The Astronomy Portal
Astronomy is a natural science that studies celestial objects and phenomena. It uses mathematics, physics, and chemistry in order to explain their origin and evolution. Objects of interest include planets, moons, stars, nebulae, galaxies, meteoroid, asteroid, and comets. Relevant phenomena include supernova explosions, gamma ray bursts, quasars, blazars, pulsars, and cosmic microwave background radiation. More generally, astronomy studies everything that originates beyond Earth's atmosphere. Cosmology is a branch of astronomy that studies the universe as a whole.
Astronomy is one of the oldest natural sciences. The early civilizations in recorded history made methodical observations of the night sky. These include the Egyptians, Babylonians, Greeks, Indians, Chinese, Maya, and many ancient indigenous peoples of the Americas. In the past, astronomy included disciplines as diverse as astrometry, celestial navigation, observational astronomy, and the making of calendars. Nowadays, professional astronomy is often said to be the same as astrophysics.
Professional astronomy is split into observational and theoretical branches. Observational astronomy is focused on acquiring data from observations of astronomical objects. This data is then analyzed using basic principles of physics. Theoretical astronomy is oriented toward the development of computer or analytical models to describe astronomical objects and phenomena. These two fields complement each other. Theoretical astronomy seeks to explain observational results and observations are used to confirm theoretical results.
Astronomy is one of the few sciences in which amateurs play an active role. This is especially true for the discovery and observation of transient events. Amateur astronomers have helped with many important discoveries, such as finding new comets. (Full article...)
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The Kreutz sungrazers (/ˈkrɔɪts/ (listen) KROYTS) are a family of sungrazing comets, characterized by orbits taking them extremely close to the Sun at perihelion. They are believed to be fragments of one large comet that broke up several centuries ago and are named for German astronomer Heinrich Kreutz, who first demonstrated that they were related. A Kreutz sungrazer's aphelion is about 170 AU from the Sun; these sungrazers make their way from the distant outer Solar System from a patch in the sky in Canis Major, to the inner Solar System, to their perihelion point near the Sun, and then leave the inner Solar System in their return trip to their aphelion.Several members of the Kreutz family have become great comets, occasionally visible near the Sun in the daytime sky. The most recent of these was Comet Ikeya–Seki in 1965, which may have been one of the brightest comets in the last millennium. It has been suggested that another cluster of bright Kreutz system comets may begin to arrive in the inner Solar System in the next few years to decades. (Full article...)
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Mimas is a moon of Saturn. It was discovered in 1789 by William Herschel, after whom the large crater in the image is named. It is the twentieth-largest moon in the Solar System, and the smallest astronomical body that is known to be rounded in shape because of self-gravitation. This photograph of Mimas was taken by the unmanned spacecraft Cassini in 2010.
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