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

A massive collision in the Milky Way's past

Our Milky Way galaxy has probably collided or otherwise interacted with other galaxies during its lifetime; such interactions are common cosmic occurrences. Astronomers can deduce the history of mass accretion onto the Milky ...

The building blocks for astronomically literate citizens

What does it mean for a citizen to be literate in astronomy? Astronomers who participate in outreach to the general public experience various degrees of astronomical knowledge among people. But so far, there had not been ...

What makes a planet habitable

Which of Earth's features were essential for the origin and sustenance of life? And how do scientists identify those features on other worlds?

Astronomers deliver first photo of black hole

Astronomers on Wednesday unveiled the first photo of a black hole, one of the star-devouring monsters scattered throughout the Universe and obscured by impenetrable shields of gravity.

Physicists constrain dark matter

Researchers from Russia, Finland, and the U.S. have put a constraint on the theoretical model of dark matter particles by analyzing data from astronomical observations of active galactic nuclei. The new findings provide an ...

Discovery of many new ultra-diffuse galaxies in galaxy clusters

In preparation for the new multi-object survey spectrograph, WEAVE, on the 4.2m William Herschel Telescope, the astronomical community is working on deep imaging surveys to identify the astronomical objects that will be studied ...

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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.

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