The Scientific Field of Astronomy

An error occurred trying to load this video.

Try refreshing the page, or contact customer support.

Coming up next: Chemical Reactions and Balancing Chemical Equations

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:01 What Is Astronomy?
  • 1:28 History of Astronomy
  • 2:58 Fields of Astronomy
  • 4:53 Lesson Summary
Save Save Save

Want to watch this again later?

Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course.

Log in or Sign up

Speed Speed Audio mode
Lesson Transcript
Sarah Friedl

Sarah has two Master's, one in Zoology and one in GIS, a Bachelor's in Biology, and has taught college level Physical Science and Biology.

Expert Contributor
Christianlly Cena

Christianlly has taught college physics and facilitated laboratory courses. He has a master's degree in Physics and is pursuing his doctorate study.

Space is a large and exciting place, full of things we have yet to discover. Astronomy aims to uncover the mysteries of space, something people have been fascinated with as long as they have been on Earth.

What Is Astronomy?

Earth is a pretty large place, but compared to the rest of the universe, it's almost negligible. There's just so much space out there, and it's filled with billions of other things, like planets, stars, and galaxies.

If you like studying what's beyond Earth, you would make a good astronomer. Astronomy is the study of stars, planets, and space - basically everything else outside of Earth. I want to be very clear that astronomy should not be confused with astrology, which not only is not a science, but is the belief that human events are related to the position of celestial bodies.

You can think about the difference like this: astronomy is the scientific study that explains why stars are where they are, while astrology is an unfounded belief that the position of stars influences our daily lives. There's just no scientific backing for it, and we're going to leave it at that.

We also need to understand the difference between astronomy and cosmology. They're sort of similar, but the field of astronomy is concerned with space and what's in it, while cosmology is the study of the universe as a whole. Cosmologists are interested in things like the history of the universe, its origin, and its evolution over time. So, if the universe were a pizza, cosmology would be the study of how pizza came to be, while astronomy would be the study of the crust, sauce, cheese, and other toppings that come on that pizza.

History of Astronomy

Things in space are really far away, so modern astronomers use things like telescopes to help them see what's going on out there. But before this time, sky viewers had to use their own eyes to observe what was going on in space. You can't get a lot of detail this way, but you can create maps of the stars and planets. And this is much of what early astronomy consisted of.

The 16th and 17th centuries are pretty famous because during this time a Scientific Revolution began that changed the game forever. Scientists started inventing, questioning, and experimenting like never before. In fact, much of what we know about space today came from the hard work and insight of folks like Copernicus, Brahe, Galileo, Newton, and Kepler during this time.

For example, Copernicus showed that the Earth revolves around the sun (not the other way around), and the planet Uranus was discovered. There were also major improvements to the telescope during this time, and Newton proposed his law of universal gravitation, which explained the motion of the planets in our solar system.

As you can see, it was a busy, yet productive time. And it's because of this ingenuity and determination that the modern field of astronomy exists today. In more recent history, astronomers have discovered other galaxies, solar systems, and even black holes. Imagine trying to see those with your naked eyes!

Fields of Astronomy

Space is vast and full of interesting things to study. Therefore, there are many different types of astronomers that work in different types of specialized fields. Planetary astronomy is one such field and is just what it sounds like: the study of planets. These could be planets within our own solar system or ones in other solar systems.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Member.
Create your account

Additional Activities

Astronomy Word Search Activity

This activity will help you assess your knowledge of the scientific field of astronomy as presented in the lesson.


For this activity, you'll need a printer to reproduce the following page. Search for and circle or highlight the words that will complete each of the given clues. Afterward, neatly write them in the appropriate blank spaces in the clues.


  1. _____ is the study of the physical universe, its structure, origin, evolution, and fate.
  2. Individuals who study locations and properties of the matter and radiation in the universe are known as _____.
  3. _____ was an Italian philosopher and one of the key figures in the scientific revolution of astronomy.
  4. _____ astronomy is oriented toward the development of computer or analytical models to describe astronomical objects and phenomena.
  5. The physical universe beyond the Earth's atmosphere is also called _____.
  6. Data recordings of electromagnetic waves, such as gamma rays and radio waves, are usually studied in _____ astronomy.
  7. _____ proposed that the Sun was stationary near the center of the universe and the Earth revolved around it.
  8. A _____ is an optical instrument possessing magnification for observing distant objects, especially used in astronomy.
  9. The origin and evolution of our Sun are studied in the field of _____ astronomy.
  10. _____ is a pseudoscience that claims divination of human affairs or natural phenomena from the relative positions of celestial bodies.

Answer Key

  1. Cosmology
  2. Astronomers
  3. Galileo
  4. Theoretical
  5. Space
  6. Observational
  7. Copernicus
  8. Telescope
  9. Solar
  10. Astrology

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use

Become a member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account