Astronomer

Astronomer Ken Freeman

Description

An astronomer is a specialized scientist who studies celestial objects, phenomena, and the universe as a whole. Astronomers use a combination of observations, mathematical models, and theoretical physics to explore the cosmos, including stars, galaxies, planets, and other celestial bodies. This field of science plays a fundamental role in advancing our understanding of the universe’s origin, evolution, and structure.

Astronomers typically perform the following duties:

  • Conduct observational research using telescopes and other astronomical instruments to study celestial objects and phenomena.
  • Analyze data collected from observations and satellite missions to gain insights into the properties and behavior of astronomical objects.
  • Develop and test theoretical models to explain observed phenomena and make predictions about cosmic events.
  • Collaborate with other astronomers, astrophysicists, and researchers to exchange ideas, discuss findings, and address complex questions in astronomy.
  • Publish research papers in scientific journals and present findings at conferences to contribute to the collective knowledge of astronomy.
  • Investigate the formation and evolution of stars, galaxies, and planetary systems.
  • Study the properties and behavior of planets, moons, and other objects in our solar system and beyond.
  • Examine the nature of black holes, neutron stars, and other exotic celestial objects.
  • Explore the composition and evolution of interstellar and intergalactic medium.
  • Investigate the cosmic microwave background radiation and its implications for the early universe.
  • Examine the interactions of electromagnetic radiation with celestial bodies and the broader universe.
  • Investigate the role of dark matter and dark energy in the structure and expansion of the universe.
  • Study the dynamics of asteroids, comets, and other celestial bodies that interact with Earth.
  • Investigate the potential for habitable exoplanets and the search for extraterrestrial life.
  • Use spectroscopy and other techniques to analyze the chemical composition of stars and galaxies.
  • Participate in the design and development of new astronomical instruments and technologies.
  • Conduct on-site visits to observatories and research facilities to carry out observational campaigns and collaborate with international research teams.
  • Teach and mentor students pursuing degrees and careers in astronomy and related fields.

Other titles

The following job titles also refer to astronomer:

astronomy scientist
astronomy analyst
astrophysicist
astronomy scholar
astronomy science researcher
astronomy research analyst
astronomy research scientist
astronomers
astronomy researcher

Working conditions

Astronomers typically work in academic institutions, research centers, or observatories. They may also work for governmental agencies or private organizations involved in space exploration and astronomical research. Observational astronomers may work irregular hours, including nights and weekends, to make observations during optimal viewing conditions. The work environment can vary between offices, laboratories, and observatories. Some astronomers have opportunities for international collaborations and may travel to observe telescopes located in different parts of the world.

Minimum qualifications

Astronomers typically hold a Ph.D. in astronomy, astrophysics, or a closely related field. A strong background in physics, mathematics, and computer programming is essential. Practical experience gained through internships, research assistantships, and postdoctoral positions is highly valuable. Astronomers need excellent analytical and problem-solving skills to interpret observational data and theoretical models. Effective communication skills are important for presenting research findings, collaborating with colleagues, and communicating complex astronomical concepts to a broader audience.

ISCO skill level

ISCO skill level is defined as a function of the complexity and range of tasks and duties to be performed in an occupation. It is measured on a scale from 1 to 4, with 1 the lowest level and 4 the highest, by considering:

  • the nature of the work performed in an occupation in relation to the characteristic tasks and duties
  • the level of formal education required for competent performance of the tasks and duties involved and
  • the amount of informal on-the-job training and/or previous experience in a related occupation required for competent performance of these tasks and duties.

Astronomer is a Skill level 4 occupation.

Astronomer career path

Similar occupations

These occupations, although different, require a lot of knowledge and skills similar to astronomer.

cosmologist
seismologist
oceanographer
physicist
demographer

Long term prospects

These occupations require some skills and knowledge of astronomer. They also require other skills and knowledge, but at a higher ISCO skill level, meaning these occupations are accessible from a position of astronomer with a significant experience and/or extensive training.

Essential knowledge and skills

Essential knowledge

This knowledge should be acquired through learning to fulfill the role of astronomer.

  • Mathematics: Mathematics is the study of topics such as quantity, structure, space, and change. It involves the identification of patterns and formulating new conjectures based on them. Mathematicians strive to prove the truth or falsity of these conjectures. There are many fields of mathematics, some of which are widely used for practical applications.
  • Physics: The natural science involving the study of matter, motion, energy, force and related notions.
  • Statistics: The study of statistical theory, methods and practices such as collection, organisation, analysis, interpretation and presentation of data. It deals with all aspects of data including the planning of data collection in terms of the design of surveys and experiments in order to forecast and plan work-related activities.
  • Scientific research methodology: The theoretical methodology used in scientific research involving doing background research, constructing a hypothesis, testing it, analysing data and concluding the results.
  • Astronomy: The field of science that studies the physics, chemistry, and evolution of celestial objects such as stars, comets, and moons. It also examines phenomena that happen outside Earth’s atmosphere such as solar storms, cosmic microwave background radiation, and gamma ray bursts.

