The Astronomy Portal


A man sitting on a chair mounted to a moving platform, staring through a large telescope.

Astronomy (from Ancient Greek ἀστρονομία (astronomía) 'science that studies the laws of the stars') is a natural science that studies celestial objects and phenomena. It uses mathematics, physics, and chemistry in order to explain their origin and evolution. Objects of interest include planets, moons, stars, nebulae, galaxies, and comets. Relevant phenomena include supernova explosions, gamma ray bursts, quasars, blazars, pulsars, and cosmic microwave background radiation. More generally, astronomy studies everything that originates beyond Earth's atmosphere. Cosmology is a branch of astronomy that studies the universe as a whole.

Astronomy is one of the oldest natural sciences. The early civilizations in recorded history made methodical observations of the night sky. These include the Babylonians, Greeks, Indians, Egyptians, Chinese, Maya, and many ancient indigenous peoples of the Americas. In the past, astronomy included disciplines as diverse as astrometry, celestial navigation, observational astronomy, and the making of calendars. Nowadays, professional astronomy is often said to be the same as astrophysics.

Professional astronomy is split into observational and theoretical branches. Observational astronomy is focused on acquiring data from observations of astronomical objects. This data is then analyzed using basic principles of physics. Theoretical astronomy is oriented toward the development of computer or analytical models to describe astronomical objects and phenomena. These two fields complement each other. Theoretical astronomy seeks to explain observational results and observations are used to confirm theoretical results.

Astronomy is one of the few sciences in which amateurs play an active role. This is especially true for the discovery and observation of transient events. Amateur astronomers have helped with many important discoveries, such as finding new comets. (Full article...)

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Taken from Apollo 8 by William Anders

Apollo 8 (December 21–27, 1968) was the first crewed spacecraft to leave low Earth orbit and the first human spaceflight to reach the Moon. The crew orbited the Moon ten times without landing, and then departed safely back to Earth. These three astronautsFrank Borman, James Lovell, and William Anders—were the first humans to personally witness and photograph the far side of the Moon and an Earthrise.

Apollo 8 launched on December 21, 1968, and was the second crewed spaceflight mission flown in the United States Apollo space program after Apollo 7, which stayed in Earth orbit. Apollo 8 was the third flight and the first crewed launch of the Saturn V rocket, and was the first human spaceflight from the Kennedy Space Center, located adjacent to Cape Kennedy Air Force Station in Florida. (Full article...)

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Credit: NASA Earth Observatory / STEREO Science Center

A coronal mass ejection (CME) is a significant release of plasma and accompanying magnetic field from the solar corona. They often follow solar flares and are normally present during a solar prominence eruption. Coronal mass ejections release large quantities of matter and electromagnetic radiation into space above the Sun's surface, either near the corona, or farther into the planetary system, or beyond (interplanetary CME).

Astronomy News

9 August 2022 – Discoveries of exoplanets
Radio astronomers have discovered a newborn, Jupiter-size exoplanet orbiting the star AS 209, using the Atacama Large Millimeter Array telescope in Chile. (

December anniversaries

  • 7 December 1972 – The “Blue Marble” photograph is taken by the Apollo 17 crew
  • 8 December 1992 – Galileo completes the second Earth flyby
  • 14 December 1962 – Mariner 2 becomes the first space probe to perform a flyby of a planet, when it passes within 35,000 kilometers of Venus
  • 17 December 1917 – “2001: A Space Odyssey” science fiction author Arthur C. Clarke is born
  • 19 December 2013 – Gaia is launched for the mission to study billions of stars in the Milky Way
  • 21 December 1968 – Apollo 8, is launched with the first crewed spacecraft to leave Earth orbit, reach the Moon, orbit it, and return safely to Earth
  • 27 December 1571 – Astronomer, mathematician, and astrologer Johannes Kepler is born

Space-related Portals

Astronomical events

All times UT unless otherwise specified.

5 December, 17:59 Moon occults Uranus
8 December, 04:08 Full moon
8 December, 04:24 Mars at opposition
8 December, 04:25 Moon occults Mars
12 December, 00:30 Moon at apogee
14 December, 12:53 Geminids peak
21 December, 14:59 Mercury at greatest eastern elongation
21 December, 21:48 Earth southern solstice
22 December, 21:00 Ursids peak
23 December, 10:17 New moon
24 December, 08:32 Moon at perigee



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