Differences between astronomy and astrophysics?

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Anonymous #1
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What are the differences between astronomy and astrophysics? I am wondering what the best route for mewill be.
In your opinion, what’s more exciting?
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Mr Wednesday
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(Original post by Anonymous)
What are the differences between astronomy and astrophysics? I am wondering what the best route for mewill be.
In your opinion, what’s more exciting?
Astronomy is the observational process of looking at and imaging objects in space, astrophysics is the study of the physical processes that create and drive what we see using astronomy.

As an example, imaging a star and determining from the light variation data whether it has exoplanets would be astronomy, building a computational model of a supernova or a cosmic ray acceleration process and testing it against observational data would be astrophysics. As an aside, there is also “lab astrophysics” which involves creating small scale simulations of astrophysical objects (scaled in size and time) in the lab using big lasers or pulsed electrical discharges.

The best route into either is a physics degree, with some specialisation in one or other (perhaps both) areas through choice of options courses and project work. The "most exciting one" is the one you find most exciting
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Anonymous #1
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(Original post by Mr Wednesday)
Astronomy is the observational process of looking at and imaging objects in space, astrophysics is the study of the physical processes that create and drive what we see using astronomy.

As an example, imaging a star and determining from the light variation data whether it has exoplanets would be astronomy, building a computational model of a supernova or a cosmic ray acceleration process and testing it against observational data would be astrophysics. As an aside, there is also “lab astrophysics” which involves creating small scale simulations of astrophysical objects (scaled in size and time) in the lab using big lasers or pulsed electrical discharges.

The best route into either is a physics degree, with some specialisation in one or other (perhaps both) areas through choice of options courses and project work. The "most exciting one" is the one you find most exciting
I’ve heard that Astronomy is mainly computer science / data science. Is this true?
What about astrophysics?
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Mr Wednesday
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(Original post by Anonymous)
I’ve heard that Astronomy is mainly computer science / data science. Is this true?
What about astrophysics?
Most of the data arrives electronically these days and is taken with super high resolution CCD cameras and assorted electronic sensors, not film and the human eye. A modern instrument can generate a huge amount of data and not that many people actually go to a “real” observatory (earth or space based), you just book / compete for time on it and the team that runs it points it for you. However someone has to design and build those instruments, work out and justify the observation campaigns, chase time and (big) money for this, and I would count all that as part of astronomy as well. Just about all of the 1st pass analysis to extract information and useful features will be computational, but then it gets to the “what does this all mean” part and that runs into “proper” theory done with pen, paper and equations fueled by arguments in a coffee bar / pub as well as the (pretty heavy duty) numerical simulation side.

Astrophysics, well a small fraction is "real world" lab based experiment, but most of this is a mix of “proper” theory and numerical simulation. Take a look at the link below for the FLASH code that gets used to model things like supernovae. Codes like this can generate things like simulated light curves and spectra you can then check against observational data – so the two fields really go together.

http://flash.uchicago.edu/site/research/Supernova.shtml
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Anonymous #1
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(Original post by Mr Wednesday)
Most of the data arrives electronically these days and is taken with super high resolution CCD cameras and assorted electronic sensors, not film and the human eye. A modern instrument can generate a huge amount of data and not that many people actually go to a “real” observatory (earth or space based), you just book / compete for time on it and the team that runs it points it for you. However someone has to design and build those instruments, work out and justify the observation campaigns, chase time and (big) money for this, and I would count all that as part of astronomy as well. Just about all of the 1st pass analysis to extract information and useful features will be computational, but then it gets to the “what does this all mean” part and that runs into “proper” theory done with pen, paper and equations fueled by arguments in a coffee bar / pub as well as the (pretty heavy duty) numerical simulation side.

Astrophysics, well a small fraction is "real world" lab based experiment, but most of this is a mix of “proper” theory and numerical simulation. Take a look at the link below for the FLASH code that gets used to model things like supernovae. Codes like this can generate things like simulated light curves and spectra you can then check against observational data – so the two fields really go together.

http://flash.uchicago.edu/site/research/Supernova.shtml
It sounds to me like astronomy is the more passive out of the 2 and astrophysics is more active. This is what I kind of relate to excitement - the activity of each profession (but also the enjoyment you get out of their activities).
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Mr Wednesday
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(Original post by Anonymous)
It sounds to me like astronomy is the more passive out of the 2 and astrophysics is more active. This is what I kind of relate to excitement - the activity of each profession (but also the enjoyment you get out of their activities).
Well I wouldn’t count time on Hubble or Kepler as "passive" if I was a PhD student . Not often you get to point a multi $ billion piece of hardware at your light source of choice.
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Anonymous #1
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(Original post by Mr Wednesday)
Well I wouldn’t count time on Hubble or Kepler as "passive" if I was a PhD student . Not often you get to point a multi $ billion piece of hardware at your light source of choice.
I’m not taking a dig lol. Also don’t you use those if you’re an astrophysicist too?
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tinyturtle319
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i'd like to add a question to this that's kinda related:

what's the difference between astronomy and space science?
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artful_lounger
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(Original post by tinyturtle319)
i'd like to add a question to this that's kinda related:

what's the difference between astronomy and space science?
Space science is a broader field which includes e.g. planetary science, and also more applied topics relating to space exploration e.g. astronautical engineering, space medicine, satellite mission planning, etc. So it at the broadest level it includes topics that are not strictly "physics" whereas astronomy is very much more within the realm of physics.
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tinyturtle319
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(Original post by artful_lounger)
Space science is a broader field which includes e.g. planetary science, and also more applied topics relating to space exploration e.g. astronautical engineering, space medicine, satellite mission planning, etc. So it at the broadest level it includes topics that are not strictly "physics" whereas astronomy is very much more within the realm of physics.
thank you for the clarification
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