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Computational Astronomy: Learning beyond the Stars with Wolfram Technologies

Computational Astronomy: Learning beyond the Stars with Wolfram Technologies

With Global Astronomy Month in full swing, it’s exciting to see the merging of Wolfram Language and the world of astronomy in so many different applications from our developers and users—from courses to books to projects on Wolfram Community. No matter where you’re at in your computational astronomy journey, the following resources will encourage you to go above and beyond.

Level 1—Learn about Computational Astronomy

Science & Technology Q&A for Kids & Others

If you’ve ever wondered why black holes don’t collapse on themselves or about the gravitational limits of a planet, we suggest participating in Stephen Wolfram’s livestreams for the chance to learn about varying topics in the world of science and technology and for a behind-the-scenes look into his life and work. His weekly Science & Technology Q&A for Kids & Others is an open, live Q&A session dedicated to answering your questions.

While the streams are not bound to a single topic, Part 107 features an in-depth conversation about black holes and light and Part 109 looks at questions about gravity and pressure in the vacuum of space. These livestreams will surely intrigue anyone looking to learn more about space!

Do you have more space or other questions for Stephen? You can submit a question to be answered in a future Science & Technology Q&A for Kids & Others or History of Science & Technology Q&A livestream.

Wolfram Demonstrations Project

The Wolfram Demonstrations Project offers more than 12 thousand interactive Wolfram Language Demonstrations in varying fields, including over two hundred astronomy Demonstrations. Manipulate and learn from unique Demonstrations like the following.

View of Our Solar System
By: Becky Johnsen

Johnsen’s Demonstration explores the relative distances between the Sun, planets and the dwarf planet Pluto. All bodies are shown larger than scale size but in correct relative proportion except for the Sun and Pluto (for aesthetic reasons).


How Old Would You Be on Another Planet (or Pluto?)
By: Chris Boucher

The planets in our solar system (and Pluto) rotate on their axes at different rates and take differing amounts of time to complete an orbit of the Sun. Boucher’s Demonstration allows you to calculate how old you would be on different planets (and Pluto).


Make Your Own Solar System
By: Stephen Wolfram

Wolfram’s Demonstration allows you to create your own 3D solar system by adjusting the size of a central star and the sizes and distances of four planets.


Wolfram|Alpha Example Queries

In addition to being an ever-expanding searchable database with knowledge spanning the computation of physics mechanics to providing detailed timelines for historical events, Wolfram|Alpha also gives topical example queries to get your research started in the right direction. Check out the collection of space and astronomy examples to start researching astronomical events and learn to calculate astrophysics problems.

Level 2—Experimenting with Computational Astronomy

If you’re already an astronomy whiz and are ready to move on to more advanced Wolfram Language computations, you will find these projects offer the inspiration you need to move forward with your exploration.

Wolfram Demonstrations Project

More advanced Demonstrations are available for those looking to observe and interact with different astronomical concepts.

Phases of Planets
By: Jeff Bryant

Like the Moon, planets can also have phases. Bryant’s Demonstration offers a view of Mercury, Venus and Earth when viewed from any of these three planets. Planets in inferior orbits undergo complete phase changes like the Moon when viewed from a planet with a superior orbit. Planets in superior orbits only go though minor changes in phase when viewed from a planet with an inferior orbit.


Solar and Lunar Eclipses
By: Jeff Bryant

A solar eclipse occurs when the Moon’s shadow moves across the face of the Earth. Similarly, a lunar eclipse occurs when the Earth’s shadow moves over the Moon. Bryant’s Demonstration allows you to see a model of solar and lunar eclipses by adjusting the position and distance of the Moon.


Life Cycle of a Star
By: Allison Jung

Stars evolve from birth to death much as animals or plants do. New stars form in stellar nebulae, made of clouds of plasma, hydrogen and helium. The lifetime of a star varies according to its mass; more massive stars have shorter lifespans than average-sized stars. The dividing line between the two types is around eight times the mass of the Sun. Jung’s Demonstration shows the life cycles of stars by adjusting an average and massive star’s evolutions.


Astronomy Functions in Wolfram Language

Wolfram Language 13.2 introduced several new astronomy-focused functions for getting started as a computational astronomer with astro computation and graphics. The 13.2 feature pages give you a chance to experiment with all of the astronomy functions released in this version. You can also use the Astronomical Computation & Data guide for a full list of astronomical functions and available data.

