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The Astronomy Portal

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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Ariel as seen by Voyager 2 in 1986. The canyon system Kachina Chasma stretches across the upper part of the image.
Ariel is the brightest and third most massive of the 27 known moons of Uranus. Discovered on 24 October 1851 by William Lassell, it is named for a sky spirit in Alexander Pope's The Rape of the Lock and Shakespeare's The Tempest. Like its parent planet, Ariel orbits on its side, giving it an extreme seasonal cycle. As of 2011, almost all knowledge of Ariel derives from a single flyby of Uranus performed by the spacecraft Voyager 2 in 1986, which managed to image 35% of the moon's surface. There are no plans at present to return to study the moon in more detail.

After Miranda, Ariel is the second-smallest of Uranus's five round satellites, and the second-closest to its planet. Among the smallest of the Solar System's 19 known spherical moons (it ranks 14th among them in diameter), Ariel is composed of roughly equal parts ice and rocky material. Like all of Uranus's moons, Ariel probably formed from an accretion disc that surrounded the planet shortly after its formation, and, like other large moons, it may be differentiated, with an inner core of rock surrounded by a mantle of ice. Ariel has a complex surface comprising extensive cratered terrain cross-cut by a system of scarps, canyons and ridges. The surface shows signs of more recent geological activity than other Uranian moons, most likely due to tidal heating.

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Astronomy : Archaeoastronomy - Astrophysics - Calendars - Catalogues - Celestial coordinate system - Celestial mechanics - Cosmology - Images - Large-scale structure of the cosmos - Observatories - Planetary science - Telescopes - Universe

Biographies : Astronomers - Other people - Amateur Astronomers

Astronomical objects : Lists - Galaxies - Nebulae - Planets - Stars

Spaceflight : Human spaceflight - Satellites - SETI - Spacecraft


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WikiProject Astronomy WikiProject Solar System

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WikiProject Astronomical objects WikiProject Spaceflight

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NGC 1300
Credit: NASA, ESA, and The Hubble Heritage Team STScI/AURA

NGC 1300 is a barred spiral galaxy about 61 million light-years away in the constellation Eridanus. The galaxy is about 110,000 light-years across; just slightly larger than our own galaxy, the Milky Way.

December anniversaries

  • 14 December 1962 - Mariner 2 becomes the first space probe to perform a flyby of a planet, when it passes within 35,000 kilometers of Venus
  • 19 December 2013 - Gaia was launched. Its mission is to study billions of stars in the Milky Way
  • 21 December 1968 - Apollo 8, the first crewed spacecraft to leave Earth orbit, reach the Moon, orbit it, and return safely to Earth, is launched

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


Astronomical events

All times UT unless otherwise specified.

6 December, 12:27 Full moon
8 December, 09:54 Mercury at superior conjunction
12 December, 23:00 Moon at apogee
14 December, 09:00 Geminids peak
21 December, 23:03 Earth southern solstice
22 December, 01:36 New moon
24 December, 16:34 Moon at perigee