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Introduction

A man sitting on a chair mounted to a moving platform, staring through a large telescope.
Percival Lowell observing Venus from the Lowell Observatory telescope in 1914

Astronomy is a natural science that studies celestial objects and the phenomena that occur in the cosmos. It uses mathematics, physics, and chemistry in order to explain their origin and their overall evolution. Objects of interest include planets, moons, stars, nebulae, galaxies, meteoroids, asteroids, and comets. Relevant phenomena include supernova explosions, gamma ray bursts, quasars, blazars, pulsars, and cosmic microwave background radiation. More generally, astronomy studies everything that originates beyond Earth's atmosphere. Cosmology is a branch of astronomy that studies the universe as a whole.

Astronomy is one of the oldest natural sciences. The early civilizations in recorded history made methodical observations of the night sky. These include the Egyptians, Babylonians, Greeks, Indians, Chinese, Maya, and many ancient indigenous peoples of the Americas. In the past, astronomy included disciplines as diverse as astrometry, celestial navigation, observational astronomy, and the making of calendars.

Professional astronomy is split into observational and theoretical branches. Observational astronomy is focused on acquiring data from observations of astronomical objects. This data is then analyzed using basic principles of physics. Theoretical astronomy is oriented toward the development of computer or analytical models to describe astronomical objects and phenomena. These two fields complement each other. Theoretical astronomy seeks to explain observational results and observations are used to confirm theoretical results.

Astronomy is one of the few sciences in which amateurs play an active role. This is especially true for the discovery and observation of transient events. Amateur astronomers have helped with many important discoveries, such as finding new comets. ( Full article...)

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Andromeda is one of the 48 constellations listed by the 2nd-century Greco-Roman astronomer Ptolemy, and one of the 88 modern constellations. Located in the northern celestial hemisphere, it is named for Andromeda, daughter of Cassiopeia, in the Greek myth, who was chained to a rock to be eaten by the sea monster Cetus. Andromeda is most prominent during autumn evenings in the Northern Hemisphere, along with several other constellations named for characters in the Perseus myth. Because of its northern declination, Andromeda is visible only north of 40° south latitude; for observers farther south, it lies below the horizon. It is one of the largest constellations, with an area of 722 square degrees. This is over 1,400 times the size of the full moon, 55% of the size of the largest constellation, Hydra, and over 10 times the size of the smallest constellation, Crux.

Its brightest star, Alpha Andromedae, is a binary star that has also been counted as a part of Pegasus, while Gamma Andromedae is a colorful binary and a popular target for amateur astronomers. Only marginally dimmer than Alpha, Beta Andromedae is a red giant, its color visible to the naked eye. The constellation's most obvious deep-sky object is the naked-eye Andromeda Galaxy (M31, also called the Great Galaxy of Andromeda), the closest spiral galaxy to the Milky Way and one of the brightest Messier objects. Several fainter galaxies, including M31's companions M110 and M32, as well as the more distant NGC 891, lie within Andromeda. The Blue Snowball Nebula, a planetary nebula, is visible in a telescope as a blue circular object. ( Full article...)

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Credit: NASA/ESA/AURA/Caltech. Modification by Masur

Maia is a star in the constellation of Taurus. It is a blue giant of spectral type B8 III, a chemically peculiar star, and the prototype of the Maia variable class of variable star. Image of Maia's location indicated in the upper right corner.

Astronomy News

20 February 2024 –
Astronomers identify the most luminous object ever observed, QSO J0529-4351, a quasar that accretes around one solar mass per day. (The Guardian) (Nature.com)
24 November 2023 –
Astronomers at the Telescope Array Project in Utah, United States, observe the second largest cosmic ray ever detected, the so-called Amaterasu particle, with an energy of 244 EeV. (Cosmos Magazine)

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Astronomical events

All times UT unless otherwise specified.

9 February, 22:59 New moon
10 February, 18:49 Moon at perigee
12 February, 06:45 Moon occults Neptune
24 February, 12:30 Full moon
25 February, 15:00 Moon at apogee
28 February, 08:19 Mercury at superior conjunction
28 February, 21:01 Saturn at conjunction

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