Thursday, October 15, 2009

Why is it possible for us to study the Universe?

The most basic way to study the Universe is simply to look at it. Even with just the naked eye, it is possible to make observations. Many astronomical objects are easy to see, such as the planets like Venus, Jupiter, Mars, and Saturn, and meteors, comets, and even teh distant stars.

A simple telescope helps us to see much more of our Universe, or at least our solar system. For example, the rings around Saturn become visible if you look at the planet through a telescope. Some telescopes let you see features on the planet's surface as well. More complicated telescopes give us more detailed information.

Telescopes that use mirrors have the distinct advantage of allowing much larger lenses, and the larger the lens, the further it can see. Telescopes like the Hubble Space Telescope are placed in space, to get clear images of the Universe.

Special instruments called spectrometers study the light coming from the stars, and break it up into its components or spectrum. Scientists use this information to figure out the features of a star, like its temperature, composition, and whether it is moving or not. Radio telescopes detect a wide range of radio frequencies given off by celestial objects, and this can be used to study stars.

Some objects are so far away that we cannot see any light that they emit, even with the most powerful telescope. However, they do emit heat. Studying infrared light with the help of special instruments can be extremely useful for detecting heat radiated by objects, and dust in space.

We can also learn about the Universe by studying the x-rays and gamma rays given off by the stars.

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