For a deeper dive into the 13.2 features, be sure to check out our Live with the R&D Team livestream on astro computation, where researchers José Martín-García and Jeff Bryant discuss reference frames, time systems, the varying functions and different application examples like visualizing solar eclipses or computing the position of Jupiter’s barycenter.

Wolfram Function Repository

For more unique ways to incorporate your astronomy research and Wolfram Language skills, you can visit the Wolfram Function Repository to explore and share your own astronomical functions.

Here are some ready-to-use examples to experiment with:

It’s no secret that Wolfram Community is one of the best places to learn about others’ projects and share or find help with your own work. These recent Community posts are a sampling of some of our favorite astronomy projects.

Conjunction of Venus and Jupiter during the Last Week of February 2023
By: Jeff Bryant

Bryant takes a look at the conjunction of Venus and Jupiter in February 2023 using varying astronomical and date-time functions in order to anticipate the angular separation for each day of the conjunction. His work gives astronomers, photographers and enthusiasts an opportunity to anticipate similar events.

Conjunction of Venus and Jupiter during the Last Week of February 2023

2022 Wolfram Technology Conference

The Wolfram Technology Conference is always an exciting time for both Wolfram developers and industry and academic researchers alike to share their work in the world of Wolfram. Wolfram developer Tom Sherlock has used the conference as a platform for his various projects, including his work in astronomy.

Sherlock’s 2022 presentation on astronomical imaging drummed up quite the attention and featured his efforts toward image processing to create high-quality images of the stars from videos by filtering, aligning and stacking still-image data.

Level 3—Computational Astronomy Research

For those looking to go even further with advanced astronomy research, the following publications offer in-depth analyses to push your work to the next level.

Possible Spacetime Discretization in Astrophysical Phenomena (Fundamental Science Winter School 2023)
By: Vittoria Tommasini

The annual Wolfram Fundamental Science Winter School gives students an opportunity to participate in research projects with Stephen Wolfram and other Wolfram employees, in addition to developing their own research projects with a team of Wolfram mentors.

Tommasini featured a unique look into computational astronomy with her independent project that focused on connecting quantum mechanics on larger-scale objects like black holes. She focused on modeling discretized spacetime geometries for Minkowski and Schwarzschild spacetime graphs.

Possible Spacetime Discretization in Astrophysical Phenomena

Effects of Dimensions D≠3 on Galactic Rotational Velocity Curves (Fundamental Science Winter School 2023)
By: John Blakely

In another feature from this year’s Winter School, Blakely worked with the Wolfram Physics Project to evaluate the discrete space dimensional effect on galactic rotational velocity curves by creating a model of the flattened curves for observation.

Effects of Dimensions D≠3 on Galactic Rotational Velocity Curves

Dynamical Gravastars
By: Stephen Adler

Adler’s article, published by the American Physical Society, uses Wolfram Language to look into the structure and behavior of gravastars with the Tolman–Oppenheimer–Volkoff equation. You can find a description of Adler’s work and his notebooks on Wolfram Community.

Geometric Optics: Theory and Design of Astronomical Optical Systems Using Mathematica, Second Edition
By: Antonio Romano & Roberto Caveliere

Geometric Optics: Theory and Design of Astronomical Optical Systems Using Mathematica, Second Edition

Geometric Optics: Theory and Design of Astronomical Optical Systems Using Mathematica from Antonio Romano and Roberto Caveliere combines the computational abilities of Wolfram Language with the optical elements of astronomy.

Wolfram has always been committed to pushing boundaries in pursuit of the idea of computational X, or the coming together of technology and the rest of the world. This idea is carried through the world of Wolfram with the help of the Wolfram developers, who work to make each new version as exciting as possible, and the users, who share their own projects and discoveries through Wolfram Community and their own publication sources.

Looking for more great resources to find your computational X? Check out our collection of courses at Wolfram U and varying events and workshops to learn more about Wolfram Language and its different application areas. If you’re currently working on a project, be sure to share it to Wolfram Community or contact us for the chance to be featured in an upcoming blog post.

Visit Wolfram Community or the Wolfram Function Repository to embark on your own computational adventures!


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1 comment

  1. In the United States, you can see an annular solar eclipse in October this year and a total solar eclipse in April next year. I envy you.🌞