This is such a great question!!!
There are many different branches of astronomy you can choose from because there are so many different kinds of astronomers. This is because astronomy is the study of the universe and astronomers have so many different objects to study. This is a very exciting field right now with many new discoveries, yet astronomy is also one of the oldest scientific fields.
In many different types of science, you have applied scientists and theoretical scientists. Applied or observational astronomers observe the physical world, take measurements, collect samples, and possibly go to space. Theoretical scientists study theories and create computer or statistical models to try to explain the universe. Both are very important, even though they take a different approach.
Astronomers also may specialize based on the qualities of the things they observe. There are planetary astronomers who study planets, stellar astronomers who study stars, solar astronomers who study the sun, and so on for things like galaxies or the beginning of the universe.
My friends, who are technologists and computer scientists, love studying about stars as a hobby – even though it isn’t their normal job. When you go to a planetarium or a star party you will see many different types of telescopes based on the type of phenomenon the observer is trying to find. Most communities have a local astronomical society or planetarium – try googling one in your area.
A basic telescope is not too expensive but you can also see quite a lot with your eyes or with binoculars at night. Write down what you observe or come up with a model to explain the universe in your head or using a computer.
Check out the link below to find answers to some interesting astronomy questions:
https://www.aip.org/jobs/profiles/cosmology-jobs - this article talks about the different types of jobs
https://aas.org/learn/careers-astronomy - this is an article about where the jobs and employers are
https://www.astronomynotes.com/telescop/s2.htm - this is how a telescope works
https://www.nasa.gov/audience/forstudents/5-8/features/nasa-knows/what-is-the-hubble-space-telecope-58.html - this is a great article about the Hubble Space Telescope which orbits the earth constantly…
Victoria recommends the following next steps:
- Learn as much as you can about space by reading, discussing, or starting a space club at school or with your friends.
- Find planetariums, star parties, and telescopes in your community. Go to these events with your school, a parent/aunt/uncle, or watch a TED talk about space.
- Keep a journal of your discoveries. Draw pictures or take photos of space. Watch the stars over the course of a year - did the stars change? Did you see new things?
- Take STEM courses in science, technology, engineering, and math to prepare yourself for a career in space.
- Dream big, you are living in a very exciting time!!!