Astronomy and related astronomical terms

(the science of the celestial bodies: the sun, the moon, and the planets; the stars and galaxies; and all of the other objects in the universe)

The astronomer said,
As he raised his cup,
"Thank heavens my business
Is looking up."
—Ennis Rees, Pun Fun;
Scholastic Book Services; New York; 1965; page 13.
1. An interplanetary material or a meteoroid that survives passage through the earth's atmosphere and arrives on earth's surface without completely burning up.
2. A piece of rock or metal from space that reaches the surface of the earth, moon, or other celestial body.

Most meteorites are thought to be fragments from asteroids, although some may be pieces from the heads of comets. Most are stony, although some are made of iron and a few have a mixed rock-iron composition.

1. A solid body smaller than an asteroid that orbits the sun.

Both meteors and meteorites were meteoroids.

2. The general terms for meteors and micrometeroids, the latter usually having masses of less than a microgram.
Metonic cycle
A period of nineteen years after which the phases of the moon reoccur on the same days of the year.

A series of four or five eclipses also occurs on the same dates after this interval.

Particles of cosmic dust, typically less than 0.1 millimeter in size and a microgram in mass.
microwave background radiation
The radiation which fills the universe uniformly in all directions, with a peak intensitiy at about one millimeter wavelength in the microwave region.

It is interpreted in the "big bang theory" as the remnant of the initial explosion.

Milky Way
1. The faint band of luminescence crossing the whole celestial sphere, and made up of stars lying in the central plane of our galaxy.
2. A faint band of light crossing the night sky, consisting of stars in the plane of our galaxy.

The Milky Way passes through the constellations of Cassiopeia, Perseus, Auriga, Orion, Canis Major, Puppis, Vela, Carina, Crux, Centaurus, Norma, Scorpius, Sagittarius, Scutum, Aquila, and Cygnus.

minor planet
One of a family of stony objects mostly orbiting between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter.

They probably represent planetesimals that failed to form a planet.

Mira variable
A variable star typified by the red giant Mira Ceti.

The light curve is irregular, with a varying range of brightness and of a period between peaks of brightness.

Mohorovičić discontinuity or Mohorovicic discontinuity
The interface between the earth's crust and mantle. Mohorovičić concluded that the earth consists of surface layers above an internal core.

He was the first scientist to establish, based on the evidence of seismic wave behavior, the discontinuity that separates the crust of the planet earth from the mantle.

According to Mohorovičić, a layered structure would explain the observation of depths where seismic waves change speed and the difference in chemical composition between rocks from the crust and those from the mantle.

Andrija Mohorovičić was a Yugoslav geophysicist for whom the Mohorovicic discontinuity was named (1857-1936).

Two or more atoms chemically combined.

A water molecule consists of two atoms of hydrogen and one atom of oxygen.

A natural satellite orbiting a planet.

Mercury and Venus are the only planets in the solar system that do not have moons.

NASA, National Aeronautics and Space Administration
A U.S. government agency for space flight and aeronautical research, founded in 1958 by the National Aeronautics and Space Act.

Its headquarters are in Washington, D.C., and its main installation is at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

NASA's early planetary and lunar programs included Pioneer spacecraft from 1958, which gathered data for the later crewed missions, the most famous of which took the first people to the moon in Apollo 11 on July 16-24, 1969.

neap tide
1. A tide of decreased range that occurs twice a month, when the moon is in quadrature; that is, during its first and last quarters, when the sun and the moon are at right angles to each other relative to the earth.
2. The tide raised on the earth when the sun and moon are in positions forming a right angle at the earth's center.

The two pulls (sun and moon) largely cancel each other out, resulting in an extra low high tide and an extra high low tide.

A cloud-like region of gas and dust that shines either by its own light (emission nebula) or by reflected light (reflections nebula), if it is a bright nebula, or simply absorbs light falling onto it if it is a dark nebula.
Even with the unaided eyes, faint hazy patches of light can be seen dotted around the night sky.

Through a telescope these patches are resolved into various kinds of diffuse nebulae, which are clouds of dust and gas that can be sen in the visible part of the spectrum.

Nebulae are classified in three basic types:

  1. Emission nebulae; ultraviolet radiation from nearby bright blue stars excites hydrogen atoms in the gas of an emission nebula.
  2. Dark nebulae; an absorption, or dark, nebula is seen as a dark patch, sometimes surrounded by a halo of light. The light from stars behind the nebula is either absorbed or scattered by the nebular material.
  3. Reflection nebulae; the dust particles in the cloud reflect and scatter the light from stars that are not hot enough to make the nebula itself emit light.

Also check out the Index of other Scientific and Technological Topics.