Setting the Scene

  • Rosa PoggianiEmail author
Part of the UNITEXT for Physics book series (UNITEXTPH)


This chapter will firstly present the peculiarity of astrophysics, an observational science. The most part of astronomical information is produced by observations in a region of the electromagnetic spectrum that will be briefly presented, together with the statistics of photons and the observable quantities (flux, intensity, and magnitude) relevant to astrophysical observations. The information of photons from astrophysical sources is degraded by the interaction with the material encountered during the travel from the source to the observer, such as the interstellar medium and the Earth atmosphere. The atmosphere structure, composition, and physical processes are reviewed. The absorption processes define the observational windows, splitting the domains of ground-based and space-based astronomy. Optical and radio observations and part of infrared observations can be secured on Earth. The backgrounds to optical, infrared, and radio observations are discussed.


Interstellar Medium Electromagnetic Spectrum Hubble Space Telescope Radio Astronomy Astronomical Observation 
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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhysicsUniversity of PisaPisaItaly

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