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Professional astronomy is split into observational and theoretical branches. Observational astronomy is focused on acquiring data from observations of astronomical objects. This data is then analyzed using basic principles of physics. Theoretical astronomy is oriented toward the development of computer or analytical models to describe astronomical objects and phenomena. These two fields complement each other. Theoretical astronomy seeks to explain observational results and observations are used to confirm theoretical results.
Image 2An image of the Cat's Paw Nebula created combining the work of professional and amateur astronomers. The image is the combination of the 2.2-metre MPG/ESO telescope of the La Silla Observatory in Chile and a 0.4-meter amateur telescope. (from Amateur astronomy)
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Timeline of the metric expansion of space, where space, including hypothetical non-observable portions of the universe, is represented at each time by the circular sections. On the left, the dramatic expansion occurs in the inflationary epoch; and at the center, the expansion accelerates (artist's concept; not to scale).