Related topics: galaxies · stars · black holes · milky way · nasa

Hubble captures jellyfish galaxy JW39

The jellyfish galaxy JW39 hangs serenely in this image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. This galaxy lies over 900 million light-years away in the constellation Coma Berenices and is one of several jellyfish galaxies ...

Hubble hunts for intermediate-sized black hole close to home

Astronomers using the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope have come up with what they say is some of their best evidence yet for the presence of a rare class of intermediate-sized black holes, having found a strong candidate ...

Hubble peers into globular cluster NGC 6325

The densely packed globular cluster NGC 6325 glistens in this image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. This concentrated group of stars lies around 26,000 light-years from Earth in the constellation Ophiuchus.

Radiant protostars and shadowy clouds clash in stellar nursery

The massive, star-forming interstellar cloud Lupus 3 is captured with the 570-megapixel US Department of Energy-fabricated Dark Energy Camera at NSF's NOIRLab's Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile. The dazzling ...

Fatty acids might exist in space

A team of physicists have discovered that the environment of a molecular cloud in interstellar space can support the existence of fatty acids, a key component of life on Earth.

What Cassini's 'grand finale' taught us about Saturn's interior

Six years ago the Cassini spacecraft, which had spent nearly two decades in orbit around Saturn, finished its mission with a grand finale, plunging itself into the depths of Saturn's atmosphere. Those last few orbits and ...

Hubble captures light-bending galaxy cluster eMACS J1823.1+7822

A vast galaxy cluster lurks in the center of this image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. Like a submerged sea monster causing waves on the surface, this cosmic leviathan can be identified by the distortions in spacetime ...

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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. 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 7,000 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 9,500 members from 87 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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