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What is an Astronomer?

An Astronomer is a specialized type of Scientist. Also known as: Astrophysicist, Astronomy Professor.

An astronomer is a scientist who focuses primarily on the study of 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 for the data collected.

What does an Astronomer do?

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.

There are different aspects to astronomy, and most astronomers will concentrate only on one 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.

What is the workplace of an Astronomer like?

Workplaces for astronomers can vary. Typical classroom settings are common for those who teach. Observatories are also typical workplaces and provide astronomers with labs. The ultimate goal for any astronomer, however, is almost certainly a career at NASA. NASA is a United States government agency that is responsible for science and technology related to air and space.

How can I become an Astronomer?

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.



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Further Reading

  • Interview With An Astronomer: Gregory Rudnick

    I’ve wanted to be a scientist almost as long as I can remember but my first real exposure to astronomy was in my sophomore year of high school when I took a Saturday morning class at the Adler Planetarium in Chicago. From then on I knew that I loved astronomy.

  • The General Characteristics Of An Astronomer's Job

    Astronomers study celestial phenomena, including the deaths of stars, the lives of planets and the formation of galaxies.

  • A Day In The Life Of An Astronomer

    I sat down with three academics from Warwick’s Astronomy and Astrophysics Group to find out what really goes on behind the scenes.

  • Careers In Astronomy: What Am I Doing With My Life??

    Going to graduate school is a large commitment, and making the decision to do so can be a stressful process. In astronomy, in particular, I have encountered numerous students plagued by a series of ‘what ifs’, all of which seem to stem from a basic misconception about what going to astronomy graduate school actually means for your future.

  • Careers In Astronomy

    There are many different career options available for Astronomy graduates. Below is a sample of types of positions that are available to Astronomy graduates. Note: This is not an exhaustive list as there are many other careers available. Many positions require additional education or experience.

  • Being An Astronomer

    Astronomy is the only science in which you cannot perform experiments directly ; you can’t weigh, touch or smell your subject matter… You can only observe the radiation ( visible light, radio, infra-red) which comes to earth.

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