Earth and Space Science (What to Know About Them)

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Earth and Space Science (What to Know About Them)

What Is the Study of Earth and Space?

Earth and Space Science studies the grand scheme of the natural universe. It tries to answer big questions like how did the universe form, are there other lifeforms out there, and what is our place in the physical world? It does this by focusing on the formation, structure, and interactions of natural bodies in space, as well as the systems of the planetary body we live on.

The Main Gist

Some main branches of study included under Earth and Space Science are physics, geosciences, astronomy, planetary science, and cosmology. Of course, there are dozens of specializations with narrower focuses on every aspect of the Earth and space. Each branch maintains a goal of relating the study to other branches to determine relationships between influential natural systems. The cycles of rock, water, carbon, and other materials have a huge influence on the sustainability of our species on Earth. And the cycles of solar systems will determine the ultimate fate of our species on Earth.

From our own planet and solar system to the Big Bang and black holes, Earth and Space Science helps us understand our place within the big picture. Studying these connections increases our understanding of the origin of everything and how it all interacts. We can use this understanding to predict how it might continue to change over time, and adapt ourselves to the change.

Keeping an Open Mind (For Longevity’s Sake)

Some of these things might seem absurdly obscure in terms of their importance for human adaptation. Why should we be worried or care about objects billions of years or light years away? We have problems here on Earth right now in need of fixing. Is this a waste of resources?

By nature, Earth and Space Science studies huge scales of physical space and time that might seem too remote and distant for our current needs. But if we wish to continue as a species for more than the blink of an eye that the dinosaurs were around, we need to extend our gaze beyond the here and now.

What Topics Does Earth and Space Science Include?

Earth and Space Science covers an extremely wide range of topics, which is reasonable considering it covers essentially everything in the grand scale of the universe.

The Earth (Surprise, Surprise)

One of the primary topics is the Earth itself. We study the Earth in such great detail because, of course, it has the greatest direct effect on us. We directly interact with and depend on the systems contained by the planet. But it is also just the easiest to access. It wasn’t until the last few centuries that modern astronomy emerged, allowing us to study other planets with increasingly greater ease.

Exploring the Solar System

Looking outside the Earth, the first Space Science topic of interest is the solar system and everything it contains. Although a relatively small portion of the total universe, it is still an enormous subject containing planets, moons, a star, asteroid belts, and all their interactions. Human exploration is most promising on this scale for now, and we are increasingly sending out rovers and planning future manned missions.

To Infinity and Beyond

Continuing outwards brings us to other clusters of planetary and gaseous bodies, forming practically endless solar systems and galaxies. Eventually, the “edge” is found, where we can’t see any further because we encounter the remnants of the Big Bang. This event seems to always be a topic of discussion, with new theories and discoveries being developed all the time.

Are We Alone in the Universe?

Apart from these clusters of physical things in the vastness of space being interesting, there is often an end goal in it all. And that goal is often the search for life. We want to know if we are the only ones here, or if we have neighbors somewhere out in universe. This involves looking for planets which we think might be conducive to the formation of life, as well as signals which could be radiating towards us from an already advanced civilization.

Little Details, Big Ideas

There are also more abstract topics in Earth and Space Science. Concepts such as the multiverse, other dimensions, and behavior of time around black holes are all popular areas of study. This can narrow the focus down from the scale of the universe to the scale of atoms and quarks.

What Is the Definition of Space Science?

Space Science itself focuses on the study of natural processes, phenomena, and physical bodies, specifically in space. This typically excludes the planet Earth, but includes other planetary bodies and their interactions with the Earth through space.

The main fields of study include astronomy, astrophysics, and aerospace engineering. Branches of these areas extend to specialize in each main system type existing in space. That is, stellar, planetary, galactic, and extragalactic specialties. Much of this science is done from observatories here on Earth, but over time it has started becoming a more direct science.

Previous to the last century, we could only study anything outside the planet Earth via telescope, or maybe the occasional meteor fragment. But now, we routinely send rovers and space probes out to directly test samples and conditions on other planets. Some probes, such as Hubble, even venture outside of our solar system. Eventually (presumably) we will resume sending humans out there as well.

