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A Career in Astronomy:

What Does an Astronomy Career Entail?

Astronomy is a branch of physics that focuses on the scientific study of celestial objects, including the sun, moon, planets, stars, galaxies, and comets. It is concerned with the formation and development of the universe and the chemistry, physics, and movement of celestial objects. Astronomers are scientists who are specially trained to concentrate on a variety of astronomy topics.

Astronomers strive to gain a further understanding of the properties and behavior of the universe and celestial objects by studying, researching, and analyzing observations. They use their knowledge of the laws of physics and mathematics to analyze the nature of energy and matter throughout the universe. They take astronomical observations using a variety of millimeter, infrared, and radio ground-based telescopes as well as satellite-based telescopes. They also create techniques and instruments to observe and collect data.

Astronomers typically spend little time operating telescopes; they often spend a few weeks carrying out observations and the rest of their time analyzing the data. Astronomers often use computer analysis to analyze their observations and perform calculations that are required to develop multifaceted hypotheses. Astronomers focus a great deal of their time conducting research to gain new information and develop or modify theories. They also create methodologies to solve mathematical and physical problems including issues related to space flight, navigation, and satellite communications. Astronomers spend the majority of their time creating new theories, hypotheses, and mathematical models. They often concentrate on one specific area such as the sun, planets, or development of new techniques.

Astronomers usually need a doctorate degree in astronomy or other closely related field such as astrophysics. Astronomy programs provide students with a solid understanding of science, physics, chemistry, computer science, and mathematics. They focus on comprehensive training of the mathematics, theories, and methodologies involved in the field of astronomy. Many aspiring astronomers gain practical experience by working as research assistants at universities or observatories.

Most astronomers complete fellowships after completion of their doctorate degree. Fellowships typically last two to three years. Others complete internships and work-study programs at science institutes or universities. Astronomers must complete regular continuing education throughout their careers to keep their skills current and stay up to date with new discoveries in the field. Many astronomers are members of the American Astronomical Society or the International Astronomical Union.

Colleges and universities and research institutions employ astronomers. Many provide instruction on astronomy and physics and others perform a variety of research tasks. Some work in museums, planetariums, and observatories to help explain the concepts of astronomy and the universe to the general public. Others work for government agencies including the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and U.S. Naval Observatory. The theories and discoveries of astronomers have been extremely useful for a variety of topics such as improving time measurements, air and sea navigation, and weather forecasts.

  Annual Salary (
Middle 50% $95,166-$111,584
Top 10% $125,000

To learn more about schools providing astronomy degree programs please visit A well known program is available at Swinburne Astronomy Online and James Cook University, both are in Australia.

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