What are Science and Astronomy?

What is Science?

Science is a way of thinking about the universe. It allows us to solve many different types of problem. The word science is derived from the Latin root scire: to know. Science is successful in part because it employs a set of rules which govern how scientists think about problems and how they should formulate ideas. You may have heard of this set of rules, it is the scientific method.

The second aspect of science that makes it so successful is that it is very efficient at storing the information scientists find out. This allows scientists today for example to use knowledge that other scientists found out hundreds of years ago. The ideas relating to gravity for example were formulated by Isaac Newton in 1686. Isaac Newton summed up the ability of science to accumulate and store information very well when he said:

“If I have been able to see further, it was only because I stood on the shoulders of giants.”

Those giants being the many scientists who came before him contributing to our body of knowledge.

What is Astronomy?

Astronomy is the study of celestial objects, such as the moon, planets, stars, galaxies, and generally everything beyond the Earth’s atmosphere. The aim of this study is to provide an understanding on the physical processes that take place in these objects, their chemistry and the way that these objects interact, ultimately providing an insight to the laws that govern our universe.

Astronomy as Science

Astronomy is subject to the scientific method; this means that for any theory to be accepted it needs to be backed-up by observational evidence and this evidence needs to be obtained by careful experimentation. In addition, both theory and observational data need to be published in peer reviewed journals and withstand scrutiny by the scientific community before they can be accepted as a satisfactory representation of a physical process.

Like every part of science, astronomy is ‘fluid’ and dynamic. Every theory, no matter how well established, can be challenged by new observational evidence for which the theory must be able to account for; failing to do so will result to its rejection and further search for a more complete theory.

Research at CIT Blackrock Castle Observatory focuses on the following areas:

  • Extra Solar Planets
  • Active Galaxies (Quasars)
  • Near Earth Objects
  • Gamma Ray Bursts

For a lighthearted look at what a hypothesis is and how important testing is, see this video from the Ontario Science Centre: