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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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Prothom Alo (English)

Prothom Alo (English)
Mon, 25 May 2015 01:26:01 -0700

AR Khan Dr AR KhanRenowned astronomer Dr AR Khan, one of the pioneers in the promotion of scientific education in the country, passed away on Monday. He was 84. Dr AR Khan breathed his last at the Saint Mary hospital in London around 5:00am local ...


Thu, 21 May 2015 04:01:06 -0700

In Davos a few years ago, I met a well-known Indian tycoon. Knowing I had the title Astronomer Royal, he asked: “Do you do the Queen's horoscopes?” I responded, with a straight face: “If she wanted one, I'm the person she'd ask.” He then seemed eager ...

Bundaberg News Mail

Bundaberg News Mail
Sun, 24 May 2015 14:33:45 -0700

You have the chance to ask an astronomer and soon-to-be astrophysicist more about what's in space by joining us in an online Q&A. Register at www.news-mail.com.au/amazingspace for the special live chat which will be held on Wednesday from 11am.

PBS NewsHour

The Verge
Sun, 17 May 2015 07:15:00 -0700

NPR ran an interview with astronomer and Cal Tech professor Shrinivas Kulkarni yesterday, and overall it's relatively mild. But less than two minutes in, Kulkarni manages to say something dumb: "Many scientists, I think, secretly are what I call 'boys ...


Fri, 22 May 2015 08:45:00 -0700

I consulted Michael Williams, a former astronomer who got his PhD at Oxford and taught at Columbia before swerving—”for all the usual reasons,” he said, in a warm British accent—to a lane outside of academia. He took a break from his data science ...

The Globe and Mail (subscription)

The Globe and Mail (subscription)
Wed, 20 May 2015 14:00:08 -0700

The role: Astronomers dedicate much of their careers to the study of celestial objects, such as stars, planets, moons, asteroids, comets, galaxies and nebula. While research is often considered their primary function, astronomers have a variety of ...
Bismarck Tribune
Tue, 19 May 2015 12:15:52 -0700

University of Virginia astronomer Shane Davis, originally from Mandan, has been named the Sloan Research Fellow for 2015 from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. Davis, an assistant professor of astronomy, is a theoretical astrophysicist who is an expert ...


Sat, 23 May 2015 18:56:40 -0700

The discovery of a massive star by a Taiwanese astronomer had been reported in US peer-reviewed magazine Astrophysical Journal, reports our Chinese-language sister newspaper China Times. The massive star, a rare astronomical phenomenon, was ...

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