An astronomer uses a wide range of scientific techniques to study the universe. This would include its origin and its make-up. You could specialise in a particular area, such as planetary science or the formation of galaxies. If you love science and you are interested in stars, planets and the universe, this job could be just what you are looking for.
Astronomy is divided into two main areas – observational astronomy and theoretical astronomy.
In observational astronomy your work could include:
- Collecting data from satellites and spacecraft using radio and optical telescopes
- developing new instrumentation and maintaining existing equipment
- developing software to interpret the images captured by satellites
- analysing data and testing theories
In theoretical astronomy your work could include:
- Creating complex computer models to develop theories on the physical processes happening in space
- Analysing the results of past observations to develop new predictions
- Making observations and testing theories
- Analysing data to help develop our understanding of events in the universe
To be an astronomer you should have…
- Good powers of observation
- a methodical and logical approach to work
- the ability to work with abstract ideas and do complex calculations
- patience and determination to see a project through to completion
- good attention to detail
- the ability to analyse problems
- the ability to produce scientific reports for publication
- confidence to present your research findings
- strong IT skills
- the ability to develop good working relationships with colleagues around the world
To work as an astronomer you would usually need to begin with at least a BSc (Hons) degree (first or upper second class). Relevant subjects could include:
- space science
To do a degree, you will usually need five GCSEs (A-C) including maths, English and science, plus three A levels, including maths and physics. You should check with universities for exact entry requirements as other qualifications may also be accepted.
Funded PhD research students starting out can be awarded around £13,000 to £14,000 a year while they study.
Postdoctoral researchers or research fellows may earn from £29,000 to £36,000 a year.
Lecturers, professors and senior staff in research institutions could earn up to £60,000 or more.
(guideline figures only)
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