The Glossary of Astronomy and Cosmology

Jolene CreightonJanuary 19th 2013
Image Credit: Thierry Cohen
Image Credit: Thierry Cohen at the Danziger Gallery

Let’s face it, you can’t be a genius in every subject. But fortunately, you don’t need to be a genius to understand physics and astronomy. In fact, there are a number of astronomers and astrophysicists who have devoted their lives to bringing scientific knowledge to all who seek it, from the questioning child who looks up in wonder at the stars to the budding mathematician who has devoted his life to numbers and equations. To that end, scientists at the Carnegie Observatory teamed with researchers at Caltech to create the Glossary of Astronomy and Cosmology.

Sponsored by NASA, this glossary houses a collection of astronomical terms that were systematically scraped from the pages of countless articles and databases. Ultimately, the glossary is designed to cover all areas of astronomy, from quarks to quasars. This list also includes information on particle physics, as well as pertinent statistics, graphs, and equations.

The glossary a great place to go if you want to aimlessly browse through a plethora of interesting facts and figures or if you need to find a reliable definition that is accepted by the academic community. This collection is also a great help if you ever stumble across a word that you can’t define or a term you don’t understand. In short: the Glossary of Astronomy and Cosmology can aid you with almost any intellectual inquiry.

For example, let’s look at the glossary’s definition of “quasar”:

“Quasars are extremely distant and luminous astronomical objects that are much smaller than a galaxy and much more luminous. Quasars may be the central regions of certain very energetic galaxies at an early stage of their evolution. It is believed that the power of a quasar derives from a massive black hole at its center. The brightest objects in the Universe, quasars can generate over a trillion times as much light as the Sun from a region little larger than the Solar System.”

It is a basic definition that is easy to digest and full of interesting information.

Worried that this information might be a bit too basic? Fortunately, terms also have “essay” buttons associated with them. Clicking on these links will provide you with a deeper technical discussion of a term or topic. Usually, these “essay” links directly connect you to primary literature, which frequently contains equations, graphics, and additional links. Moreover, many terms have a number of different “essays” links associated with them. So chances are, if you go and have a look around, you’ll eventually find what you need.

Find the glossary here.

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