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Astronomy and Related Studies is a degree category that consists of the following common degrees:
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Astrophysics is a branch of astronomy. In the most rigid sense, astronomy focuses on observations of heavenly bodies and measures their positions, luminosities, motions, and other characteristics. Astrophysics focuses on creating physical theories about the origin and nature of those heavenly bodies. But the lines between the two fields are blurred, and today many who work in space science draw little or no distinction between the two. They view astronomy and astrophysics as two aspects of one science.
NASA’s goals in astrophysics are to probe the origin and destiny of our universe, including the nature of black holes, dark energy, dark matter, and gravity; to explore the origin and evolution of the galaxies, stars, and planets that make up our universe; and to discover and study planets around other stars, and explore whether they could harbor life. The work of astrophysicists is to try to answer the three questions that these goals present. How does the universe work? How did we get here? Are we alone? The work of degree programs in astrophysics is to explore these questions and teach students how to apply the laws of physics and chemistry to explain the birth, life, and death of stars, planets, galaxies, nebulae and other objects in the universe.
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Astronomy degree programs teach students about celestial bodies and the energy and forces exerted by their interaction. This means that the curriculum is concerned with the study of objects in space, from the smallest neutrinos to planets, stars, solar systems, galaxies, asteroids, comets, and black holes. Students learn about when these objects were born, how they evolved, how some of them became extinct, and how they move in space. They develop skills to theorize about the origin of the cosmos and to predict future events in the universe. In addition, they study the mechanics involved in building and deploying space stations, satellites, space crafts, and transportation systems.
These are among the courses that make up an astronomy program:
- Mathematics / Calculus
- Cosmology – the science of the origin and development of the universe
- Structure and Evolution of Stars
- Planetary Geology
- Computer Science
- Computer Programming
Note: Astronomy is the science of measuring the positions and characteristics of celestial bodies. Astrophysics is the application of the laws of physics to understand and interpret astronomy. As the difference is merely technical, the terms astronomy and astrophysics are used interchangeably.