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Physical Cosmology

Physical cosmology is the branch of physics and astrophysics that deals with the study of the physical origins and evolution of the Universe. It also includes the study of the nature of the Universe on a large scale. In its earliest form, it was what is now known as “celestial mechanics”, the study of the heavens.

Greek philosophers Aristarchus of Samos, Aristotle, and Ptolemy proposed different cosmological theories. The geocentric Ptolemaic system was the prevailing theory until the 16th century when Nicolaus Copernicus, and subsequently Johannes Kepler and Galileo Galilei, proposed a heliocentric system. This is one of the most famous examples of epistemological rupture in physical cosmology.

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Cosmological Missions and Instruments

Launched in November 1989, NASA’s Cosmic Background Explorer (COBE) took precise measurements of radiation across the sky. The mission operated until 1993.

Although NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope is probably best known for its astounding images, a primary mission was cosmological. By more accurately measuring the distances to Cepheid variables, stars with a well-defined ratio between their brightness and their pulsations, Hubble helped to refine measurements regarding how the universe is expanding. Since its launch, astronomers have continued to use Hubble to make cosmological measurements and refine existing ones.

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