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Astronomy is a natural science that studies celestial objects and phenomena. It applies mathematics, physics, and chemistry, in an effort to explain the origin of those objects and phenomena and their evolution. Objects of interest include planets, moons, stars, galaxies, and comets; while the phenomena include supernovae explosions, gamma ray bursts, and cosmic microwave background radiation. More generally, all astronomical phenomena that originate outside Earth's atmosphere are within the purview of astronomy. A related but distinct subject, physical cosmology, is concerned with the study of the Universe as a whole.
Astronomy is the oldest of the natural sciences. The early civilizations in recorded history, such as the Babylonians, Greeks, Indians, Egyptians, Nubians, Iranians, Chinese, and Maya performed methodical observations of the night sky. Historically, astronomy has included disciplines as diverse as astrometry, celestial navigation, observational astronomy and the making of calendars, but professional astronomy is now often considered to be synonymous with astrophysics.
|Physical process||Experimental tool||Theoretical model||Explains/predicts|
|Gravitation||Radio telescopes||Self-gravitating system||Emergence of a star system|
|Nuclear fusion||Spectroscopy||Stellar evolution||How the stars shine and how metals formed|
|The Big Bang||Hubble Space Telescope, COBE||Expanding universe||Age of the Universe|
|Quantum fluctuations||Cosmic inflation||Flatness problem|
|Gravitational collapse||X-ray astronomy||General relativity||Black holes at the center of Andromeda galaxy|
|CNO cycle in stars||The dominant source of energy for massive star.|
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