Chapter 1.docx - Chapter 1: Science and The Universe A...

This preview shows page 1 - 3 out of 4 pages.

Chapter 1: Science and The Universe – A Brief Tour1.1 The Nature of AstronomyAstronomyis defined as the study of the objects that lie beyond our planet Earth and the processes bywhich these objects interact with one another.It is also humanity’s attempt to organize what we learn into a clear history of the universe, fromthe instant of its birth in the Big Bang to the present moment.Science is aprogress report—one that changes constantly as new techniques and instruments allow usto probe the universe more deeply.1.2The Nature of ScienceScience is not merely a body of knowledge, but amethodby which we attempt to understand natureand how it behaves.This method begins with many observations over a period of time.When they are first proposed, new models or ideas are sometimes calledhypotheses.A hypothesis must be a proposed explanation that can betested. The most straightforward approach tosuch testing in science is to perform an experiment.But, the more experiments that agree with the hypothesis, the more likely we are to accept thehypothesis as a useful description of nature.Astronomy is sometimes called anobservationalscience;Much of astronomy is also ahistoricalscience—meaning that what we observe has already happenedin the universe and we can do nothing to change it.1.3The Laws of NatureBut, the consistency of the laws of nature gives us enormous power to understand distant objectswithout traveling to them and learning the local laws.One important problem in describing scientific models has to do with the limitations of language. Whenwe try to describe complex phenomena in everyday terms, the words themselves may not be adequateto do the job.This problem is the reason scientists often prefer to describe their models using equations rather thanwords.
1.4Numbers in AstronomyIn astronomy we deal with distances on a scale you may never have thought about before, withnumbers larger than any you may have encountered. We adopt two approaches that make dealing withastronomical numbers a little bit easier.

Upload your study docs or become a

Course Hero member to access this document

Upload your study docs or become a

Course Hero member to access this document

End of preview. Want to read all 4 pages?

Upload your study docs or become a

Course Hero member to access this document

Term
Fall
Professor
Sneden

  • Left Quote Icon

    Student Picture

  • Left Quote Icon

    Student Picture

  • Left Quote Icon

    Student Picture