This direct interaction with space requires that Space Science integrate with many other fields. The use of engineering, biology, chemistry, geoscience, and more is essential for continuing progress, particularly in the area of exploration.

Sending rovers to other planets requires advanced engineering technology capable of performing tests on samples without humans present. They are equipped with increasingly advanced tools to study chemical and biological characteristics of their host planetary bodies. When we send humans on missions, fields such as space medicine and space architecture will become more prevalent.

Space Science is advancing very quickly, especially in the last century when technology has hit a period of unprecedented development in all of these areas. It will continue to evolve over time as our abilities and ambitions expand even further.

What Is Earth and Space Science in High School?

Getting kids involved in Earth and Space Science early can be greatly beneficial for helping them find their ideal niche for future study and career paths. The typical high school curriculum consists of basic core subjects such as math, science, history, art, and language. But more and more often, high schools offer additional specific elective courses within these basic categories. They allow students to branch out from the core areas to explore specific areas that interest them.

Earth and Space Science may be an option for these focused electives, but is unlikely to be a requirement. Be sure to keep an eye out in the course catalogs if it is something of interest. If a conglomerate Earth and Space Science class isn’t available, introductory courses in astronomy, geology, environmental science, and physics are all good places to start. They will begin to introduce students to terminology used to communicate in Earth and Space Science, as well as relevant scientific methods.

Some high schools are more likely than others to offer classes in the Earth and Space Sciences. Science and technology schools are popping up more frequently across the country for those students who know they can and are able to concentrate on more technical subjects. Earth and Space Science courses are often more commonplace in these schools.

High school Earth and Space Science courses will usually begin with a focus on the main spheres on the Earth. These include the geosphere, hydrosphere, cryosphere, and atmosphere. Understanding these leads to further inquiry of the Earth cycles within these spheres; the water cycle, carbon cycle, and rock cycle. Similarly, students will then explore space systems, such as the solar system or human systems of space exploration.

Where Can I Find Earth and Space Science News?

We love to hear about the otherworldly discoveries which put our own existence into perspective and make us question where we as a species are going. And scientists love sharing their discoveries with those who are as excited about it as they are.

Sure, advanced academic journals and publications are available for all things Earth and Space Science from the original source. But if you aren’t an expert, you won’t fully understand it. And that’s okay. It’s why experts are experts, and why the technicalities of their work are explained for the laypeople so we can all stay up to date.

All levels of Earth and Space Science news are available, from mildly simplified academic articles, to magazines, books, website blogs and Facebook pages.

Advanced Sources

Adults already heavily interested or involved in the field may read from an open access journal such as the American Geophysical Union’s (AGU) Earth and Space Science collection. In-depth books by leading science communicators are also great resources. Some leading authors might include Neil deGrasse Tyson, Brian Greene, Brian Cox, and even late Stephen Hawking and Carl Sagan.

Mid-Level

Adults who specialize in other fields but like to stay up to date on new advancements might read from a website with blogs that sum up the important bits of information from those same articles. The AGU also hosts and Earth and Space science website eos.com and corresponding magazine Eos for this purpose. Other popular sources might be sciencedaily.com, space.com, or NASA’s very own news blogs.

Simple Daily Doses

Younger audiences can find many resources through youth books and magazines, as well as YouTube videos and social media sources. Of course, adults can also find plenty of useful information from social media sources as well.

And they are very easy to incorporate into our daily lives, appearing alongside other items already in our news feeds. ASAP Science, NASA, National Geographic, Science News Magazine, National Radio Astronomy Observatory, and ESO Astronomy are all useful sources.

Read about recent earth science discoveries or what to do with a degree in the earth sciences.

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About the author Megan Matheney
Professional technical writer specializing in material relating to Earth sciences, environmental economics, and developmental economics. Megan has a B.S. in Geophysics from the University of Texas at Austin, as well a M.S. in Environment and Sustainable Development from the University of Glasgow. She has worked in the government sector for the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, and currently lives in Mexico City where she works as a freelancer.

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