Astronomy is the 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. Astronomy and space science is, therefore, identical.
It is a very old science since the firmament and its mysteries constituted one of the first unknowns that the human being was formulated, giving them in many cases mythological or religious answers. It is also one of the few sciences that currently allow the participation of its fans.
In addition, astronomy has not only existed as an independent science, but has 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 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 and technical milestones of recent eras, such as interstitial travel, the positioning of the Earth within the galaxy, or the detailed observation of the atmospheres and surfaces of the planets of the System.
A brief history of astronomy
Astronomy is one of the oldest sciences of the human being since from the antiquity the stars and the bodies of the celestial vault have captured their attention and their curiosity. Great scholars of this field were the philosophers of antiquity such as Aristotle, Thales of Miletus, Anaxagoras, Aristarchus of Samos or Hipparchus of Nicaea, post-Renaissance scientists such as Nicolaus Copernicus, Tycho Brahe, Johannes Kepler, Galileo Galilei, and Edmund Halley, or contemporary scholars as Stephen Hawkins.
The ancients studied exhaustively 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 remain until the end of the European Middle Ages when the Scientific Revolution questioned many of the universal foundations that religion maintained as sacred.
Later, as early as the twentieth century, the new advanced technologies available for humanity allowed a greater understanding of light and therefore of telescopic observation technologies, bringing with it new understandings of the universe and the elements that compose it. Thus astronomy and space science has become a prominent field of study in modern period.
Branches of astronomy and space science
Astronomy or space science includes the following branches or subfields:
Astrophysics: Fruit of the application of 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 the application of 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 collecting probes for rock samples.
Astronautics: From watching the stars so much, the man began to dream of visiting them. Astronautics is precisely 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 celestial 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 planets known and to be known, that is, those that make up our solar system and those that are far from it. This ranges from objects the size of a meteor to gaseous giants of enormous magnitude.
Astronomy of X-rays: 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 can be drawn from them from the universe.
Astrometry: It is the branch responsible for measuring the position and astronomical movements, that is, to map in some way the observable universe. It is perhaps the oldest branch of all.
Difference between astronomy and astrology
The difference between astronomy and astrology is fundamental. When we speak of astronomy we refer to science, that uses, logically, the scientific method to carry out its measurements and verifications, which can be refuted and is based on analyzable experiments and on theories with mathematical support.
Astrology, on the other hand, is an “occult science” or pseudoscience that is, an interpretative doctrine of reality that has no scientific basis, nor responds to other fields of verifiable factual knowledge, but rather is based on its own and exclusive rules of the game. If astronomy is the scientific understanding of the cosmos, astrology is the explanation of terrestrial phenomena through figures traced arbitrarily in the stars.
There are many examples of the influence of astronomy and space science on technological development in the world. It is part of the human instinct to accumulate information about nature, and this accumulation of knowledge has allowed scientists to take advantage of the resources of the environment.