This is the inaugural post of Astronomy Word of the Week, or AstroWoW. Welcome! My plan is to help you explore the Universe by introducing you to a new astronomy-related word (or phrase) every week. We’re tackling the cosmos one word at a time. Fortunately, it’s a big Universe and there are lots of words used to describe it, so I don’t anticipate running out of material any time soon. We’ll explore everything from the subatomic particles that hold the whole shebang together all the way up to the largest structures in the cosmos. We’ll travel from Earth to the very edge of the visible Universe and back again. It should be quite a ride – I hope you enjoy it!
Credit should go where credit is due: this blog was entirely inspired by Skepchick blogger Evelyn’s Geology Word of the Week. I hope she doesn’t mind me shamelessly stealing her excellent idea. Be sure to go check out her blog as well…geology has much in common with astronomy. All the minerals which make up the rocks on our planet had their start as atoms being fused deep in the interior of a nearby star which then seeded the interstellar byways with fresh material from which to form new stars, planets, and eventually people. Of course, looking at it that way, astronomy therefore overlaps with pretty much everything. As Carl Sagan once famously quipped, “We are star stuff”.
As for myself, if you’re interested in knowing a little about the author, I am currently a 5th year graduate student working on a Ph.D. in astrophysics. For my thesis, I am attempting to find planets in a (relatively) nearby star forming region. The idea is that if we can find planets orbiting stars that are themselves still forming, we will learn something about how the planets form: what environments do they require, how quickly do they form, and how do they evolve from their initial state. Understanding how and where planets form can allow us to start to get a handle on the likelihood of finding other life out there beyond our world and begins a journey into the heart of some of the deepest questions humanity has ever posed: Where did we come from? Are we alone?
And we’ll start that journey here. One. Word. At. A. Time.