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Astronomy, Astrophysics, and Space Science

The Observable Universe_020124A
[The Observable Universe - Big Think]

- Overview

Astronomy, astrophysics, and space science are related disciplines: 

  • Astronomy: The study of objects and matter outside the Earth's atmosphere, including their physical and chemical properties. Astronomers may specialize in a particular part of space, such as planets, stars, or moons.
  • Astrophysics: The branch of astronomy that deals with the physics of the universe. Astrophysicists focus on how elements of space interact with one another.
  • Space science: The application of the physical sciences to all things space. Space science includes other disciplines like astrophysics, planetary science, meteorology, and space travel and exploration.

Astronomy is part of space science. Astrophysics is a branch of space science.
Astronomy asks what and where, while astrophysics asks how and why. Astrophysics uses data gathered by astronomers using telescopes on Earth and in space. It explores topics such as the birth, life, and death of stars, planets, galaxies, and nebulae.


- Space Science

Space science is a broad field of study that uses spacecraft to study Earth, the solar system, and the universe. It covers a range of disciplines, including:

  • Meteorology
  • Geology
  • Lunar, solar, and planetary science
  • Astronomy and astrophysics
  • Life sciences
  • Astronautics
  • Galactic science
  • Space medicine
  • Astrobiology
  • Space travel and exploration

Space science answers questions about the formation and evolution of the solar system and the universe.

The best way to think about space science is as applying physical science to everything in space. In this way, astrophysics is one of the space sciences. Some other space sciences include astrobiology, chemistry, and helioseismology, but the list goes on. Almost every physical science has some form of application in space. 


- Astrophysics

Astrophysics is the branch of space science that applies the laws of physics and chemistry in the quest to understand the universe and our place in it. This field explores topics such as the birth, life and death of stars, planets, galaxies, nebulae and other objects in the universe. It has two sibling sciences, astronomy and cosmology, although the lines between these branches can blur. 

Astrophysics creates physical theories of small and medium-sized objects and structures in the universe. Astronomy measures the position, luminosity, motion, and other characteristics of celestial bodies. Cosmology covers the largest structures of the universe and the universe as a whole.  


The Andromeda Galaxy_110323A
[The Andromeda Galaxy (Ultraviolet) - NASA Hubble]

- Astronomy

Astronomy and astrophysics involves the study and understanding of all large objects. Astronomers observe everything from the planets in our solar system to the galaxies we inhabit, and even the universe itself. 

Astronomy is the study and measurement of the physical properties of extraterrestrial objects. This helps to develop physical laws and theorems that can be applied to large-scale worlds (i.e. planets, stars, galaxies and the entire universe). 

Astrophysics is the application of the laws and theorems of physics to information gathered by observing extraterrestrial objects. This can be used to predict the presence of unseen objects, as well as the future motion and evolution of observed objects. 


- Astrophysics and Space Science

  • Astrophysical observations in the X-ray, optical, infrared, microwave, and radio spectral regimes to understand the cosmic microwave background; the formation, structure and evolution of galaxies; and the formation of stars and the planet-forming environment.
  • Spacecraft observations of in situ magnetic fields and plasmas
  • Development of new techniques for observations of and interpretation of gravitational wave spectra
  • Development of new instrumentation for astronomical observations and space physics
  • Laboratory measurements of cross sections in highly-charged ions; and phenomena in electron-molecule and atom-surface collisions and
  • Theoretical modeling of star and planet formation, protostellar disks, dusty debris disks and the development of new techniques for direct observation of extrasolar planets. 



[More to come ...]


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