In Summary - Astronomer / Astrophysicist
Astronomer / Astrophysicists typically work in the following Career Sectors:
Videos & Interviews
Dave McDonald, Astronomer
Science Ambassador Dave McDonald is a health and safety representative by day, and amateur astronomer by night. In 2008 he became only the second person to discover an asteroid from Ireland, 160 years after Andrew Graham in 1848. This was followed by a second discovery in March 2009.
In this interview – before he became famous – he talks about how he chose his career, the cool things in his work, and his tips on work experience and what to study.
Videos on the Web
- Astronomer / Astrophysicist- from: Youtube Search
- Astronomer - from: N.C.S. [UK]
The Work - Astronomer / Astrophysicist
Astronomy is the study of the universe beyond the earth's atmosphere. The main branches are astrometry, celestial mechanics, and astrophysics.
Astrophysics is the branch of astronomy concerned with the physical processes associated with the celestial bodies and the intervening regions of space. It deals principally with the energy of stellar systems and the relation between this energy and the evolution of the system.
Astronomers study the universe beyond Earth. Profound investigations like the origins of the universe and the search for life on other planets and solar systems inspire and fascinate many astronomers. Space also gives scientists the opportunity to study physical processes and phenomena in conditions that do not exist on Earth.
Astronomers use sophisticated equipment to collect, analyse and interpret data. As well as optical telescopes, they may use radio and infrared telescopes, or satellites. Infrared telescopes enable astronomers to look at the sun through the dust layer that surrounds it. Astronomers use radio telescopes, which can see far into space, to try to find out about the early stages of the universe. Astronomy has close links with particle physics.
Astronomers usually work in teams, often including astronomers from different countries. Team members are often specialists, for example, in observational astronomy or data analysis and interpretation.
Many astronomers travel a lot to attend conferences and make observations abroad. Others are laboratory or office based.
Most commonly reported Work Tasks
- Study celestial phenomena, using a variety of ground-based and space-borne telescopes and scientific instruments.
- Analyze research data to determine its significance, using computers.
- Develop theories based on personal observations or on observations and theories of other astronomers.
- Collaborate with other astronomers to carry out research projects.
- Present research findings at scientific conferences and in papers written for scientific journals.
- Raise funds for scientific research.
- Measure radio, infrared, gamma, and x-ray emissions from extraterrestrial sources.
- Teach astronomy or astrophysics.
- Develop instrumentation and software for astronomical observation and analysis.
- Review scientific proposals and research papers.
Most commonly reported Work Activities
- Interacting With Computers Using computers and computer systems (including hardware and software) to program, write software, set up functions, enter data, or process information.
- Getting Information Observing, receiving, and otherwise obtaining information from all relevant sources.
- Analyzing Data or Information Identifying the underlying principles, reasons, or facts of information by breaking down information or data into separate parts.
- Thinking Creatively Developing, designing, or creating new applications, ideas, relationships, systems, or products, including artistic contributions.
- Processing Information Compiling, coding, categorizing, calculating, tabulating, auditing, or verifying information or data.
- Updating and Using Relevant Knowledge Keeping up-to-date technically and applying new knowledge to your job.
- Making Decisions and Solving Problems Analyzing information and evaluating results to choose the best solution and solve problems.
- Identifying Objects, Actions, and Events Identifying information by categorizing, estimating, recognizing differences or similarities, and detecting changes in circumstances or events.
- Interpreting the Meaning of Information for Others Translating or explaining what information means and how it can be used.
- Documenting/Recording Information Entering, transcribing, recording, storing, or maintaining information in written or electronic/magnetic form.
Interests - Astronomer / Astrophysicist
This occupation is typically suited for people with the following Career Interests:
The Investigative person will usually find a particular area of science to be of interest. They are inclined toward intellectual and analytical activities and enjoy observation and theory. They may prefer thought to action, and enjoy the challenge of solving problems with sophiscticated technology. These types prefer mentally stimulating environments and often pay close attention to developments in their chosen field.
Creative people are drawn to careers and activities that enable them to take responsibility for the design, layout or sensory impact of something (visual, auditory etc). They may be atrracted to the traditional artistic pursuits such as painting, sculpture, singing, or music. Or they may show more interest in design activities, such as architecture, animation, or craft areas, such as pottery and ceramics.
Creative people use their personal understanding of people and the world they live in to guide their work. Creative people like to work in unstructured workplaces, enjoy taking risks and prefer a minimum of routine.
Realists are usually interested in 'things' - such as buildings, mechanics, equipment, tools, electronics etc. Their primary focus is dealing with these - as in building, fixing, operating or designing them. Involvement in these areas leads to high manual skills, or a fine aptitude for practical design - as found in the various forms of engineering.
Realists like to find practical solutions to problems using tools, technology and skilled work. Realists usually prefer to be active in their work environment, often do most of their work alone, and enjoy taking decisive action with a minimum amount of discussion and paperwork.
To become an astronomer, you will need an extensive knowledge of Maths and Physics. You will need to be computer literate because a lot of equipment is computer controlled.
Research work demands patience, problem solving skills, imagination and determination. Foreign language skills are an advantage, because astronomers may work in international teams or travel to make telescope observations from other countries.
Entry Requirements - Astronomer / Astrophysicist
The usual route towards a career as a professional astronomer is to take a degree in a relevant subject area, which is usually physics but also in Mathematics, Astronomy or Astrophysics.
It is almost impossible to become an astronomer or an astrophysicist without a postgraduate qualification, normally a Ph.D. in Astronomy or Astrophysics.
Last Updated: October, 2014
Pay & Salary - Astronomer / Astrophysicist
Salary Range (thousands per year)* 30k - 65k
Last Updated: March, 2017
* The lower figures typically reflect starting salaries. Higher salaries are awarded to those with greater experience and responsibility. Positions in Dublin sometimes command higher salaries.