Astronomer

Summary

Astronomers study planets, stars, galaxies and other objects in the observable universe and use this information for theoretical and practical purposes.

Duties & Tasks

Astronomers may perform the following tasks:

  • observe objects in space, from the Earth's surface and via orbiting satellites, using a wide range of specialised telescopes or detectors
  • design and attach special equipment to telescopes or spacecraft when necessary
  • make calculations using mathematical and physical principles to study the behaviour of matter and energy in the visible universe
  • record, analyse and compare results of observations using complex electronic and computer equipment
  • develop theories to explain recorded observations and make predictions, and express these as mathematical equations
  • attempt to understand the fundamental nature, origin and evolution of the universe
  • investigate the formation and evolution of the solar system
  • use computers to produce star catalogues and tables of measurements for use in navigation, surveying, time determination and other disciplines
  • develop instruments and detectors for all radiation (radio, infra-red, optical, X-ray, gamma ray and cosmic ray, for example) observed from the Earth's surface or via spacecraft
  • present the results of their work at scientific meetings and publish them in relevant scientific journals.

Working Conditions

Astronomers usually perform either observational or theoretical tasks. They have three main areas of study: the movement and position of stars, planets, galaxies and other objects; their physical and chemical properties; and their origins and evolution.

Astronomers who need to make observations may need to travel long distances to observatories and may work long hours, often at night. However, more time is spent using computers than personally observing with telescopes.

Personal Requirements

  • imagination
  • patience
  • an inquisitive mind
  • interested in mathematics, computing and physics
  • good oral and written communication skills.

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