Methods of Studying the Solar System
Because of the brilliance of certain of its objects, the Solar System has been studied since antiquity. For centuries these observations were restricted to what was visible with the naked eye. Successive advances have been made, since the beginning of the 17th century, by the use of larger and larger telescopes, then by photographic observations taking over from visual ones. During the 20th century, astronomical observational techniques have undergone a veritable revolution. First of all, observations from space allowed access to ultraviolet and infrared regions of the spectrum, as well as to X- and γ-rays. In addition, the century has seen the beginning of radio astronomy and, above all, beginning in the sixties, the start of “in situ” observations of the Solar System, with the launch of spaceprobes to the Moon and planets. This chapter aims to review the observational techniques that have so far been used to study the Solar System. A detailed discussion of astrophysical instrumentation can be found in the book by P. Léna: Méthodes physiques de l’observation [InterEditions/Editions du CNRS (Paris 1986); English edition: Observational Astrophysics (Springer-Verlag, Berlin, Heidelberg 1988)].
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