Astronomy Subfields explained with the help of GIFs

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The study of celestial objects and the evolution and the phenomenon that surround these celestial bodies is covered in the field of astronomy. It is a vast field covering the whole universe therefore it is further divided into various subfields which are covered in the feature with their respective animations.

Subfields of Astronomy

1) Solar Astronomy

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The name is quite suggestive of what this subfield of astronomy deals with. Sun, being 4.6 billion years old is amongst those stars that are studied most frequently. Though Sun is not considered to be among the active stars but it does undergo periodic changes which are known as sunspot cycle. It is an 11 year cycle in relation to sunspot numbers. Sunspots are those regions on the surface of the Sun that have lower than the average temperature and these regions are usually associated with intense magnetic activity. Solar astronomy concerns itself with studying the phenomenon related to the Sun and how it affects the surrounding atmosphere. The animation shows the X2 class solar flare that peaked on 15th Feb, 2011 and released a huge burst of ultraviolet light and coronal mass ejection. The coronal mass ejection could cause electromagnetic disturbances and auroras.

2) Planetary Science

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Planetary science deals with the study of how the planets, moons, comets and asteroids are assembled around the Sun. This subfield also takes into account the various orbiting bodies that surround the solar system. Furthermore since the solar system has been studied in quite a lot detail over time, therefore planetary science provides you with the knowledge regarding anything in the solar system. The understanding of the planetary system has led to the evolution and understanding of various other phenomenon. The first animation shows a purposed trajectory of the asteroid 1950 DA’s which could not have been possible without a detailed know-how of the planetary system.

3) Stellar Astronomy

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Knowledge about the stars and stellar evolution is very necessary for a better understanding of the universe. Observations and theoretical understanding from computer simulations have contributed a lot in this subfield of astronomy. Star formation occurs in giant molecular clouds which are dense regions of dust and gas and the destabilization could lead to the collapse of cloud fragments under the influence of gravity, to form a protostar but a hotter and denser core can trigger nuclear fusion which will form a main-sequence star. Almost all elements heavier than hydrogen and helium were created inside the cores of stars. The animation is that of Ceres and Vesta July, 2014 conjunction.

4) Galactic Astronomy

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This subfield of astronomy deals with the study of our own milky way and its contents.  Galactic astronomy doesn’t give an insight into the formation of the galaxy and its evolution rather it covers our own Milky Way galaxy in which our Solar system exists. The important parts of our galaxy are obscured from the visible wavelength due to the cosmic dust. The cosmic dust and gases in the Milky Way were mapped for the first time in 20th century due to the development of radio astronomy, infrared astronomy and sub-millimetre astronomy. Milky Way and other related galaxies have shown that there is more mass than can be accounted for by visible matter and this revelation was due to the kinematic studies of our galaxy. The animation shows how much laser guide star adaptive optics can clear up an image of the center of the galaxy.

5) Extragalactic Astronomy

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The branch of astronomy that deals with the formation and evolution of galaxies as well as the morphology and classification of active galaxies is known as extragalactic astronomy. This subfield also takes into account the larger galaxies for a better understanding of the whole of cosmos. Galaxies are mostly classified on the basis of their shape and currently there are divided into spiral, irregular and elliptical galaxies. A galaxy is said to be active if it emits a significant amount of energy from the core. Such galaxies are said to be powered by the compact regions of their core which is mostly thought to be a super-massive black hole that is emitting radiation from in-falling material. The first animation is that of Bernard’s Star whereas second animation is that of a supernova in Pinwheel Galaxy (M-101).

6) Cosmology

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The study of universe as a whole comes under the cosmology subfield. From the observation of the large scale structures to the fundamentals of the modern theory related to Big Bang and how it started and then expanded over a span of 13.8 billion years, cosmology covers all of it. Dark matter and dark energy are considered to be fundamental for the existence of the universe therefore a lot of effort is being made to understand the physics of these components.  Before and after animation of the supernova as it appears in one of the spiral arms of a host galaxy.

14287   12/09/2014

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