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An astronomer is a
scientist A scientist is a person who conducts scientific research The scientific method is an Empirical evidence, empirical method of acquiring knowledge that has characterized the development of science since at least the 17th century. It involves ...

scientist
in the field of
astronomy Astronomy (from el, ἀστρονομία, literally meaning the science that studies the laws of the stars) is a natural science that studies astronomical object, celestial objects and celestial event, phenomena. It uses mathematics, phys ...
who focuses their studies on a specific question or field outside the scope of
Earth Earth is the third planet from the Sun and the only astronomical object known to harbour and support life. 29.2% of Earth's surface is land consisting of continents and islands. The remaining 70.8% is Water distribution on Earth, covered wi ...

Earth
. They observe
astronomical object In astronomy, an astronomical object or celestial object is a naturally occurring physical object, physical entity, association, or structure that exists in the observable universe. In astronomy, the terms ''object'' and ''body'' are often us ...
s such as
star A star is an astronomical object consisting of a luminous spheroid of plasma Plasma or plasm may refer to: Science * Plasma (physics), one of the four fundamental states of matter * Plasma (mineral) or heliotrope, a mineral aggregate * Quark ...

star
s,
planet A planet is an astronomical body orbiting a star or Stellar evolution#Stellar remnants, stellar remnant that is massive enough to be Hydrostatic equilibrium, rounded by its own gravity, is not massive enough to cause thermonuclear fusion, and ...

planet
s,
moons A natural satellite, or moon, is, in the most common usage, an astronomical body that orbit In physics, an orbit is the gravitationally curved trajectory of an physical body, object, such as the trajectory of a planet around a star or ...

moons
,
comet A comet is an icy, small Solar System body A small Solar System body (SSSB) is an object in the Solar System The Solar SystemCapitalization of the name varies. The International Astronomical Union, the authoritative body regarding astr ...

comet
s and
galaxies A galaxy is a gravitationally bound system of star A star is an astronomical object consisting of a luminous spheroid of plasma (physics), plasma held together by its own gravity. The List of nearest stars and brown dwarfs, nearest star to ...

galaxies
– in either
observational Observation is the active acquisition of information from a primary source. In living beings, observation employs the senses. In science, observation can also involve the perception and recording of data (information), data via the use of scienti ...
(by analyzing the data) or
theoretical astronomy Theoretical astronomy is the use of the analytical models of physics and chemistry to describe astronomical objects and astronomical phenomena. Ptolemy Claudius Ptolemy (; grc-koi, Κλαύδιος Πτολεμαῖος, ''Klaúdios Ptolema ...
. Examples of topics or fields astronomers study include
planetary science Planetary science (or more rarely, planetology) is the scientific study of planets (including Earth), Astronomical object, celestial bodies (such as Natural satellite, moons, Asteroid, asteroids, Comets on Fire, comets) and planetary systems (in p ...
,
solar astronomy The Sun is the star A star is an astronomical object consisting of a luminous spheroid of plasma (physics), plasma held together by its own gravity. The List of nearest stars and brown dwarfs, nearest star to Earth is the Sun. Many othe ...

solar astronomy
, the origin or
evolution of stars
evolution of stars
, or the formation of galaxies. Related but distinct subjects like
physical cosmology Physical cosmology is a branch of cosmology concerned with the study of cosmological models. A cosmological model, or simply cosmology, provides a description of the largest-scale structures and dynamics of the universe and allows study of fun ...
, which studies the
Universe The universe ( la, universus) is all of space and time and their contents, including planets, stars, galaxy, galaxies, and all other forms of matter and energy. The Big Bang theory is the prevailing cosmological description of the development ...

Universe
as a whole.


