Astronomy Tools: Math and Physics

Astronomers use a great deal of concepts related to physics. This field brings to light information surrounding the nature of light, gravity and orbital motion. In this article, you will learn some of the standards of measurement associated with physics and mathematics and how it pertains to astronomy.


In order to regulate the mathematics used in scientific study, rules of measurement are set for the concepts of physics. Time, distance, temperature, and mass are used to express a standard of measurement for astronomers:

Time: Occurring in a linear manner, units of time are uncomplicated. They are broken down into seconds, minutes, hours, and years. However, at times, some people become confused with the time coordinates when measuring the equatorial measure of right ascension. Astronomers who study cosmology have a better grasp on time in relation to relativity , a concept of Albert Einstein.

Distance: Because distances in astronomy are highly lengthy, a different metric system is needed to calculate the miles and other distances associated with celestial bodies. Space measurements include astronomical units (AU), light years (ly) and parsecs (pc), which are used to illustrate the distance of extremely distant galaxies that are nearly impossible to view.  An astronomical unit is the mean distance between the Earth and the Sun, while a light-year is the distance light travels in one year, which amounts to about 300,000 m/s.

Quantum Physics

There’s a mystery in the world of astronomy called Dark Matter and astronomers are trying to crack the unknown. 90 percent of the universe is comprised of an unidentified composition. Quantum physics makes information regarding the fundamental particles much easier to digest. An astronomer may study subjects, such as gamma ray particles. Getting down to the bottom of uncovering the secrets of Dark Matter, astronomers use information surrounding gravitation effects, hot X-ray gas, distortion effects, and motions of galaxy clusters.

Computer Science

Analyzing and calculating the changes of the universe, an astronomer may rely on computer science programs to create simulations of space, including programs centered on orbital dynamics, stellar evolution, and the formation of the galaxy.


From calculating the distance between different planets to assessing the probability of space phenomenon, math plays an important role in the life of an astronomer. With algebra, astronomers are able to identify unknown variables. Using the collection of empirical data, astronomers use statistics to discover the probability of many different fields. After gathering data, all information is reviewed, including random errors and distributions plots. Through experimentation and the study of outcomes, astronomers can assess the probability of an event or subject.

Calculus is a branch of mathematics that helps an individual calculate the limitations and rate of change of objects and events. Invented by Sir Isaac Newton, astronomers use sets of numbers and variables to arrive at the answers they seek regarding speed, distance, and other details. Geometry and trigonometry is the branch of mathematics that leads to calculating the volume, perimeter and area of subjects associated with space research.