What Is Astrophysics?

Podcast of the Day

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the galaxies. Spread out across the voids of space like spun sugar, but harbouring in their centres super-massive black holes. Our galaxy is about 100,000 light years across, is shaped like a fried egg and we travel inside it at approximately 220 kilometres per second. The nearest one to us is much smaller and is nicknamed the Sagittarius Dwarf. But the one down the road, called Andromeda, is just as large as ours and, in 10 billion years, we'll probably crash into it. Galaxies - the vast islands in space of staggering beauty and even more staggering dimension. But galaxies are not simply there to adorn the universe; they house much of its visible matter and maintain the stars in a constant cycle of creation and destruction. But why do galaxies exist, how have they evolved and what lies at the centre of a galaxy to make the stars dance round it at such colossal speeds?

Listen to the In Our Time episode on Galaxies

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Short Article of the Day

Astrophysics is a branch of space science that applies the laws of physics and chemistry to explain the birth, life and death of stars, planets, galaxies, nebulae and other objects in the universe. It has two sibling sciences, astronomy and cosmology, and the lines between them blur. 

In the most rigid sense:

  • Astronomy measures positions, luminosities, motions and other characteristics
  • Astrophysics creates physical theories of small to medium-size structures in the universe
  • Cosmology does this for the largest structures, and the universe as a whole...

Continue reading Ariel Balter's article: What is Astrophysics?

Further Reading

Astrophysics is the branch of astronomy that employs the principles of physics and chemistry "to ascertain the nature of the heavenly bodies, rather than their positions or motions in space." Among the objects studied are the Sun, other stars, galaxies, extrasolar planets, the interstellar medium and the cosmic microwave background. Their emissions are examined across all parts of the electromagnetic spectrum, and the properties examined include luminosity, density, temperature, and chemical composition. Because astrophysics is a very broad subject, astrophysicists typically apply many disciplines of physics, including mechanics, electromagnetism, statistical mechanics, thermodynamics, quantum mechanics, relativity, nuclear and particle physics, and atomic and molecular physics...

Continue reading the Wikipedia article on Astrophysics

Related Topics

 Black Holes | Dark Matter | String Theory

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