Astronomer  What They Do

Just the Facts

Astronomers Career Video

Insider Info

dotAstronomy has long fascinated people. Humans have never ceased wondering about the night sky. Many just look, wonder and go back to their regular work. Astronomers make the study of the universe their life's career.

dotAstronomers study the movement of stars, planets, moons and comets. They study distant galaxies and the birth and death of stars many light-years away. They are always discovering something new about the universe.

dotAstronomers are curious about the world around them. They enjoy exploring and learning new things. They also enjoy thinking about such monumental questions as: How did the universe evolve? Could there be other life forms in the universe?

dotAstronomy is a science that requires a firm grounding in physics and math. An astronomer must also be imaginative, logical and intuitive.

dotAstronomers actually spend very little time gazing at the stars. Most of their time is spent analyzing data. "I spend about five or six days at a telescope every six to eight months. The rest of my time is spent studying the data I collect," says astronomer Anne Cowley.

Sometimes astronomers don't even use a telescope to observe the universe. They study data generated on super computers. To be a good astronomer, you need to have an interest in data collection and research.

dotAstronomers are scientists. They must follow the scientific method of creating and testing their theories. They must check and double-check every theory they create and calculation that they make. They have to have an eye for detail.

"Researchers who can do it well are very successful," says Matthew Ashby, an astronomer in Massachusetts.

dotAstronomers generally work 9 to 5, but they do spend extra hours at the telescope when it is required.

dotThe physical requirements for being an astronomer aren't too taxing. An astronomer's work is done in front of a computer. A physically challenged person could do most of the work required.

Just the Facts

Want a quick overview of what this career is about?Check out Just the Facts for simple lists of characteristics.

At a Glance

Study the movement of stars, planets, moons and comets

  • This work requires a firm grounding in physics and math
  • You need to have an interest in data collection and research
  • Most working astronomers have a PhD

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