gratings, and radio receivers.

Contributions Made By Studying Astronomy

Often overlooked by modern society is the importance of astronomy. This branch of science has made many influencing contributions that have only bettered earth and its inhabitants. For Instance, with the knowledge gained from observing celestial bodies, humans have been able to take the steps necessary to reduce the risk of space related hazards. Also, communication, telling time, and navigation are also possible as a result of studying this area of science.

Time. Humans used the stars in the Northern Hemisphere (The Big Dipper and North Star) to tell time. The year, month and day are astronomically based on:

  1. Year – time required for the earth to orbit the sun.
  2. Month – cycles of the Lunar Phases.
  3. Day – time it takes Earth to rotate once on its axis relative to the Sun.

Before clocks or watches, sundials were used to calculate the time. These devices utilize the position of the sun, which causes a rod to cast a shadow on a marked surface. Each marking indicates the time according to the post of the shadow.

Communication. Both radio communication and signaling technologies are a result of applying the knowledge gained by observing the physics of the earth and moon. The discovery and invention of the Internet and GPS are a result of developing more technical antennas and radio waves.

Celestial Navigation. Until conventional compasses came about, one could still find his or her way by using star constellations. The three-star groups used are The Southern Cross, Big Dipper, and Cassiopeia. Other celestial bodies, including the sun, moon, and planets can also help with navigation. One can locate their exact position through the use of angular measurements (sights) between celestial objects and the visible horizon.

Planetary Defense. As comets, asteroids, and meteoroids enter the Earth’s atmosphere, they burn up and cause little to no damage. The chances of a head on collision occurring are minimal but still pose a potential risk. Asteroids can range anywhere from several meters to kilometers in size and direct contact with Earth would result in catastrophic damage. By simulating cosmic events around the earth and solar system, astrologists have managed to take preventative measures to reduce the chances of a collision from ever occurring.

Medicine.  Crossover between doctors and astrological techniques is becoming a common practice. Both medicine and astronomy utilize imaging tools that produce high-dimensional imaging data. Doctors use MRIs, X-rays, and CT scans. Where as, astronomers use radio data, optical data, and X-ray data. The equipment from one field is compatible with the other. The University of Cambridge teamed up with a group of astronomers to demonstrate this collaboration. Doctors use a technique that involves staining and examining tumor samples under a microscope. Changes in the stains are noted and are an indication of different proteins present. This technique, known as immunohistochemistry is used to detect cancer cells. Astronomers applied the method they used when looking for galaxies and not only matched the accuracy of a doctor when detecting these changes but also did so in less time.

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