We explain what astronomy is and what is the history of this science. In addition, its branches of study and its different from astrology.

What is astronomy?

Astronomy is the science dedicated to studying the celestial bodies that populate the cosmos: stars, planets, satellites, comets, meteorites, galaxies and all interstellar matter, as well as their interactions and movements.

It is an ancient science since the sky and its mysteries constituted one of the first unknowns that human being formulated, giving them mythological or religious answers in many cases. It is also one of the few sciences that currently allows its amateurs to participate.

In addition, astronomy has not only existed as an independent science but has also accompanied other areas of knowledge and other disciplines, such as navigation -especially in the absence of maps and compasses- and, more recently, physics, for whose understanding of the fundamental laws of the universe the observation of the behaviour of the cosmos turns out to be of enormous and incomparable value.

Thanks to astronomy, humanity has achieved some of its most significant scientific and technical milestones in recent times, such as interspatial travel, the positioning of the Earth within the galaxy, or the detailed observation of the atmospheres and surfaces of the planets of the Solar System. Solar, when not from systems many light years from our world.

history of astronomy

Astronomy is one of the oldest sciences of the human being; since ancient times, the stars and the bodies of the celestial vault have captured their attention and curiosity. Great scholars in this field were the ancient philosophers such as Aristotle, Thales of Miletus, Anaxagoras, Aristarchus of Samos or Hipparchus of Nicaea, post-Renaissance scientists such as Nicholas Copernicus, Tycho Brahe, Johannes Kepler, Galileo Galilei and Edmund Halley, or contemporary specialists like Stephen Hawkins.

The ancients studied the sky, the Moon and the Sun, so much so that the ancient Greeks already knew about the roundness of the Earth, but they assumed that the stars revolved around the planet and not the other way around. This would continue until the end of the European Middle Ages when the Scientific Revolution questioned many of the universal foundations that religion held sacred.

Later, in the 20th century, the new advanced technologies available to humanity allowed a greater understanding of light and, therefore, of telescopic observation technologies, bringing with it new versions of the universe and the elements that compose it.

branches of astronomy

Astronomy comprises the following branches or subfields:

  • Astrophysics. Fruit of applying physics to astronomy, to explain the properties and celestial phenomena, formulating laws, measuring magnitudes and expressing the results mathematically through formulas.
  • Astrogeology. Known as exogeology or planetary geology, it is about the application of the knowledge obtained during excavations and telluric observations on the planet Earth to other celestial bodies whose composition can be known from afar or even, as is the case of the
  • Moon and Mars, through the sending of rock sample-collecting probes.
  • Astronautics. From so much observing the stars, the man began to dream of visiting them. Astronautics is the branch of science that seeks to make that dream possible.
    Celestial mechanics. Fruit of the collaboration between classical or Newtonian mechanics and astronomy, this discipline focuses on the movement of heavenly bodies due to the gravitational effects that other bodies of greater mass generate on them.
  • Planetology. Also called planetary sciences, it focuses on the accumulated knowledge of known and unknown planets, those that make up our solar system and those that are far from it. This ranges from meteor-sized objects to massive gas giants.
  • X-ray astronomy. Together with other astronomical branches specialized in types of radiation or light (electromagnetic radiation), this branch constitutes a specialized approach to the measurement of X-rays coming from outer space and the conclusions that, from them, they can be taken out of the universe.
  • Astrometry. It is the branch in charge of measuring astronomical positions and movements, somehow mapping the observable universe. It is perhaps the oldest branch of all.

Difference Between Astronomy and Astrology

The difference between these two disciplines is fundamental. When we talk about astronomy, we refer to science that logically uses the scientific method to carry out its measurements and verifications, which can be refuted and is based on analyzable experiments and mathematically supported theories.

On the other hand, astrology is an “occult science” or pseudoscience, that is, an interpretive doctrine of reality that does not have any scientific foundation, nor does it respond to other fields of verifiable factual knowledge, but is based on its own and exclusive game rules. If astronomy is the scientific understanding of the cosmos, astrology is the explanation of terrestrial phenomena through figures arbitrarily drawn on the stars.

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