What is the basic difference between Astrophysics and Astronomy?

Asked by: Subrata Chakraborty


According to the Oxford University physics dictionary:

Astronomy is the study of the universe beyond the earth's atmosphere. The main branches are astrometry, celestial mechanics, and astrophysics.

Astrophysics is the branch of astronomy concerned with the physical processes associated with the celestial bodies and the intervening regions of space. It deals principally with the energy of stellar systems and the relation between this energy and the evolution of the system.

So, astronomy is sort of a top level science that covers any scientific explorations of space beyond our atmosphere and astrophysics is a branch of astronomy that is concerned with the actual physics of stars, planets, black-holes, etc. , their formation, evolution and ultimately their future.

For example, if you have a telescope in your backyard and you like to observe the night sky and make star charts and learn about our solar system then you are an amateur astronomer but if you like to use equations to calculate how big does a star have to be in order to become a black hole one day - well then you are an amateur astrophysicist.
Answered by: Anton Skorucak, M.S. Physics, Creator