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Astrophysics is the physics of space and the universe.

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Astrophysics is the branch of astronomy that deals with the physics of the universe. Astrophysics includes the physical properties of the universe. Astrophysics envelopes (luminosity, density, temperature, and chemical composition) of celestial objects such as stars, galaxies, and the interstellar medium, as well as their interactions. The study of cosmology is theoretical astrophysics at the largest scales.

Because astrophysics is a very broad subject, astrophysicists typically apply many disciplines of physics, including mechanics, electromagnetism, Statistical mechanics, Thermodynamics, 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. Astrophysics can be studied at the bachelors, masters, and Ph.D. levels in aerospace engineering, physics, or astronomy departments at many universities.

History of Astrophysics.

Astrophysics: Spiral Galaxy ES0 269-57.

Although astronomy is as ancient as recorded history itself, it was long separated from the study of physics. In the Aristotelian worldview, the celestial world tended towards perfection-bodies in the sky seemed to be perfect spheres moving in perfectly circular orbits-while the earthly world seemed inclined to imperfection; these two realms were not seen as related.

Aristarchus of Samos (c.310-c.250 BC) first put forward the notion that the motions of the celestial bodies could be explained by assuming that the Earth and all the other planets in the Solar System orbited the Sun. Unfortunately, in the geocentric world of the time, Aristarchus' heliocentric theory was deemed outlandish and heretical, and for centuries, the apparently common-sense view that the Sun and other planets went round the Earth went basically unquestioned. Then an astronomer, named Nicolaus Copernicus, revived the heliocentric model in the 16th century. In 1609, Galileo Galilei discovered the four brightest moons of Jupiter, and documented their orbits about that planet, which contradicted the geocentric dogma of the Catholic Church of his time, and escaped serious punishment only by maintaining that his astronomy was a work of mathematics, not of natural philosophy (physics), and therefore purely abstract.

The availability of accurate observational data (mainly from the observatory of Tycho Brahe) led to research into theoretical explanations for the observed behavior. At first, only empirical rules were discovered, such as Kepler's laws of planetary motion, discovered at the start of the 17th century. Later that century, Isaac Newton bridged the gap between Kepler's laws and Galileo's dynamics, discovering that the same laws that rule the dynamics of objects on earth rule the motion of planets and the moon. celestial mechanics, the application of Newtonian gravity and Newton's laws to explain Kepler's laws of planetary motion, was the first unification of astronomy and physics.

After Isaac Newton published his book, Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica, maritime navigation was transformed. Starting around 1670, the entire world was measured using essentially modern latitude instruments and the best available clocks. The needs of navigation provided a drive for progressively more accurate astronomical observations and instruments, providing a background for ever more available data for scientists.

At the end of the 19th century, it was discovered that, when decomposing the light from the Sun, a multitude of spectral lines were observed (regions where there was less or no light). Experiments with hot gases showed that the same lines could be observed in the spectra of gases, specific lines corresponding to unique chemical elements. In this way it was proved that the chemical elements found in the Sun(chiefly hydrogen) were also found on Earth. Indeed, the element helium was first discovered in the spectrum of the sun and only later on earth, hence its name. During the 20th century, spectroscopy (the study of these spectral lines) advanced, particularly as a result of the advent of Quantum physics that was necessary to understand the astronomical and experimental observations.

See also:

  • Timeline of knowledge about galaxies, clusters of galaxies, and large-scale structure.
  • Timeline of white dwarfs, neutron stars, and supernovae.
  • Timeline of black hole physics.
  • Timeline of gravitational physics and relativity.

Observational astrophysics.

Most astrophysical processes cannot be reproduced in laboratories on Earth. However, there is a huge variety of astronomical objects visible all over the electromagnetic spectrum. The study of these objects through passive collection of data is the goal of observational astrophysics.

The equipment and techniques required to study an astrophysical phenomenon can vary widely. Many astrophysical phenomena that are of current interest can only be studied by using very advanced technology and were simply not known until very recently.

The majority of astrophysical observations are made using the electromagnetic spectrum.

  • radio astronomy studies radiation with a wavelength greater than a few millimeters. Radio waves are usually emitted by cold objects, including interstellar gas and dust clouds. The cosmic microwave background radiation is the redshifted light from the Big Bang. pulsars were first detected at microwave frequencies. The study of these waves requires very large Radio telescopes.
  • Infrared astronomy studies radiation with a wavelength that is too long to be visible but shorter than radio waves. Infrared observations are usually made with telescopes similar to the usual optical telescopes. Objects colder than stars (such as planets) are normally studied at infrared frequencies.
  • optical astronomy is the oldest kind of astronomy. telescopes paired with a charge-coupled device or a spectroscope are the most common instruments used. The Earth's atmosphere interferes somewhat with optical observations, so adaptive optics and space telescopes are used to obtain the highest possible image quality. In this range, stars are highly visible, and many chemical spectra can be observed to study the chemical composition of stars, galaxies and nebulae.
  • ultraviolet, X-ray and gamma ray astronomy study very energetic processes such as binary pulsars, black holes, Magnetars, and many others. These kinds of radiation do not penetrate the Earth's atmosphere well, so they are studied with space-based telescopes such as RXTE, the Chandra X-ray Observatory and the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory.

Other than electromagnetic radiation, few things may be observed from the Earth that originate from great distances. A few gravitational wave observatories have been constructed, but gravitational waves are extremely difficult to detect. Neutrino observatories have also been built, primarily to study our Sun. cosmic rays consisting of very high energy particles can be observed hitting the Earth's atmosphere.

