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Distant galaxies are scattered throughout the field of view of the James Webb telescope. (Image credit: NASA, ESA, CSA and STScI)

“exploring The Universe: Astronomy And Space Science Degrees In The United States”

Astronomy is one of the oldest scientific disciplines, having evolved from counting stars and mapping constellations with the naked eye to the impressive display of humanity’s technological capabilities that we see today.

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Despite the progress astronomy has made over the millennia, astronomers are still working hard to understand the nature of the universe and humanity’s place in it. This question has only become more complex as our understanding of the universe has grown along with our technical capabilities.

As the depths of the sky opened up to our increasingly sophisticated telescopes and sensitive detectors allowed us to pick up the strangest forms of signal, the starry skies our ancestors gazed upon turned into a mind-boggling zoo of objects, including black holes. , white dwarfs, neutron stars and supernovae.

At the same time, the two-dimensional constellations that inspired the imaginations of early skywatchers were reduced to an optical illusion, behind which swirls of galaxies hurtling through time reveal a story that began with the Big Bang some 13.8 billion years ago.

Astronomy cannot be divided into only four types. It is a broad discipline that encompasses many subfields, including observational astronomy, theoretical astronomy, planetary science, astrophysics, cosmology, and astrobiology.

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Those who study astronomy study the structure and origin of the universe, including its stars, planets, galaxies, and black holes. Astronomers try to answer fundamental questions about our universe through theory and observation.

Astrology is widely considered a pseudoscience that attempts to explain how the positions and movements of celestial objects such as the planets affect people and events on Earth. Astronomy is the scientific study of the universe using mathematics, physics and chemistry.

Most of today’s inhabitants of planet Earth live surrounded by the inescapable glare of modern city lights, and they can hardly imagine the awe-inspiring presence of the ancient, starry sky that lit up the nights of ancient tribes and early civilizations. We can guess how our ancestors were attracted to this amazing sight, considering the role of sky watching in their lives.

Ancient monuments, such as the 5,000-year-old Stonehenge in the UK, were built to represent the sun’s journey across the sky, helping to keep track of time and order life in an era that depended only on the seasons. Artworks depicting the moon and stars have been discovered dating back thousands of years, such as the “world’s oldest star map,” the Bronze Age Nebra Disc.

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Ancient Assyro-Babylonians around 1000 B.C. systematically observed and recorded periodic movements of celestial bodies, according to the European Space Agency (ESA), and similar records also exist from early China. In fact, according to the University of Oregon, astronomy can be considered the first science because it is the one for which the oldest written records exist.

The ancient Greeks took sky observation to a new level. Aristarchus of Samos made the first (very imprecise) attempt to calculate the Earth’s distance to the Sun and Moon, and Hipparchus, sometimes considered the father of empirical astronomy, cataloged over 800 star positions using only the naked eye. He also developed a luminosity scale that is still used by the ESA.

Estimated to be 3,600 years old, the Nebra Disc is one of the oldest known artifacts depicting the night sky. (Image credit: Frank Vincenz) History of Astronomy: The Arrival of the Telescope

During the Middle Ages, the science of astronomy continued to develop in Asia and the Islamic world. Islamic scholars continued to build on the knowledge of the ancient Greeks, expanding the catalog introduced by Hipparchus. They also developed new tools for measuring the positions of objects in the sky, such as quadrants and sextants, according to ESA.

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However, the first real breakthrough in human exploration of the universe came with the invention of the telescope in the 17th century. Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei was an early adopter and developer of this technology, which allowed him to make great strides in understanding our solar system.

Thanks to the telescope, Galileo, who was called the “father of modern science”, was able to sketch the surface of the Moon, discover the main moons of Jupiter, find sunspots and much more.

Telescope Compressor Astronomy Invention. Despite the objections of the Catholic Church, the belief that the Earth is not the center of the universe, but revolves around the Sun together with other planets and their moons, could no longer be denied.

Astronomy at the time played a key role in helping sailors and travelers navigate the world, and so the first government-funded observatories, the Paris Observatory and the Royal Greenwich Observatory, were established in 1667 and 1675 respectively, with the aim of creating a more accurate star. maps.

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In the 18th century, astronomers were able to calculate the distance of a nearby star for the first time, adding a third dimension to star catalogs.

The advent of photography in the 19th century simplified the mapping of the night sky, and catalogs of star locations quickly grew from a few thousand to tens of thousands of stars, according to the ESA. The first photographs of the moon and sun were published in the 1840s, followed by the first images of the star Vega about a decade later.

The discovery of spectroscopy, a discipline that analyzes the ability of matter to split light into different wavelengths depending on its chemical composition, in the second half of the 19th century opened up new and completely unexpected directions for astronomical research. With the help of spectroscopy, astronomers were able to study the chemical composition of celestial objects, first of those nearby, such as the moon and the sun, and later of more distant objects, including other stars and even galaxies. Suddenly, astronomy wasn’t just about where things were in the universe, but what they were made of.

Famous astronomer Galileo Galilei shows his telescope in Venice in a historical engraving. (Image credit: Welcome Images) A ​​History of Astronomy: The Rise of the Modern Era

Equipment And Systems For Exploring The Universe

Along with the overall rocket-speed technological progress the world has experienced since the early 20th century, astronomers have increased their ability to see further and analyze more precisely.

In the early 20th century, rapid improvements in telescope technology led astronomers to question for the first time whether the Milky Way was synonymous with the universe or just one of the many starry universes scattered across the . American astronomer Edwin Hubble solved this question in the 1920s, when he first succeeded in distinguishing individual stars in the Andromeda Nebula, now known as the Andromeda Galaxy, and eventually calculating their distances from Earth. These stars were so much further away than anything else in our galaxy that Hubble concluded that Andromeda was its own Milky Way. A new, much deeper universe suddenly appeared before the eyes of astronomers.

Other “nebulas” were soon confirmed as galaxies. Within a decade, astronomers realized that these nebulae are receding from Earth at a rate faster the further away they are, Science News reports. This discovery led to the idea that the universe is expanding, possibly from the moment of the giant bang that created it in the most distant past. The Big Bang Theory was born.

World War II further accelerated technological progress, ushering in the era of flight and space exploration from . What would have been the stuff of science fiction only a few decades earlier quickly became reality.

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In 1957, the U.S.S.R. launched the first satellite, Sputnik. In the future, more and more sophisticated scientific instruments will be installed on satellites, and a picture of the orbital environment around the Earth will begin to emerge. In 1962, NASA’s Mariner 2 became the first spacecraft to visit another planet, Venus, and in 1964, the United Kingdom’s Ariel 2, the first radio astronomy satellite, entered orbit.

The race of the sixties culminated in the successful landings of the Apollo program on the moon. For the first time, scientists on Earth could hold in their hands intact pieces of rock from another celestial body. The U.S.S.R. celebrated its success with the Lunokhod lunar rover, which analyzed 25 lunar soil samples with onboard instruments.

According to the US, in 1968, NASA launched the Orbital Astronomical Observatory 2, nicknamed Stargazer, the first attempt to study the wider universe from . Today. Just a year later, plans for the Hubble telescope began to take shape, although it would take more than two decades to lift the grand telescope.

Since then, dozens of probes have been sent to study Solar System bodies, including planets, comets, moons and asteroids. telescopes, along with increasingly powerful ground-based telescopes, have revealed starry skies that ancient tribal people could never have imagined.

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The James Webb Telescope, launched on Christmas Day 2021, is the culmination of this ongoing effort.

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