Astronomy is a natural science which is the study of celestial objects (such as stars, galaxies, planets, moons, and nebulae), 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 microwave background radiation. A related but distinct subject, cosmology, is concerned with studying the universe as a whole.
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.
During the 20th century, the field of professional astronomy split into observational and theoretical branches. Observational astronomy is focused on acquiring data from observations of astronomical objects, which is then analyzed using basic principles of physics. Theoretical astronomy is oriented toward the development of computer or analytical models to describe astronomical objects and phenomena. The two fields complement each other, with theoretical astronomy seeking to explain the observational results and observations being used to confirm theoretical results.
Astronomy is one of the few sciences where amateurs can still play an active role, especially in the discovery and observation of transient phenomena and Amateur astronomers have made and contributed to many important astronomical discoveries.