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Astrophysics is the study of how stars and planets work, and how we can learn about them. Astrophysicists use physics to explain what astronomers find and see.

Astrophysics is also the study of how the Universe started and how it is changing with time. This part of astrophysics is called cosmology.


A long time ago, during the time of the Ancient Greeks, people thought that the way things worked in the sky was different from the way things worked on Earth. They also thought that they could not study how things in the sky worked. This was because they could not do experiments with things in the sky, but they could do experiments with things that are on the surface of the Earth.

When people realized that, by looking at the sky, they were able to work out how the planets moved, the science of astrophysics was born. The first people to write books on how they thought the planets moved were Nicolaus Copernicus, Galileo, and Johannes Kepler.

Sir Isaac Newton realized that the same rules of mechanics that he had found on the surface of the Earth also could be used to predict how the planets moved. He said, "As above, so below." By this, he meant that we can study how things work on this planet to find out how things work in space.

Later scientists found that by looking at the light from stars, they were able to work out what they were made from. This process is called spectroscopy.

Types of astrophysics

There are two main types of astrophysics: observational astrophysics and theoretical astrophysics.

Observational astrophysics is like astronomy. Like astronomers, observational astrophysicists use telescopes to study the Universe, but observational astrophysicists study the physics of what they see to explain the Universe.

Theoretical astrophysicists use information from astronomers and tools such as computers to explain how the Universe works. Cosmology is a type of theoretical astrophysics.

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