Astronomy is the study of the sky, the science of cosmic objects and celestial events. It also happens to be the study of the nature of the world in which you reside.
Observing through telescopes that catch visible light from the stars or tuning in to radio waves emanating from space, professional astronomers conduct astronomical research.
They employ backyard telescopes, enormous observatory instruments, and satellites that orbit the Earth to capture kinds of light (such as ultraviolet radiation) that are blocked by the atmosphere from reaching the ground. They launch telescopes using sounding rockets (which are outfitted with scientific gear for high-altitude studies) and unmanned balloons. In addition, they deploy experiments into the solar system on deep-space missions.
What Do Astronomers Do?
Professional astronomers investigate the Sun and solar system, the Milky Way, and the rest of the cosmos. They instruct at universities, create satellites in government laboratories, and run planetariums.
Most Ph.D. holders have completed years of education. Many research advanced physics or operate with automated, robotic telescopes that can see well beyond the visible night sky.
They may have never initially examined the constellations (groupings of stars, such as Ursa Major, the Great Bear, identified by ancient astronomers) that amateur or hobbyist astronomers investigate.
Possibly, you are already acquainted with the Big Dipper, an asterism in Ursa Major. A designated star pattern that is not similar to one of the 88 recognized constellations is an asterism.
An asterism may consist of stars from a single constellation or stars from many constellations. For instance, the four corners of the Great Square of Pegasus, a huge asterism, are designated by three stars from the constellation Pegasus and one from the constellation Andromeda.
What You See: Light’s Language
Light provides information on the planets, moons, and comets in our solar system, the stars, star clusters, nebulae in our galaxy, and things beyond. Have you ever tried to visualize a galaxy art painting to see everything clearly in it? Next time do check it out.
In ancient times, people did not consider the physics and chemistry of the stars; instead, they absorbed and transmitted traditional tales and myths, such as the Great Bear, the Demon Star, the Man in the Moon, and the dragon devouring the Sun during a solar eclipse. From culture to culture, legends differed. However, several individuals did uncover the star patterns. In Polynesia, competent navigators traversed hundreds of miles of open water with no visible markers or compass. They navigated according to the stars, the Sun, and their understanding of prevailing winds and currents.
When seeing a star’s light, the ancients recorded its brilliance, position in the sky, and hue. This knowledge enables humans to discriminate between many celestial objects, and the ancients (and people today) became acquainted with them like old acquaintances. Some fundamentals of identifying and characterizing sky features are as follows:
- Separating the stars from the planets
- Namely identifying constellations, stars, and other celestial objects.
- Observing brightness (given as magnitudes
- Comprehending the notion of a light-year
- Determining sky position (measured in special units called RA and Dec
- As they roamed, they pondered the distinction between planets and stars.
Planet is derived from the ancient Greek planets, which means “wanderer.” The Greeks and other ancient people saw the movement of five bright lights across the starry sky. Some marched steadily forward, while others periodically retraced their steps.
Nobody knew why. And these luminous specks did not sparkle like the stars; no one could explain this difference. So every tribe had a name for these five bright points, which we now refer to as planets. In English, they are called Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn. These celestial entities do not roam among the stars; they circle the Sun, the primary star of our solar system.
Scientists know that planets can be smaller or larger than Earth, but they are always far smaller than the Sun. The planets in our solar system are close enough to Earth to have discernible disks. These allowi us to discern their sizes and forms. However, the distance between Earth and the stars is so great that even with a good telescope, the stars seem like just dots of light.
Identifying Celestial Bodies And Constellations
I used to advise planetarium audiences who craned their necks to view stars projected above them, “Don’t worry if you can’t see a grizzly bear. Those who observe a Great Bear may need to be concerned.”
Ancient astronomers classified the night sky into fictitious characters.
The ancients assigned a constellation pattern to each figure. Andromeda does not resemble a chained woman or anything else to most people. Space artists create constellations paintings to capture those details in their artwork.
Today, astronomers have split the night sky into 88 constellations, each containing every visible star. The International Astronomical Union, the governing body of astronomy, established borders for the constellations so that scientists could agree on which stars belong to which constellations. Historically, sky charts created by various astronomers frequently diverged.
For instance, some astronomers refer to Dorado as the Swordfish, but I would want to ridicule this moniker. One constellation, Serpens, the Serpent, is divided into two unconnected portions. Serpens Caput (Serpent’s Head) and Serpens Cauda (Serpent’s Tail) are the two portions on either side of Ophiuchus, the Serpent Bearer.
The only connection between the various stars in a constellation is their closeness to one another, as seen from Earth. In space, the stars comprising a constellation may be entirely unconnected, with some stars lying relatively close to Earth and others at much greater distances. However, they form a basic pattern those spectators on Earth can appreciate.