Portal:Astronomy
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Portal:Astronomy
The Astronomy Portal

Astronomy portal

A man sitting on a chair mounted to a moving platform, staring through a large telescope.

Astronomy (from Greek: ?) 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, 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 outside Earth's atmosphere. Cosmology is a branch of astronomy. It 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 Babylonians, Greeks, Indians, Egyptians, Nubians, Iranians, 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.

Amateurs play an active role in astronomy. It is one of the few sciences in which this is the case. 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.

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Photograph of the crescent planet Neptune (top) and its moon Triton (center), taken by Voyager 2 during its 1989 flyby
The definition of planet has included a wide range of celestial bodies. Early use of the term was never strict and its meaning has blurred to include or exclude a variety of objects. By the end of the 19th century, the word planet had a more firm definition: it applied only to objects in the Solar System, a number small enough that any differences could be dealt with on an individual basis. After 1992 however, astronomers began to discover many additional objects beyond the orbit of Neptune, as well as hundreds of extrasolar planets. These discoveries not only increased the number of potential planets, but expanded their variety and peculiarity. The issue of a clear definition for planet came to a head in 2005 with the discovery of the trans-Neptunian object Eris, a body larger than the smallest then-accepted planet, Pluto. In its 2006 response to the discovery, the International Astronomical Union released its decision on the matter. Its definition, which applies only to the Solar System, states that a planet is a body that orbits the Sun, is massive enough for its own gravity to make it round, and has "cleared its neighbourhood" of smaller objects around its orbit. Under this new definition, Pluto and the other trans-Neptunian objects do not qualify as planets. (more...)

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NGC 1300
Credit: NASA, ESA, and The Hubble Heritage Team STScI/AURA

NGC 1300 is a barred spiral galaxy about 61 million light-years away in the constellation Eridanus. The galaxy is about 110,000 light-years across; just slightly larger than our own galaxy, the Milky Way.

Astronomy News

12 September 2019 - Interstellar objects
C/2019 Q4 (Borisov), a second interstellar comet after ?Oumuamua in 2017, is discovered by an amateur astronomer. (BBC)
19 August 2019 -
Astronomers led by a team from McGill University in Montreal announce the detection of eight new repeating fast radio bursts (FRBs) using the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment (CHIME) radio telescope. The astronomers report they also found complex morphologies and downward-drifting sub-bursts in some of the eight new FRBs. (Phys.org)
1 August 2019 - List of nearest exoplanets
Astronomers from the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy announce the discovery of red dwarf star GJ 357 and its three confirmed exoplanets in the Hydra constellation, one of which (GJ 357 d) is highly likely to be a super-Earth planet located in the system's circumstellar habitable zone where life can exist. The discovery was made using NASA's Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS). (The Independent)
17 July 2019 -
Astronomers rule out the chances of ~30-meter asteroid 's impacting Earth in September 2019 by eliminating the possibility of its passing through an area where it would have to be if it were on an impacting orbit. Prior to this, the asteroid had been given a one-in-7,000 chance of impacting Earth. (phys.org)
31 January 2019 -
Astronomers announce, through the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society journal, the accidental discovery of dwarf spheroidal galaxy Bedin I in the Pavo constellation in September 2018. (Space Telescope)
17 December 2018 -
Astronomers announce the discovery of trans-Neptunian object , the most distant object in the Solar System ever observed at a distance of ~. (Space.com)

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Astronomical events

All times UT unless otherwise specified.

2 September, 10:42 Mars at conjunction
4 September, 01:42 Mercury at superior conjunction
8 September, 13:42 Moon occults Saturn
9 September, 03:05 Moon occults Pluto
10 September Neptune at opposition
13 September, 13:16 Moon at apogee
14 September, 04:33 Full moon
23 September, 07:50 Earth southward equinox
28 September, 02:17 Moon at perigee
28 September, 18:26 New moon

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  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.

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