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Basic Astronomy Concepts


laws of thermodynamics, Radiation measurements, astrophysicists, radiations, Astrophysics

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Astrophysics, the branch of astronomy that seeks to understand the birth, evolution, and end states of celestial objects and systems in terms of the physical laws that govern them. For each object or system under study, astrophysicists observe radiations emitted over the entire electromagnetic spectrum and variations of these emissions over time. This information is then interpreted with the aid of theoretical models. It is the task of such a model to explain the mechanisms by which radiation is generated within or near the object, and how the radiation then escapes. Radiation measurements can be used to estimate the distribution and energy states of the atoms, as well as the kinds of atoms, making up the object. The temperatures and pressures in the object may then be estimated using the laws of thermodynamics.

Models of celestial objects in equilibrium are based on balances among the forces being exerted on and within the objects, with slow evolution taking place as nuclear and chemical transformations occur. Cataclysmic phenomena are interpreted in terms of models in which these forces are out of balance.


Field, George Brooks, Ph.D.

Wilson Professor of Applied Astronomy, Harvard University. Former Director, Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory. Former Member, President's National Comission on Space.

Article key phrases:

laws of thermodynamics, Radiation measurements, astrophysicists, radiations, Astrophysics, equilibrium, evolution, birth, mechanisms, balances, pressures, emissions, temperatures, variations, forces, distribution, study, place, systems, time, information, terms

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