What Do Astronomers Do?


Quick Answer

Astronomers study light waves collected from outer space to understand how the universe works. Because only a narrow band of light waves is visible to the human eye, they use telescopes and light-collecting antennae to collect, amplify and observe light that could not otherwise be perceived.

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What Do Astronomers Do?
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Full Answer

Most modern astronomy does not use direct observation of space objects. Instead advanced math and computers are used to examine gathered raw data, crafting theories that are used to understand anomalies. In addition to math, astronomers depend heavily on physics, chemistry and computer science. Typically, astronomers study specialized topics, such as planetary or solar astronomy. Astronomers also examine physical items from outer space, such as moon rocks and meteorites, and study readings and observations collected by spacecraft and planetary landing vehicles.

Because astronomy is a highly competitive field with few positions available, successful astronomers typically seek out advanced degrees, then gravitate to an educational career where they can also use their knowledge to teach college-level astronomy or physics while studying their chosen astronomical specialties in an academic setting. Other astronomers work for NASA, national observatories, laboratories or a limited number of private companies. Because there is enormous public interest in astronomy, science journalism is another career path for a person with an astronomy degree, although this is also a highly competitive path.

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