Astronomy is one of the most ancient sciences, stemming from people’s fascination with cosmos and its inner workings; nonetheless, it is also an ever-evolving science yielding new findings that have broadened our understanding and altered our perception of the universe. A recent eruption of groundbreaking discoveries, such as light echoes around exploding stars, gamma ray busters, “great walls” of galaxies, voids in space, cosmic jets, gravitational lenses, Einstein rings, has unveiled a previously-concealed image of the universe. As a result, modern-time astronomers are both, mystified and challenged to find explanations to a litany of unanswered questions about the laws that govern outer space and its properties. What is the age of the oldest stars? What is the origin and evolution of the first galaxies? Why is ninety percent of the universe mass not directly detectible? What is the “dark” or “nonluminous” matter and what does it reveal about the past, present and future of the universe? Will the universe expand infinitely? The revolutionary discoveries of the 20th century physics coupled with ongoing technological advances in space exploration and ground instruments have generated voluminous data that is being analyzed and interpreted by astronomers as they study the material universe beyond the earth’s atmosphere. Since their objects of study are located millions and even billions of light-years away, astronomers typically contemplate on the information obtained through an analysis of the light, radio and x-ray wavelengths and omissions, or the motions of celestial bodies. Most astronomers specialize in a certain area of astronomy, such as planetary science, solar astronomy, the origin and evolution of stars, or the formation of galaxies. Observational astronomers use space-based x-ray and ground telescopes, which are outfitted with the latest electronic light-gathering instruments, to gauge the chemical composition of stars, planets, novas, the mass of galaxy clusters, and to observe the celestial bodies. Theorists employ supercomputers to simulate various cosmic phenomena, patterns, and environment constructing precise models of stellar configurations. Astronomers also utilize particle accelerators to analyze scientific evidence provided by physicists.
They study the attributes of elementary particles to gain insight into the essence of matter in the universe, its forces, and energy sources. Their work is instrumental in charting orbits for artificial satellites and space probes. Astronomy is a very demanding field of study. It’s essential for astronomers to have an extensive background in physics and mathematics. Some astronomy specialties favor a coursework in geology or chemistry. Computer science courses would be of great value to all astronomy majors, especially those who intend to follow the career path in theoretical astronomy. Most astronomy positions require a Ph.D. degree. Generally, M.S. programs as well as the programs leading to the Ph.D. degree in Astronomy stipulate a completion of an undergraduate degree in physics or astronomy/physics. Career opportunities lie in research institutes, national observatories, planetariums, science museums and publications, educational institutions, aerospace and defense industries.
Students interested in pursuing a Bachelor’s degree should consult with an academic and/or transfer counselor to discuss university transfer requirements.
Key Skills and Characteristics
- Solid scientific foundation and problem solving capability.
- Analytical, logical, reasoning, and research skills.
- Keen observational ability.
- Computer literacy.
- Patience, determination, and resourcefulness.
- Effective public speaking and written communication skills.
- Passion for learning new things and generating novel ideas.
- Knowledge of applicable scientific hardware.
Related Career Titles
*Science Teacher *Planetarium or Science Museum Administrator *Lab Technician *Scientific Computer Programmer *Science Journalist/Librarian *Instrument Designer *Observing Technician *Optical Engineer *College/University Professor *Scientist *Scientific Researcher *Astrophysicist *Support Scientist
Please visit the GCC Career Center to research specific occupational information and learn more about your selected career path.