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Old 07-26-2014, 05:00 PM   #11
Kraydak
 
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Astronomy

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I've talked at some length with real life Astronomers, and dabbled a bit in college (not proud of it). My sense is that Radio Astronomy, Observational Astronomy and Cosmology are entirely different disciplines, in that you can excel in one without having any acquaintance with the other two. For example, you can be a radio astronomer of the first rank without ever staying up after dark.
All GURPS science skills would be, in real life, at least one Bang! skill, if not multiple.

In the modern world, the working skill is more realistically Physics (Astrophysics) for all research astronomers (there might be a few emeritus or near-emeritus researchers using Astronomy still, maybe). Astronomy would fall under the purview of amateur astronomers, used by professionals for outreach and teaching (and many have no points in Astronomy).
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Old 07-26-2014, 05:01 PM   #12
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Astronomy

In my Ultima campaign based on Sosaria, Astronomy skill allows prediction of the moongates (which is its most common use).
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Old 07-26-2014, 05:17 PM   #13
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Astronomy

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In the modern world, the working skill is more realistically Physics (Astrophysics) for all research astronomers (there might be a few emeritus or near-emeritus researchers using Astronomy still, maybe). Astronomy would fall under the purview of amateur astronomers, used by professionals for outreach and teaching (and many have no points in Astronomy).
I would assume ongoing minor planet searches (most importantly, Near Earth Object tracking) are distinctly a matter of Astronomy, probably also exoplanet searches and possibly studies of the large scale structure of the universe.
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Old 07-26-2014, 06:54 PM   #14
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Astronomy

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I would assume ongoing minor planet searches (most importantly, Near Earth Object tracking) are distinctly a matter of Astronomy, probably also exoplanet searches and possibly studies of the large scale structure of the universe.
Astrophysics in all cases. For example, NEO work involves combining infrared observations with optical work on object of poorly understood albedos (want you really want is the size, for obvious reasons). There is a lot of modeling of the asteroid composition and surface that goes into it.

On the other hand, it is worth noting that the intersection of physics and astrophysics is basically complete. The universe is really big, and contains lots of stuff, so pretty much any branch of physics has a related branch of astrophysics.
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Old 07-26-2014, 07:12 PM   #15
sir_pudding
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Astronomy

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infrared observations ... optical work
This appears to be Astronomy.
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Old 07-26-2014, 07:40 PM   #16
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Astronomy

My understanding is that astrophysics is concerned with the nature of the heavenly bodies in distinction from their positions and motions. Then I was at university the course "Astrophysics" dealt with the physical processes inside stars, novas, supernovas etc. and their development from formation to their final fate as white dwarfs, neutron stars, black holes, planetary nebulas, etc.; "Lagrangean Mechanics" dealt with orbital motions (and was taught by the School of Mathematics); and Cosmology dealt with the history and large-scale nature of the cosmos as a whole. Planetology wasn't taught there (ANU) at that time (the late Eighties), but it is taught as a separate undergraduate topic nowadays (I have an undergrad textbook from 1994).

There is still important astronomy being done in simply finding out what things are out there and where exactly they are. E.g. exoplanet searches and distance determinations.
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Old 07-26-2014, 07:51 PM   #17
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Astronomy

I did some work on the subject, not all of which got into GURPS Low-Tech Companion 1. I initially tried modeling astronomical telescopes as devices that let you see things with a really huge range modifier and a large size modifier. But that really didn't work very well; at astronomical ranges too many of the objects we want to observe approximate geometrical points.

What a telescope seems to be in astronomy, more than any thing else, is a very impressive light-gathering device, one that offsets low-light penalties that are worse than -9 (and that for a human eye would be treated as -10, i.e., no light).

The important applications of astronomy are horological and chronometrical, at least until very recently. A big medieval focus was predicting the proper date for Easter. If you want to know when the next solar eclipse will occur, so that you can break a curse, see an astronomer; they've been doing it since TL1.

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Old 07-26-2014, 08:06 PM   #18
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Astronomy

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I initially tried modeling astronomical telescopes as devices that let you see things with a really huge range modifier and a large size modifier. But that really didn't work very well; at astronomical ranges too many of the objects we want to observe approximate geometrical points.
Astronomers did approximately the same thing: they spent a century or so building the longest telescopes they could (to produce large images) and then switched to trying to make them as wide as possible (to produce bright images). I think it wasn't until the time of Herschel that obtaining the largest possible aperture was recognised as a primarily design goal.

Another hugely important application of the astronomical telescope is to mount it on a stable mount, put a reticle in it, and use it for precisely determining the positions of heavenly bodies.
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Old 07-27-2014, 06:40 AM   #19
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Astronomy

It might well be a good complementary skill to Navigation (Sea or Air) if the usual tools aren't available; of course there's a default already. (I've found my bearings on land by combining the known phase of the moon and the time of day to work out which direction the moon must be in.)

A thing that came up in my space exploration game, but isn't generally covered except in SPACESHIPS, is that if you have a microjump-capable spacecraft it's well worth doing a stepped approach and seeing what you can learn at each distance bracket. Spaceships 5 has a fair bit about this, but it's well worth thinking about how big an observation array the exploration ship's home civilisation can build at home. (Very long baseline synthetic aperture interferometry with hundreds of telescopes spread across an entire asteroid belt?)

The skill shows up on some of the Age of Sail Pirate Crew, presumably as a corollary to Navigation (Sea). Otherwise in my character archives, it's just in the use cases that people have already talked about: Infinite Cabal, and space exploration.
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Old 07-28-2014, 09:23 AM   #20
Kromm
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Astronomy

Speaking here as a physicist who had zero courses in astrophysics but knew quite a few people who worked with big dishes and mirrors:

Theoretical astronomy would be best handled as Physics (Astrophysics). Cosmology, too, would most accurately be a Physics specialty. These overlap some, but not enough to need special rules – cosmologists are much more like theoretical particle physicists or string theorists than anything else. That said, the Astronomy skill can be given a purpose at high TLs . . . treat it as an equipment-operation skill that replaces Computer Operation, Electronics Operation, Navigation, Observation, etc. for any and all gear that's pointed at the heavens. Different kinds of gear would be optional specialties of that skill, not of Physics.
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