Astronomy, Astrophysics and Cosmology Defined

Astronomy is the science of celestial objects and phenomena that originate outside the Earth's atmosphere, such as stars, planets, comets, auroras, galaxies, and the cosmic background radiation. It is concerned with the formation and development of the universe, the evolution and physical and chemical properties of celestial objects and the calculation of their motions. Astronomical observations are not only relevant for astronomy as such, but provide essential information for the verification of fundamental theories in physics, such as general relativity theory. Complementary to observational astronomy, theoretical astrophysics seeks to explain astronomical phenomena.

Astrophysics is the branch of astronomy that deals with the physics of the universe, including the physical properties (luminosity, density, temperature and chemical composition) of astronomical objects such as stars, galaxies, and the interstellar medium, as well as their interactions. Because it is a very broad subject, astrophysicists typically apply many disciplines of physics including, but not limited to, mechanics, electromagnetism, statistical mechanics, thermodynamics, quantum mechanics, relativity, nuclear and particle physics, and atomic and molecular physics. In practice, modern astronomical research involves a substantial amount of physics. The name of a university's department ("astrophysics" or "astronomy") often has to do more with the department's history than with the contents of the programs.

Cosmology - the study of cosmology is theoretical astrophysics at the largest scales, i.e. the universe as a whole.

Due to the overlap between all three subjects we will generally refer to all three under the heading of Astronomy in this project.

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