Science Made Easy


Planets in Orbit

Astronomy is the study of the sun, moon, stars, planets, comets, gas, galaxies, gas, dust and other non-Earthly bodies and phenomena. In curriculum for K-4 students, NASA defines astronomy as simple "the study of stars, planets and space." Astronomy and astrology were historically associated, but astrology is not a science and is no longer recognized as having anything to do with astronomy. Below we discuss the history of astronomy and related fields of study, including cosmology.

Historically, astronomy has focused on observations of heavenly bodies. It is a close cousin to astrophysics. Succinctly put, astrophysics involves the study of the physics of astronomy and concentrates on the behavior, properties and motion of objects out there. However, modern astronomy includes many elements of the motions and characteristics of these bodies, and the two terms are often used interchangeably today.


Modern astronomers tend to fall into two fields:

•Observational astronomers focus on direct study of stars, planets, galaxies, and so forth.

•Theoretical astronomers model and analyze how systems may have evolved.

The image of an astronomer is a lone soul at a telescope during all hours of the night. In reality, most hard-core astronomy today is done with observations made at remote telescopes — on the ground or in space — that are controlled by computers, with astronomers studying computer-generated data and images. Astronomers and spaceflight programs also contribute to the study of our own planet, when missions primed at looking outward (or travelling to the moon and beyond) look back and snap great pictures of Earth from space.