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What’s it like to be an astronomer? What was the process of becoming an astronomer?

I’m very curious at to what it is like to be an astronomer

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James’s Answer

Astronomy, Radio-astronomy, Astro-photographer, being an astronomer from an amateur prospective can be interesting. Other then the long cold nights of winter and the bugs of summer can be a fun experience and you can take it as far as you want. Many amateurs will do the same thing as the professionals, analyzing images and/or data from telescope and computer sessions from observations. Get together with other astronomers to discuss upcoming sessions and continue to self improve on your own skills to try taking it to the next level. Citizen Science programs are also out there to add to the experiences as well. Education wise I would focus on mathematics and sciences. Taking up computer programs would be helpful as well. There are programs in school that will focus on astronomy and astrophysics and more.
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Joseph’s Answer

There's a few different roles that might be considered "astronomers" - what they're each like and how the career path works can be quite different.

A big contingent of modern astronomers are scientists, often looking at data from space telescopes, radio telescopes, and large observatories, and the day-to-day work is often quite removed from actually going out under a dark sky and looking at things yourself as an amateur astronomer would. The process of becoming that sort of astronomer is very academic, focusing on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) subjects through school, getting into a university or college that offers a good undergraduate degree along the lines of astronomy, astrophysics, cosmology or similar, and continuing into the academic researcher career path, getting a PhD, and following through into postdoctoral research positions in astronomy.
I personally started off on that path, but didn't quite make it all the way - I did a physics with astrophysics degree, but found the some of the later parts of undergraduate astrophysics to be a little too abstract and disconnected from things I could intuitively understand; a lot became just doing the mathematics behind it without an intuitive understanding of what it meant, which didn't work well with my learning style, so I opted not to continue onto PhD astrophysics, but got on better with some of the nuclear and particle physics so went that direction for my postgraduate study and career instead. I've got some idea of what it would be like working as an astrophysicist, but to hear it more directly from the "horse's mouth", I'd suggest having a look at things actual astronomers put out online. There's a few on YouTube for instance - take a look at Dr. Becky's video "A day in the life of an Oxford University Astrophysicist" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XW_qIqLhPkI&ab_channel=Dr.Becky

I mentioned amateur astronomy earlier - it's worth noting that anyone, regardless of background, education, age, or anything else, can get involved and be an astronomer as a hobby. Go outside on a clear dark night and look up - you don't even need a lot of kit; you can see a lot with just the naked eye, although there's a lot of amateur astronomy kit available and you might enjoy using a small personal telescope or just a cheap pair of 10x50 binoculars.
Turning amateur astronomy from a hobby into a career, however, is quite a challenge. There are some jobs, but there's not that many of them. The knowledge and skills of amateur astronomer lend themselves well to some jobs explaining science to the public, such as working in a public observatory, planetarium, or museum context, or you may be able to market yourself as a guide providing guided tour of the sky type experiences - but the demand for these roles is limited.

I'll also briefly mention technician and support roles in the "big science" observatories - you might call the sort of person who sets up and operates a big observatory telescope an "astronomer", even if they're not really involved with doing anything with the data and images they capture. Again, these roles are few and far between, and the career path starts with STEM subjects, but perhaps leans more on engineering subjects and won't need so much of the academic progression into astrophysics research.
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