Observations can also vary in their time scale. Most optical observations take minutes to hours, so phenomena that change faster than this cannot readily be observed. However, historical data on some objects is available spanning centuries or millennia. On the other hand, radio observations may look at events on a millisecond timescale (millisecond pulsars) or combine years of data (pulsar deceleration studies). The information obtained from these different timescales is very different.

The study of our own Sun has a special place in observational astrophysics. Due to the tremendous distance of all other stars, the Sun can be observed in a kind of detail unparalleled by any other star. Our understanding of our own sun serves as a guide to our understanding of other stars.

The topic of how stars change, or stellar evolution, is often modelled by placing the varieties of star types in their respective positions on the Hertzsprung-Russell diagram, which can be viewed as representing the state of a stellar object, from birth to destruction. The material composition of the astronomical objects can often be examined using:

  • spectroscopy.
  • radio astronomy.
  • Neutrino astronomy (future prospects).

Theoretical astrophysics

Theoretical astrophysics is the discipline that seeks to explain the phenomena observed by astronomers in physical terms with a theoretic approach. With this purpose, theoretical astrophysicists create and evaluate models and physical theories to reproduce and predict the observations. In most cases, trying to figure out the implications of physical models is not easy and takes a lot of time and effort.

Theoretical astrophysicists use a wide variety of tools which include analytical models (for example, polytropes to approximate the behaviors of a star) and computational numerical simulations. Each has some advantages. Analytical models of a process are generally better for giving insight into the heart of what is going on. Numerical models can reveal the existence of phenomena and effects that would otherwise not be seen.

Theorists in astrophysics endeavor to create theoretical models and figure out the observational consequences of those models. This helps allow observers to look for data that can refute a model or help in choosing between several alternate or conflicting models.

Theorists also try to generate or modify models to take into account new data. In the case of an inconsistency, the general tendency is to try to make minimal modifications to the model to fit the data. In some cases, a large amount of inconsistent data over time may lead to total abandonment of a model.

Within the astronomical community, theorists are widely caricatured as being mechanically inept and unlucky for observational efforts. Having a theorist at an observatory is considered likely to jinx an observation run and cause machines to break inexplicably or to have the sky cloud over.

Topics studied by theoretical astrophysicists include: stellar dynamics and evolution; Galaxy formation; large-scale structure of matter in the universe; origin of cosmic rays; General relativity and Physical cosmology, including string cosmology and astroParticle physics. Astrophysical relativity serves as a tool to gauge the properties of large scale structures for which gravitation plays a significant role in physical phenomena investigated and serves as the basis for black hole (astro)physics and the study of gravitational waves.

Some widely accepted and studied theories and models in astrophysics, now included in the Lambda-CDM model are the Big Bang, cosmic inflation, Dark matter, and fundamental theories of physics.

A few examples of this process:

Physical process Experimental tool Theoretical model Explains/predicts
gravitation Radio telescopes Self-gravitating system Emergence of a star system
nuclear fusion spectroscopy stellar evolution How the stars shine and how metals formed
The Big Bang Hubble Space Telescope, COBE Expanding universe Age of the universe
Quantum fluctuations cosmic inflation Flatness problem
Gravitational collapse X-ray astronomy General relativity black holes at the center of Andromeda galaxy
CNO cycle in stars

Dark matter and Dark energy are the current leading topics in astrophysics, as their discovery and controversy originated during the study of the galaxies.

Links For Astrophysics.

ASCI/Flash Center
Astronomy and Astrophysics
Astrophyics Innsbruck
Astrophysical Journal
Astrophysics and Planetary Science Division
Astrophysics at Illinois Math and Science Academy
Astrophysics at MIT
Astrophysics Data Facility
Astrophysics Group Keele University
Astrophysics Group, Adelaide
Astrophysics Research Institute, Liverpool JMU
Beijing Astrophysics Center
Bristol Astrophysics
Canadian Institute for Theoretical Astrophysics
Carnegie Mellon Peterson Group
Cavendish Astrophysics Group
Center for Astrophysics and Space Astronomy
Center for Astrophysics and Space Sciences
Center for EUV Astrophysics
COBE Homepage
Cosmic Ray Lab
D.A.R.C. home page
ESA Astrophysics
ESA Astrophysics Division
Fusion Ignition Research Experiment
Gamma and Cosmic Ray Astrophysics Branch, NRL
Gamma Ray Astrophysics
Grenoble Astrophysics
Hands on Astrophysics
Harvard Condensed Matter Theory Group
Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics
Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics High Energy Astrophysics Division
Hermann Ohlthaver Institute for Aeronomy
Herzberg Institute of Astrophysics
High Energy Astrophysics at IKI, Moscow
High Energy Astrophysics Division
ICSTM Astrophysics Group Home Page
Indian Institute of Astrophysics
INPE Astrophysics Division
Kiel Institute of Theoretical Physics
Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics
Laboratory for Space Astrophysics and Theoretical Physics'
Light, Atoms, Galaxies and Gravity
Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics
METU Astrophysics Home Page
Mullard Space Science Laboratory
Particle Physics and Astronomy
Physics at Sydney Astrophysics Department
Radio and Space Plasma Physics Group
RAL Astrophysics Starlink Node
Relativistic Astrophysics
Space Plasma Group
Space Research Library
Submillimeter Array
The Astrophysics Spectator
The NASA Astrophysics Data System Mirror Home Page
Theoretical Astrophysics
Theoretical Astrophysics Center
Theoretical Astrophysics Group, University of Tokyo
UC Santa Barbara Astrophysics
University of Arizona Department of Astrophysics
University of Central Lancashire Centre for Astrophysics
University of Montana - Physics and Astrophysics

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