Astronomy is the study of the universe and objects in it. And is perhaps the oldest science, dating from early observation of the heavens, astronomy has a long tradition. As stated in the McGraw-Hill Encyclopedia of Science and Technology, modern astronomy uses techniques from many other sciences, including physics, mathematics, chemistry, geology, and biology. The astronomers' point of view, however, is often different from that of scientists in other disciplines, because the goal of astronomical research is to understand celestial objects or groups of objects by using whatever techniques are appropriate. Astronomers' breadth of knowledge of different types of astronomical objects often gives insights into understanding any given object or process.
The distinction between astronomy and astrophysics has largely evaporated. As stated in the McGraw-Hill Multimedia Encyclopedia of Science and Technology, the older view that astronomers study objects in the sky as astrophysicists seek to explain then has been superseded. The new broadening of astronomy is illustrated by the use of chemical knowledge and methods in studying molecules in interstellar clouds; the use of geological knowledge and methods in analyzing the origin and evolution of life on the earth and in the search for extraterrestrial life. Astronomy has been transformed by new technology, notably electronics. Computers are integral to most astronomical research, both observational and theoretical. Electronic devices have transformed observation. For example, the use of electronic chips known as charge-coupled devises as detectors and of optical fibers to carry stellar images to spectrograph slits as reduced the time needed to determine the redshift of many galaxies from perhaps 8 h to about 1 min. This factor of 500 has led to a qualitative change, whereby the mapping of space becomes possible to a new degree of completeness... Continue Reading