Types

Astronomers usually fall under either of two main types:
observational Observation is the active acquisition of information from a primary source. In living beings, observation employs the senses. In science, observation can also involve the perception and recording of data (information), data via the use of scienti ...
and
theoretical A theory is a rational Rationality is the quality or state of being rational – that is, being based on or agreeable to reason Reason is the capacity of consciously making sense of things, applying logic Logic (from Ancient Greek, G ...
. Observational astronomers make direct
observation Observation is the active acquisition of information Information can be thought of as the resolution of uncertainty; it answers the question of "What an entity is" and thus defines both its essence and the nature of its characteristics. Th ...

observation
s of
celestial objects In astronomy, an astronomical object or celestial object is a naturally occurring physical object, physical entity, association, or structure that exists in the observable universe. In astronomy, the terms ''object'' and ''body'' are often use ...
and analyze the data. In contrast, theoretical astronomers create and investigate
model In general, a model is an informative representation of an object, person or system. The term originally denoted the plans of a building in late 16th-century English, and derived via French and Italian ultimately from Latin ''modulus'', a measure. ...

model
s of things that cannot be observed. Because it takes millions to billions of years for a system of stars or a galaxy to complete a life cycle, astronomers must observe snapshots of different systems at unique points in their evolution to determine how they form, evolve, and die. They use these data to create models or
simulation A simulation is the imitation of the operation of a real-world process or system over time. Simulations require the use of models; the model represents the key characteristics or behaviors of the selected system or process, whereas the simulat ...

simulation
s to theorize how different celestial objects work. Further subcategories under these two main
branches A branch ( or , ) or tree branch (sometimes referred to in botany Botany, also called , plant biology or phytology, is the science of plant life and a branch of biology. A botanist, plant scientist or phytologist is a scientist who spe ...
of astronomy include planetary astronomy,
galactic astronomy Galactic astronomy is the study of the Milky Way The Milky Way is the galaxy A galaxy is a gravitation Gravity (), or gravitation, is a natural phenomenon by which all things with mass Mass is both a property Property ...
, or
physical cosmology Physical cosmology is a branch of cosmology concerned with the study of cosmological models. A cosmological model, or simply cosmology, provides a description of the largest-scale structures and dynamics of the universe and allows study of fun ...
.


Academic

Historically History (from Ancient Greek, Greek , ''historia'', meaning "inquiry; knowledge acquired by investigation") is the study of the past. Events occurring before the History of writing#Inventions of writing, invention of writing systems are considered ...
, astronomy was more concerned with the
classification Classification is a process related to categorization Categorization is the human ability and activity of recognizing shared features or similarities between the elements of the experience Experience refers to conscious , an English Paracels ...

classification
and description of
phenomena A phenomenon (; plural phenomena) is an observable fact or event. The term came into its modern philosophical Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about reason, existence, knowledge ...

phenomena
in the sky, while
astrophysics Astrophysics is a science that employs the methods and principles of physics in the study of astronomical objects and phenomena. Among the subjects studied are the Sun, other stars, galaxy, galaxies, extrasolar planets, the interstellar medium and ...
attempted to explain these phenomena and the differences between them using
physical laws Scientific laws or laws of science are statements, based on repeated experiment An experiment is a procedure carried out to support, refute, or validate a hypothesis. Experiments provide insight into Causality, cause-and-effect by demonstrat ...
. 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 A Doctor of Philosophy (PhD, Ph.D., or DPhil; Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as La ...
in
physics Physics is the natural science that studies matter, its Elementary particle, fundamental constituents, its Motion (physics), motion and behavior through Spacetime, space and time, and the related entities of energy and force. "Physical scie ...

physics
or astronomy and are employed by research institutions or universities. 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
American Astronomical Society The American Astronomical Society (AAS, sometimes spoken as "double-A-S") is an American society of professional astronomers and other interested individuals, headquartered in Washington, DC ) , image_skyline = , imag ...
, which is the major organization of professional astronomers in
North America North America is a continent A continent is any of several large landmasses. Generally identified by convention (norm), convention rather than any strict criteria, up to seven geographical regions are commonly regarded as continen ...

