Considered one of the oldest sciences, Astronomy (from the Greek words astron "star" and nomos "law") is the scientific study of celestial objects (such as stars, planets, comets, and galaxies) and phenomena that originate outside the Earth's atmosphere. It is concerned with the evolution, physics, chemistry, meteorology, and motion of celestial objects, as well as the formation and development of the universe.
Astronomers of early civilizations performed methodical observations of the night sky, and astronomical artifacts have been found from much earlier periods in time. 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, the making of calendars, and even astrology, but professional astronomy is now often considered to be synonymous with astrophysics.
Since the 20th century, the field of professional astronomy split into observational and theoretical branches. Observational astronomy is focused on acquiring and analyzing data, mainly 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.
Amateur astronomers have contributed to many important astronomical discoveries, and astronomy is one of the few sciences where amateurs can still play an active role, especially in the discovery and observation of transient phenomena. Astronomy is not to be confused with astrology, the belief system that claims that human affairs and happenings on earth are correlated with the positions of celestial objects. Although the two fields share a common origin and a part of their methods (namely, the use of ephemerides), they are distinct.