Articles to help you discover the wonders of the Universe

Introduction to Astronomy

How to get started as an astronomer

Written By on in Astronomy

248 words, estimated reading time 2 minutes.

Astronomy is an endlessly fascinating field, the oldest of the natural sciences, and one of the few areas of science that amateurs can assist the professionals and contribute to science.

Introduction to Astronomy Series
  1. Introduction to Astronomy
  2. The Celestial Sphere - Right Ascension and Declination
  3. What is Angular Size?
  4. What is the Milky Way Galaxy?
  5. The Astronomical Magnitude Scale
  6. Sidereal Time, Civil Time and Solar Time
  7. Equinoxes and Solstices
  8. Parallax, Distance and Parsecs
  9. A Newbie's Guide to Distances in Space
  10. Luminosity and Flux of Stars
  11. Kepler's Laws of Planetary Motion
  12. What Are Lagrange Points?
  13. Glossary of Astronomy & Photographic Terms
  14. Astronomical Constants

This tutorial series covers the basics of modern astronomy as a science, including the structure and evolution of planets, stars, galaxies, and the Universe as a whole. We will look at observational astronomy, the magnitude scale, spectroscopy and celestial mechanics.

What is Astronomy?

Astronomy as a science began tens of thousands of years ago by tracking the motion of the Sun, Moon, planets, and stars. It has since developed into a sophisticated study of the fundamental laws of nature governing these phenomena.

The first observations of the heavens were conducted by our early human ancestors. Historical records of astronomical measurements date back as far as Mesopotamia nearly 5000 years ago, with later observations made by the ancient Chinese, Babylonians, and Greeks.

1675 image of a Chinese astronomer with an elaborate armillary sphere.
1675 image of a Chinese astronomer with an elaborate armillary sphere.

Astronomy is more than simply a mapping of stars and planets into outlines of gods and magical creatures. It is the scientific study of the contents of entire Universe, stars, planets, comets, asteroids, galaxies, and space and time, as well as its history.

If you're starting out by looking at the sky at night, I have an excellent observational astronomy tutorial series that takes you through what you can see at night as well as some equipment advice. This tutorial series covers mainly theory about how the universe works.

Artists concept of the Milky Way galaxy
Artists concept of the Milky Way galaxy

In the first tutorial of this series we will look at the celestial sphere and how we locate objects in the sky.

Last updated on: Tuesday 16th January 2018

 

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