Essential skills and competences

These skills are necessary for the role of astronomer.

  • Carry out scientific research in observatory: Perform research in a building equipped for the observation of natural phenomena, especially in relation to celestial bodies.
  • Execute analytical mathematical calculations: Apply mathematical methods and make use of calculation technologies in order to perform analyses and devise solutions to specific problems.
  • Apply statistical analysis techniques: Use models (descriptive or inferential statistics) and techniques (data mining or machine learning) for statistical analysis and ICT tools to analyse data, uncover correlations and forecast trends.
  • Perform scientific research: Gain, correct or improve knowledge about phenomena by using scientific methods and techniques, based on empirical or measurable observations.
  • Apply scientific methods: Apply scientific methods and techniques to investigate phenomena, by acquiring new knowledge or correcting and integrating previous knowledge.
  • Gather experimental data: Collect data resulting from the application of scientific methods such as test methods, experimental design or measurements.
  • Operate scientific measuring equipment: Operate devices, machinery, and equipment designed for scientific measurement. Scientific equipment consists of specialised measuring instruments refined to facilitate the acquisition of data.

Optional knowledge and skills

Optional knowledge

This knowledge is sometimes, but not always, required for the role of astronomer. However, mastering this knowledge allows you to have more opportunities for career development.

  • Optics: The science that studies the elements and reaction of light.
  • Types of optical instruments: Possess information on the types of optical instruments and lenses, such as microscopes and telescopes, as well as on their mechanics, components, and characteristics.
  • Geophysics: The scientific field that deals with the physical processes and properties of, and spatial environment surrounding Earth. Geophysics also deals with the quantitative analysis of phenomena such as magnetic fields, the internal structure of Earth, and its hydrological cycle.
  • Optomechanical engineering: Subset of mechanical engineering specialised in optical systems and products, such as binoculars, microscopes, telescopes, and spectrometers, as well as optomechanical components, such as optical mounts and optical mirrors.
  • Aeronomy: Branch of atmospheric physics dealing with the parts of the atmosphere where reactions of ionization and dissociation are predominant, and with the atmosphere of other planets.
  • Scientific modelling: Scientific activity consisting in selecting the relevant aspects of a situation and aiming to represent physical processes, empirical objects and phenomena to allow a better understanding, visualisation or quantification, and to enable simulation that shows how this particular subject would behave under given circumstances.
  • Optoelectronics: Branch of electronics and optics dedicated to the study and use of electronic devices that detect and control light.

Optional skills and competences

These skills and competences are sometimes, but not always, required for the role of astronomer. However, mastering these skills and competences allows you to have more opportunities for career development.

  • Write research proposals: Synthetise and write proposals aiming to solve research problems. Draft the proposal baseline and objectives, the estimated budget, risks and impact. Document the advances and new developments on the relevant subject and field of study.
  • Perform lectures: Present lectures to various groups.
  • Analyse telescope images: Examine images taken by telescopes in order to study phenomena and objects outside Earth’s atmosphere.
  • Apply teaching strategies: Employ various approaches, learning styles, and channels to instruct students, such as communicating content in terms they can understand, organising talking points for clarity, and repeating arguments when necessary. Use a wide range of teaching devices and methodologies appropriate to the class content, the learners’ level, goals, and priorities.
  • Define celestial bodies: Analyse data and images to calculate the size, shape, brightness, and motion of celestial bodies.
  • Develop scientific theories: Formulate scientific theories based on empirical observations, gathered data and theories of other scientists.
  • Operate telescopes: Set up and adjust telescopes in order to look at phenomena and objects outside Earth’s atmosphere.
  • Archive scientific documentation: Store documents such as protocols, analysis results and scientific data using archiving systems to enable scientists and engineers to take methods and results from previous studies into account for their research.
  • Write scientific papers: Present the hypothesis, findings, and conclusions of your scientific research in your field of expertise in a professional publication.
  • Teach astronomy: Instruct students in the theory and practice of astronomy, and more specifically in topics such as celestial bodies, gravity, and solar storms.
  • Design scientific equipment: Design new equipment or adapt existing equipment to aid scientists in gathering and analysing data and samples.

ISCO group and title

2111 – Physicists and astronomers


References
  1. Astronomer – ESCO
  2. Physicists and Astronomers : Occupational Outlook Handbook – U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
  3. What does an astronomer do? – CareerExplorer
  4. Featured image: By NOIRLab – Gemini Uncovers ‘Lost City’ of Stars, NOIRLab, CC BY 4.0
Last updated on August 28, 2023