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An astronomer is a scientist who studies celestial bodies such as black holes, moons, planets, stars, asteroids, comets, nebulae and galaxies, as well as Gamma-ray bursts and cosmic microwave background radiation. A related but distinct subject, cosmology, is concerned with studying the universe as a whole. An astronomer researches the world beyond earth.

Academic discipline[edit]

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.

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 7,700 members.[citation needed] 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]

Modern astronomers[edit]

Galileo is often referred to as the Father of Modern Astronomy

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 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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241265 news items

Nashua Telegraph

Nashua Telegraph
Mon, 30 Mar 2015 05:00:00 -0700

Early that summer, I had finally upgraded from a well-used, though tin-constructed, 4-inch reflecting telescope to the often bragged on “Big Red,” a 13.1-inch Dobsonian-mounted light bucket. The 4-inch had served me well for nearly 10 years.


Fri, 27 Mar 2015 08:03:45 -0700

The rapid generation of data from asteroids is just one item in the field of view of the Northern Arizona University astronomer and his close collaborator, post-doctoral researcher Michael Mommert. Trilling, on sabbatical in South Africa, has recently ...
SIU News
Wed, 25 Mar 2015 13:03:45 -0700

CARBONDALE, Ill. – The first in a series of educational events leading up to the total solar eclipse in 2017 is set for next week at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. Matt Penn, an astronomer at the National Solar Observatory in Tucson, Ariz ...


Tue, 24 Mar 2015 14:46:19 -0700

An eagle-eyed amateur astronomer spotted what looks like the skull of an alien - on a comet. Space enthusiast Joe White noticed the strange-shaped rock when he was looking through images captured above Comet 67P. The staggering shot - taken from the ...

Lancaster Today

Lancaster Today
Fri, 27 Mar 2015 04:37:30 -0700

Lancaster astronomer works with Nasa to study Jupiter. An artist's illustration incorporating new Hubble observations of aurora at Jupiter. 11:35 Friday 27 March 2015. 0. Have your say. Observations of Jupiter made by Nasa's Hubble Space Telescope are ...
Aviation International News
Thu, 26 Mar 2015 08:22:30 -0700

To observe last Friday's total solar eclipse in optimal conditions, astronomer and lecturer Xavier Jubier coordinated a flight of three Dassault Falcon 7Xs some 45,000 feet above the Atlantic Ocean, near the Faroe Islands, on the same trajectory as the ...
San Angelo Standard Times
Sat, 28 Mar 2015 04:03:45 -0700

She has addressed her simultaneous pursuit of science and quest for God in her penetrating 2013 book, “A Quaker astronomer reflects: Can a scientist be religious?” She believes in God. But how she defines God may make many of the faithful uneasy.

Pacific Northwest Inlander (blog)

Pacific Northwest Inlander (blog)
Mon, 23 Mar 2015 10:48:45 -0700

ETC | If the recent eclipse sparked a renewed interest in Earth's moon in your kids, you'll want to make your way to the South Hill Library tonight at 6:30 for Marvelous Moon, a hands-on learning session led by astronomer Dan Bakken and involving lunar ...

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