Astronomy – Concept, history and branches of study

We explain what astronomy is and what is the history of this science. Also, its branches of study and its difference from astrology.

Astronomy is one of the few sciences that allows amateur participation.

What is astronomy?

It is known as astronomy to science that is dedicated to the study of 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 extremely ancient science, since the firmament and its mysteries were one of the first unknowns that the human being asked himself, giving them in many cases mythological or religious answers. It is also one of the few sciences that today allows the participation of its fans.

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 behavior of the cosmos turns out to be of enormous and incomparable value.

Thanks to astronomy, humanity has achieved some of its greatest scientific milestones and technicians of recent eras, such as interspace 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, if not of systems many light years from our planet.

History of astronomy

Stephen Hawkins was one of the contemporary specialists in studying astronomy.

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

The ancients exhaustively studied the firmament, the Moon, and the Sun, so much so that the ancient Greeks already knew about the roundness of the Earth, but they supposed that the stars revolved around the planet, and not the other way around. This would continue until late medieval Europe, when the Scientific Revolution questioned many of the universal foundations that religion held sacred.

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

Branches of astronomy

Astrophysics explains celestial properties and phenomena with mathematical formulas.

Astronomy comprises the following branches or subfields:

  • Astrophysics. Fruit of the application of physics to astronomy, to explain celestial properties and phenomena, formulating laws, measuring magnitudes and expressing the results mathematically through formulas.
  • Astrogeology Known as exogeology or planetary geology, it is the application of the knowledge obtained during excavations and telluric observations on 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 shipment of rock sample collecting probes.
  • Astronautics. After observing the stars so much, the man began to dream of visiting them. Astronautics is precisely the branch of science that seeks to make this dream possible.
  • Celestial mechanics. As a result of the collaboration between classical or Newtonian mechanics and astronomy, this discipline focuses on the movement of celestial bodies, due to the gravitational effects that other higher mass bodies generate on them.
  • Planetology. Also called planetary sciences, it focuses on the accumulated knowledge of the planets known and to be known, that is, of those that make up our solar system and those that are far from it. This ranges from meteor-sized objects to huge 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 in the measurement of X-rays from outer space, and the conclusions that from them can be drawn from the universe.
  • Astrometry It is the branch in charge of measuring astronomical position and movements, that is, of mapping the observable universe in some way. It is perhaps the oldest branch of all.

Difference between astronomy and astrology

Astrology is considered an interpretive doctrine with no scientific basis.

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

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