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Astronomy portal

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

Astronomy is a natural science that is the study of celestial objects (such as moons, planets, stars, nebulae, and galaxies), the physics, chemistry, and evolution of such objects, and phenomena that originate outside the atmosphere of Earth, including supernovae explosions, gamma ray bursts, and cosmic background radiation.

Astronomy is one of the oldest sciences. Prehistoric cultures have left astronomical artifacts such as the Egyptian monuments and Nubian monuments, and early civilizations such as the Babylonians, Greeks, Chinese, Indians, Iranians and Maya performed methodical observations of the night sky. However, the invention of the telescope was required before astronomy was able to develop into a modern science. Historically, astronomy has included disciplines as diverse as astrometry, celestial navigation, observational astronomy, and the making of calendars, but professional astronomy is nowadays often considered to be synonymous with astrophysics.

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Umbriel as seen by Voyager 2 in 1986
Umbriel /ˈʌmbriəl/ is a moon of Uranus discovered on October 24, 1851, by William Lassell. It was discovered at the same time as Ariel and named after a character in Alexander Pope's poem The Rape of the Lock. Umbriel consists mainly of ice with a substantial fraction of rock, and may be differentiated into a rocky core and an icy mantle. The surface is the darkest among Uranian moons, and appears to have been shaped primarily by impacts. However, the presence of canyons suggests early endogenic processes, and the moon may have undergone an early endogenically driven resurfacing event that obliterated its older surface.

Covered by numerous impact craters reaching 210 km (130 mi) in diameter, Umbriel is the second most heavily cratered satellite of Uranus after Oberon. The most prominent surface feature is a ring of bright material on the floor of Wunda crater. This moon, like all moons of Uranus, probably formed from an accretion disk that surrounded the planet just after its formation. The Uranian system has been studied up close only once, by the spacecraft Voyager 2 in January 1986. It took several images of Umbriel, which allowed mapping of about 40% of the moon’s surface.

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M82 HST ACS 2006-14-a-large web.jpg
Credit: NASA / ESA / Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)

Messier 82, also known as NGC 3034, Cigar Galaxy, and M82, is the prototype starburst galaxy about 12 million light-years away in the constellation Ursa Major. The starburst galaxy is five times more luminous than the whole Milky Way, and one hundred times more luminous than our galaxy's center. This mosaic image, taken by the Hubble Telescope, is the sharpest wide-angle view ever obtained of Messier 82.

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These books may be in various stages of development. See also the related Science and Mathematics bookshelves.

  • Astronomy
  • GAT: A Glossary of Astronomical Terms
  • Introduction to Astrophysics
  • General relativity
  • Observing the Sky from 30°S
  • Observing the Sky from 40°N


  • Solar System

Astronomical events

All times UT unless otherwise specified.

1 January, 20:00 Mercury at greatest western elongation
1 January, 21:55 Moon at perigee
2 January, 02:24 Full moon
3 January, 05:35 Earth at perihelion
3 January, 20:00 Quadrantids peak
9 January Pluto at conjunction
15 January, 02:24 Moon at apogee
17 January, 02:17 New moon
30 January, 10:04 Moon at perigee
31 January, 12:48 Ceres at opposition
31 January, 13:30 Full moon and total lunar eclipse


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