North America
, has approximately 7,000 members. This number includes scientists from other fields such as physics,
geology Geology (from the Ancient Greek Ancient Greek includes the forms of the Greek language Greek ( el, label=Modern Greek Modern Greek (, , or , ''Kiní Neoellinikí Glóssa''), generally referred to by speakers simply as Greek ...

geology
, and
engineering Engineering is the use of scientific principles to design and build machines, structures, and other items, including bridges, tunnels, roads, vehicles, and buildings. The discipline of engineering encompasses a broad range of more speciali ...

engineering
, whose research interests are closely related to astronomy. The
International Astronomical Union The International Astronomical Union (IAU; french: link=yes, Union astronomique internationale, UAI) is a Non-governmental organization, nongovernmental organisation with the objective of advancing astronomy in all aspects, including promoting ...
comprises almost 10,145 members from 70 different countries who are involved in astronomical research at the PhD level and beyond. Contrary to the classical image of an old astronomer peering through a
telescope A telescope is an optical instrument An optical instrument (or "optic" for short) is a device that processes light waves (or photons), either to enhance an image for viewing or to analyze and determine their characteristic properties. Common ...

telescope
through the dark hours of the night, it is far more common to use a
charge-coupled device A charge-coupled device (CCD) is an integrated circuit containing an array of linked, or coupled, capacitors. Under the control of an external circuit, each capacitor can transfer its electric charge to a neighboring capacitor. CCD sensors are a ...
(CCD) camera to record a long, deep exposure, allowing a more sensitive image to be created because the
light Light or visible light is electromagnetic radiation within the portion of the electromagnetic spectrum that is visual perception, perceived by the human eye. Visible light is usually defined as having wavelengths in the range of 400–700 nan ...

light
is added over time. Before CCDs,
photographic plates photographic plates, 1880 Image:Femme-au-chien neg.jpg, Negative plate Photographic plates preceded photographic film as a capture medium in photography, and were still used in some communities up until the late 20th century. The light-sensitive ...
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
planetarium A planetarium (plural ''planetaria'' or ''planetariums'') is a theatre built primarily for presenting educational entertainment, educational and entertaining shows about astronomy and the night sky, or for training in celestial navigation. A ...

planetarium
s as a public service to encourage interest in the field. Those who become astronomers usually have a broad background in maths, sciences and computing in high school. Taking courses that teach how to research, write and present papers are also invaluable. In college/university most astronomers get a PhD in astronomy or physics.


Amateur astronomers

While there is a relatively low number of professional astronomers, the field is popular among
amateurs An amateur (; ; ) is generally considered a person who pursues a particular activity or field of study independently from their source of income. Amateurs and their pursuits are also described as popular, informal, autodidacticism, self-taught, use ...
. Most cities have amateur astronomy clubs that meet on a regular basis and often host star parties. The
Astronomical Society of the Pacific The Astronomical Society of the Pacific (ASP) is an American scientific and educational organization, founded in San Francisco San Francisco (/Help:IPA/English, ˌsæn fɹənˈsɪskoʊ/; Spanish language, Spanish for "Francis of Assisi, Sai ...
is the largest general astronomical society in the world, comprising both professional and amateur astronomers as well as educators from 70 different nations. Like any
hobby A hobby is considered to be a regular activity that is done for enjoyment, typically during one's leisure time Leisure has often been defined as a quality of experience or as free time. Free time is time Time is the indefinite ...

hobby
, most people who think of themselves as amateur astronomers may devote a few hours a month to
stargazing Image:Astronomy Amateur 3 V2.jpg, 250px, Amateur astronomers watch the night sky during the Perseids, Perseid meteor shower. Amateur astronomy is a hobby where participants enjoy observing or imaging celestial objects in the sky using the Naked e ...
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

* List of astronomers * List of women astronomers * List of Muslim astronomers * List of French astronomers * List of Hungarian astronomers *
List of Russian astronomers and astrophysicists This list of Russia Russia (russian: link=no, Россия, , ), or the Russian Federation, is a country spanning Eastern Europe and Northern Asia. It is the List of countries and dependencies by area, largest country in the world, coverin ...
* List of Slovenian astronomers


References


Sources

* * *


External links


American Astronomical Society

European Astronomical Society

International Astronomical Union

Astronomical Society of the Pacific

Space's astronomy news
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