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Questions for a college student in astro.

  1. Mar 11, 2005 #1
    Sorry for disturbing, i am a college student and feel interested in physics.
    So i would know some fundamentals Q about ASTROPHYSICS.
    1) why do we study in astrophysics and what are our targets and what we want to get?
    2) why astrophyscis is divided in theoretical and observatable? what is the important for them respectively?

    The questions may seem to be a little bit stupid, but i really what to know.
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 11, 2005 #2
    1) because we want to expand the knowledge bubble, plus we find it interesting!
    2) theory and observation do not necessarily need to be divided. I believe it is more beneficial to make an observation, and then do some theory to explain what you see. theory is important because it explains what we see, whilst observation is important because it finds new things to explain. it is not often that a theory comes along that is proven later by observation. (string theory may prove me wrong, though i doubt it!)

    there are no stupid questions, you should always feel free to ask.
  4. Mar 11, 2005 #3


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    It depends on who you are. If you're a politician, astronomy is motivated by public relations. If you're a physicist, it's a means of testing your models. If you're an astronomer, then the motivation is usually just the pursuit of knowledge.

    Most people agree that there aren't currently many practical applications to astronomy, so you need to decide whether or not that's important to you before entering the field.

    This is sort of an old division, but it's still partially meaningful. Traditionally, the observers collected data and made rather simple, general statements about it. Edwin Hubble is the classic observer because he's famous for discovering "Hubble's Law", a simple linear fit to the velocity-distance relationship for galaxies, by observing nearby galaxies with a powerful telescope. A theorist, however, takes these results and tries to explain them physically. In the case of "Hubble's Law", the relationship was later described theoretically by Einstein's general theory of relativity.

    In modern astronomy, there are probably two more categories: instrumentalist and data analyst. Instrumentalists are responsible for building and designing the telescopes/satellites/detectors that we use to observe astronomical objects. They're sort of specialized engineers. Data analysts take pre-observed data sets (usually large ones), and run a vast array of analysis techniques to pull as much information out as possible. They're sort of specialized statisticians.

    The best astronomers, of course, do all of the things I mentioned above, but you can make a living by settling into one of those niches.
  5. Mar 11, 2005 #4
    Thank you for your kind reply. let me learn much
    In fact, i want to know more what astrophysics can contribute to human??
  6. Mar 11, 2005 #5


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    Mostly pure knowledge. We're in the business of answering questions which, until very recently, were purely philosophical. Where did we come from? Where are we going? When did it all begin? How long will it all last?

    In addition, we help physicists test the theories that are used to build things, like reactors, computers, and, unfortunately, weapons.
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