An astronomer is a scientist who focuses primarily on the study of outer space, which includes the stars, the planets and the galaxies above us. The study of astronomy is the oldest of the natural sciences, and the only science in which you can only observe, and not physically touch what is being studied. An astronomer will spend his or her time analyzing data, writing research papers or creating computer programs that allow a more effective search through the data collected.
Would you make a good astronomer? Sokanu's free assessment reveals your exact compatibility with this career, your strengths, and any unique areas of interest.
The bulk of an astronomer's job focuses heavily on research, as he or she is looking to discover things about the solar system that would be considered scientific breakthroughs. Astronomers also spend their time teaching courses and putting together instruments that allow them to better their craft, such as advanced telescopes.
There are different aspects to astronomy, and most astronomers will concentrate on a particular area. Some examples of these areas could be solar astronomy, planetary astronomy, or the study of stars and/or galaxy formations. Observational astronomers use a spacecraft or a digital camera attached to a telescope in order to test a theory or answer a question. Theorists try to understand the processes responsible for a star's appearance.
An astronomer must have an extensive background in the field of science, as well as a keen interest in mathematics. Most astronomers have advanced degrees in physics or other fields with a similar focus. Many who focus on engineering in college also find themselves drawn to astronomy, as the focus on research in both fields is similar.
Typical majors that most aspiring astronomers focus on in college are physics, applied physics or astrophysics. The focus should be on schools that have good programs in these departments and also schools that have strong mathematical programs. After completing undergraduate education, it is a good idea to look for a position as a research assistant and pursue a master's degree or a PHD. Most prominent positions in the workplace require this form of higher education in order to move forward professionally.
Workplaces for astronomers can vary. Typical classroom settings are common for those who end up teaching. Observatories are also typical workplaces and provide astronomers with labs. The ultimate goal for any astronomer, however, is almost certainly a career at NASA. This workplace is filled with people who share an equal fascination with the world beyond and who are all working towards the same general cause.