Is There Any Difference Between Astronomy and Astrophysics?

-- Jane | March 31, 2020


For my project, we are asked to clearly define a discipline of knowledge. I chose Astronomy, and through much deliberation I can safely say I am lost. So I’ve turned to you in hopes for a reply! Is Astronomy synonymous with Astrophysics? If not, at what point does Astronomy morph into other fields such as Astrophysics? Does Astronomy have to be conducted with a telescope?

-- Jane


Not in practice.  You have probably already found a number of online resources that claim that the research that Astronomers and Astrophysicists do is similar, yet distinct.  For example, Astronomy can be described as the study of the universe beyond the Earth’s atmosphere, while Astrophysics can be defined as a branch of Astronomy which concentrates on the physical processes associated with the entities that comprise the universe.  In practice, though, few astronomers make this distinction, as we all use physics in our astronomical studies of the universe.  So, for all practical purposes, Astronomy and Astrophysics are synonymous.

-- Jeff Mangum