Astronomy and astrophysics are actually very similar academic arenas, despite the distinct names. Astronomy is a branch of physics and the name astrophysics essentially means "physics of the stars." The primary difference between the two is that astronomy is a historical term and astrophysics describes a newer perspective on astronomical study.

Astronomy versus Astrophysics

The traditional astronomer was someone who studied the relationship in movement between planets, stars, the moon and sun. This term has been around for several hundred years. Contemporary astronomers often study physics. Galileo and Newton were among early "astrophysicists." Astrophysicists use a combination of math and physics to study the movement of stars in the sky. Pennsylvania State's Behrend College says that all practitioners of astronomy are considered astrophysicists as of publication.