The best way to get envolved with astronomy at a young age is to go to planetariums, study math and physics, study about gravity and exoplanets and study computer coding (python, C & IDL especially, since they are used a lot), familiarize yourself with the Linux operating system. Use terminal (dos prompt) a lot and get used to how it works.
A lot of astronomy is done on computers using command line interfaces because there is a lot of data to sift through and programming languages like python can handle large data faster than using a graphical user interface (GUI).
I received my bachelors in astronomy and I was not prepared for how much math and physics was going to be involved. I had familiarized myself with computers a great deal when I was younger and wish I had spent more time doing math and physics. I hadn’t planned on going into astronomy when I was younger, although it was always a topic of fascination to me.
It’s a tough balance to learn math, physics and programming equally well, but it would greatly benefit you to learn those things. There are a lot of places you can go to do star gazing, but real astronomy is knowing how stars work, how solar systems and galaxies are created, how planets stay in orbit and sifting through mounds of data collected by telescopes and obtaining using that data to draw scientific conclusions.
One site you may want to read is: http://www.astronomynotes.com/careers.htm
It gives more excellent advice for steps you should take and what astronomers do.
It is a hard road, but it is worth it. Good luck, may the stars guide you.
Ryan recommends the following next steps:
In elementary and middle school: read age-appropriate books on math, physics, and of course--space! Google "space/physics/math books for [your grade]" and nice stuff should come up.
I don't think elementary or middle school are all that important in the career path. If by high school you are feeling pretty serious about it, then I would suggest 2 things: make sure you're advanced in math (it's ok if not but it gives you a slight leg up in college) and try to go to a magnet/specialized high school for science. These will just help you get exposed to what you'll need to be exposed to.
BULK OF ADVICE:
In college, you *must* get over your fear of talking to your professors early. Go to your professor's office hours weekly. Get involved in the astronomy clubs. Network as much as possible. These aspects are equally important to the technical aspects. Trust me! People need to know you, like you, and like your work in order to succeed.
UC Santa Cruz has an *excellent* astrophysics curriculum. You *must* do a bachelor's in physics--pure astronomy bachelor degrees don't provide enough physics for grad school. At UCSC, the astrophysics degree is a physics degree with astronomy electives. Perfect.
Take 3-5 Python programming classes. This is super, super important. Pure programming so that you can have the practice.
Trudi recommends the following next steps:
Kimberly recommends the following next steps:
If you’re looking to make a career out of astronomy, the best way to start is to learn physics and calculus. Professional astronomy is a lot of numbers and advanced mathematics. It would also be helpful to know chemistry, computer science, and potentially some engineering for this career.
Quin recommends the following next steps: