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Portal:Astronomy

The Astronomy Portal

Introduction

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

Astronomy (from Greek: ἀστρονομία) 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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Hubble Space Telescope

Comet Shoemaker–Levy 9 (formally designated D/1993 F2) was a comet that broke apart in July 1992 and collided with Jupiter in July 1994, providing the first direct observation of an extraterrestrial collision of Solar System objects. This generated a large amount of coverage in the popular media, and the comet was closely observed by astronomers worldwide. The collision provided new information about Jupiter and highlighted its possible role in reducing space debris in the inner Solar System.

The comet was discovered by astronomers Carolyn and Eugene M. Shoemaker and David Levy in 1993. Shoemaker–Levy 9 had been captured by Jupiter and was orbiting the planet at the time. It was located on the night of March 24 in a photograph taken with the 46 cm (18 in) Schmidt telescope at the Palomar Observatory in California. It was the first active comet observed to be orbiting a planet, and had probably been captured by Jupiter around 20–30 years earlier. Read more...

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Artist's concept of the surface of Pluto's small satellite Hydra
Credit: NASA/ESA - G. Bacon (STScI)

Artist's concept of the surface of Pluto's small satellite Hydra. Pluto & Charon (right) & Nix (bright dot on left).

Astronomy News

7 October 2019 –
Astronomers announce the discovery of 20 new moons around Saturn, adding to the 62 previously known. The new moons comprise 17 retrograde moons in the Norse group and three prograde moons, two of which belong to the Inuit group. (Phys.org)
12 September 2019 – Interstellar objects
C/2019 Q4 (Borisov), a second interstellar comet after ʻOumuamua 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 2006 QV89'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)

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Astronomical events

All times UT unless otherwise specified.

9 February, 07:33 Full moon
10 February, 13:54 Mercury at greatest eastern elongation
10 February, 20:35 Moon at perigee
18 February, 13:18 Moon occults Mars
19 February, 19:36 Moon occults Jupiter
20 February, 07:52 Moon occults Pluto
23 February, 15:32 New moon
26 February, 01:42 Mercury at inferior conjunction
26 February, 11:46 Moon at apogee

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