Related topics: earth · nasa · planets · milky way · solar system

Hubble goes hunting for small main belt asteroids

Like boulders, rocks, and pebbles scattered across a landscape, asteroids come in a wide range of sizes. Cataloging asteroids in space is tricky because they are faint and they don't stop to be photographed as they zip along ...

Citizen science project classifying gamma-ray bursts

When faraway stars explode, they send out flashes of energy called gamma-ray bursts that are bright enough that telescopes back on Earth can detect them. Studying these pulses, which can also come from mergers of some exotic ...

Astronomers inspect open cluster Berkeley 50

Using the Lowell Discovery Telescope (LDT), astronomers from the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona, have observed a young Galactic open cluster known as Berkeley 50. Results of the observational campaign, presented ...

Most massive stellar black hole in our galaxy found

Astronomers have identified the most massive stellar black hole yet discovered in the Milky Way galaxy. This black hole was spotted in data from the European Space Agency's Gaia mission because it imposes an odd 'wobbling' ...

page 1 from 40


An astronomer is a scientist who studies celestial bodies such as planets, stars and galaxies.

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. 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. This number includes scientists from other fields such as physics, geology, and engineering, whose research interests are closely related to astronomy. 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.

While the number of professional astronomers worldwide is not much larger than the population of a small town, there is a huge community of amateur astronomers. Most cities have amateur astronomy clubs that meet on a regular basis and often host star parties in their communities. 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. 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.

This text uses material from Wikipedia, licensed under CC BY-SA