Astrophysics is the branch of astronomy that deals with the physics of the universe, especially with “the nature of the heavenly bodies, rather than their positions or motions in space”. Among the objects studied are galaxies, stars, planets, extrasolar planets, the interstellar medium and the cosmic microwave background. Their emissions are examined across all parts of the electromagnetic spectrum, and the properties examined include luminosity, density, temperature, and chemical composition. Because astrophysics is a very broad subject,astrophysicists typically apply many disciplines of physics, including mechanics, electromagnetism, statistical mechanics,thermodynamics, quantum mechanics, relativity, nuclear and particle physics, and atomic and molecular physics.
In practice, modern astronomical research often involves a substantial amount of work in the realms of theoretical and observational physics. Highly elusive areas of study for astrophysicists, which are of immense interest to the public, include their attempts to determine: the properties of dark matter, dark energy, and black holes; whether or not time travel is possible,wormholes can form, or the multiverse exists; and the origin and ultimate fate of the universe. Topics also studied by theoretical astrophysicists include: solar system formation and evolution; stellar dynamics and evolution; galaxy formation and evolution; magnetohydrodynamics; large-scale structure of matter in the universe; origin of cosmic rays; general relativity andphysical cosmology, including string cosmology and astroparticle physics.
Cosmology is the study of the origin, evolution, and eventual fate of the universe. Physical cosmology is the scholarly and scientific study of the origin, evolution, large-scale structures and dynamics, and ultimate fate of the universe, as well as the scientific laws that govern these realities. Religious cosmology (or mythological cosmology) is a body of beliefs based on the historical, mythological, religious, and esoteric literature and traditions of creation and eschatology.
Physical cosmology is studied by scientists, such as astronomers, and theoretical physicists; and academic philosophers, such as metaphysicians, philosophers of physics, and philosophers of space and time. Modern cosmology is dominated by the Big Bang theory, which attempts to bring together observational astronomy and particle physics.
Although the word cosmology is recent (first used in 1730 in Christian Wolff’s Cosmologia Generalis), the study of the universe has a long history involving science, philosophy, esotericism and religion. Related studies include cosmogony, which focuses on the origin of the Universe, and cosmography, which maps the features of the Universe. Cosmology is also connected to astronomy, but while the former is concerned with the Universe as a whole, the latter deals with individual celestial objects.
Physics and astrophysics have played a central role in shaping the understanding of the universe through scientific observation and experiment. What is known as physical cosmology has been shaped through both mathematics and observation in an analysis of the whole universe. The universe is generally understood to have begun with the Big Bang, followed almost instantaneously by cosmic inflation; an expansion of space from which the universe is thought to have emerged 13.798 ± 0.037 billion years ago.
Metaphysical cosmology has also been described as the placing of man in the universe in relationship to all other entities. This is exemplified by the observation made by Marcus Aurelius of a man’s place in that relationship: “He who does not know what the world is does not know where he is, and he who does not know for what purpose the world exists, does not know who he is, nor what the world is.”
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