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

New galaxy sheds light on how stars form

A lot is known about galaxies. We know, for instance, that the stars within them are shaped from a blend of old star dust and molecules suspended in gas. What remains a mystery, however, is the process that leads to these ...

The magnetic fields swirling within the Whirlpool galaxy

Messier objects are some of the most imaged objects in the universe. In part that's because many of them are so visibly appealing. A good example of that is the Whirlpool galaxy, M51, which recently received an even more ...

Project maps 'astronomical' number of celestial objects

Nearly 700 million astronomical objects have been carefully cataloged and made public as part of a major international collaboration involving researchers from The Australian National University (ANU).

Shining a new light on dark energy

The Dark Energy Survey has released a massive, public collection of astronomical data and calibrated images from six years of work. Containing data on nearly 700 million astronomical objects, this second data release in the ...

Astronomers finally measure polarized light from exoplanet

An international team led by Dutch astronomers has, after years of searching and defying the boundaries of a telescope, for the first time directly captured polarized light from an exoplanet. They can deduct from the light ...

Image: Cosmic neon lights

This image shows a new type of star that has never been seen before in X-ray light. This strange star formed after two white dwarfs—remnants of stars like our sun—collided and merged. But instead of destroying each other ...

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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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