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An astronomer is a scientist in the field of astronomy who studies stars, planets, moons, comets, and galaxies, as well as many other celestial objects. A related but distinct subject, cosmology, is concerned with studying the universe as a whole. An astronomer researches the world beyond Earth.


For subdisciplines, see Outline of astronomy.

Historically, astronomy was more concerned with the classification and description of phenomena in the sky, while astrophysics attempted to explain these phenomena and the differences between them using physical laws. Today, that distinction has mostly disappeared and the terms "astronomer" and "astrophysicist" are interchangeable. Professional astronomers are highly educated individuals who typically have a PhD in physics or astronomy and are employed by research institutions or universities.[1] They spend the majority of their time working on research, although they quite often have other duties such as teaching, building instruments, or aiding in the operation of an observatory.

Galileo is often referred to as the Father of modern astronomy

The number of professional astronomers in the United States is actually quite small. The American Astronomical Society, which is the major organization of professional astronomers in North America, has approximately 7,000 members. This number includes scientists from other fields such as physics, geology, and engineering, whose research interests are closely related to astronomy.[2] The International Astronomical Union comprises almost 10,145 members from 70 different countries who are involved in astronomical research at the PhD level and beyond.[3]

Contrary to the classical image of an old astronomer peering through a telescope through the dark hours of the night, it is far more common to use a charge-coupled device (CCD) camera to record a long, deep exposure, allowing a more sensitive image to be created because the light is added over time. Before CCDs, photographic plates were a common method of observation. Modern astronomers spend relatively little time at telescopes usually just a few weeks per year. Analysis of observed phenomena, along with making predictions as to the causes of what they observe, takes the majority of observational astronomers' time.

Astronomers who serve as faculty spend much of their time teaching undergraduate and graduate classes. Most universities also have outreach programs including public telescope time and sometimes planetariums as a public service to encourage interest in the field.

Amateur astronomers[edit]

While there is a relatively low number of professional astronomers, the field is popular among amateurs. Most cities have amateur astronomy clubs that meet on a regular basis and often host star parties. The Astronomical Society of the Pacific is the largest general astronomical society in the world, comprising both professional and amateur astronomers as well as educators from 70 different nations.[4] Like any hobby, most people who think of themselves as amateur astronomers may devote a few hours a month to stargazing and reading the latest developments in research. However, amateurs span the range from so-called "armchair astronomers" to the very ambitious, who own science-grade telescopes and instruments with which they are able to make their own discoveries and assist professional astronomers in research.

See also[edit]



  1. ^ "Frequently Asked Questions About Becoming an Astronomer". NOAO. Archived from the original on 3 April 2009. Retrieved 29 March 2009. 
  2. ^ "American Astronomical Society Home". AAS. Archived from the original on 2 August 2009. Retrieved 14 August 2009. 
  3. ^ "About IAU". IAU. Retrieved 14 August 2009. 
  4. ^ "About Us". Astronomical Society of the Pacific. Archived from the original on 25 February 2009. Retrieved 29 March 2009. 


External links[edit]

Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Astronomer — Please support Wikipedia.
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332785 news items

Scientific American

Scientific American
Tue, 06 Oct 2015 13:56:23 -0700

Then in October 1995 Michel Mayor, an astronomer at the University of Geneva, and his graduate student Didier Queloz discovered company: the first known planet orbiting a sunlike star. Technologically, Mayor and Queloz's work was a tour de force.

KNAU Arizona Public Radio

KNAU Arizona Public Radio
Wed, 07 Oct 2015 05:00:00 -0700

Lowell Observatory astronomer Deidre Hunter studies dwarf galaxies. “They're forming stars, so we expect them to have molecular clouds,” she says, “but this molecular material has been very hard to detect.” Hunter and her colleagues mapped a nearby ...


Wed, 07 Oct 2015 08:11:15 -0700

He's recently been appointed the Director of the Vatican Observatory by Pope Francis, Brother Guy Consolmagno has been a Jesuit brother for over 20 years and co-authored five books on astronomy. He's here to talk about his new post and the impact of ...

Eastbourne Herald

Eastbourne Herald
Tue, 06 Oct 2015 06:41:15 -0700

The Ayrshire Astronomical Society has launched a bid to name a star after the late Sussex astronomer and is asking the community to help them in their efforts. Allan McIntyre from the society said members had enter a competition to name a star after ...

Portsmouth News

Portsmouth News
Tue, 06 Oct 2015 22:26:15 -0700

Professor John Brown, the Astronomer Royal of Scotland, is the guest speaker at the annual Ray Bootland Memorial Lecture hosted by the Hampshire Astronomical Group. Group chairman Graham Bryant said interest in astronomy was booming as ...

University of Texas at Austin News

University of Texas at Austin News
Tue, 06 Oct 2015 09:07:30 -0700

AUSTIN, Texas — Professor of Astronomy Daniel Jaffe has been appointed vice president for research at The University of Texas at Austin. He will assume that position on Jan. 16, 2016. President Gregory L. Fenves announced the appointment in a letter ...

Science Now

Science Now
Tue, 29 Sep 2015 08:22:30 -0700

"Guy is a true all-around scientist," says Daniel Britt, an astronomer at the University of Central Florida in Orlando, who has worked with Consolmagno. "He is always willing to learn, and willing to take the risks associated with breaking new ground ...


Fri, 02 Oct 2015 08:55:32 -0700

"Maria Mitchell was and is America's first woman Astronomer. Everyone knew who she was," said Jascin Finger, deputy director at the Maria Mitchell Association on Nantucket. "Maria actually said her first love was mathematics. But it was more sympathy ...

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