How do astronomers use math in their jobs? (Beginner)

Hi... I was just curious as to how much math you use? In what ways is math involved in astronomy?

Astronomers use math all the time. One way it is used is when we look at objects in the sky with a telescope. The camera that is attached to the telescope basically records a series of numbers - those numbers might correspond to how much light different objects in the sky are emitting, what type of light, etc. In order to be able to understand the information that these numbers contain, we need to use math and statistics to interpret them.

Another way that astronomers use math is when we are forming and testing theories for the physical laws that govern the objects in the sky. Theories consist of formulas that relate quantities to each other. (A very simple example is Newton's second law, force equals mass times acceleration.) In order to be able to test these theories and use them to make predictions about what we will observe in the sky, astronomers need to use math to manipulate the equations.

Here are some answers to similar questions from other "Ask an Astronomer" sites:

This page was last updated on February 18, 2016.

About the Author

Dave Rothstein

Dave is a former graduate student and postdoctoral researcher at Cornell who used infrared and X-ray observations and theoretical computer models to study accreting black holes in our Galaxy. He also did most of the development for the former version of the site.

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