Main Topic: Physical Geography
Secondary Topic: Environment & Society
Overview: Astronomers study planets, stars, and other celestial bodies. They use ground-based equipment, such as optical telescopes, and space-based equipment, such as the Hubble Space Telescope. Some astronomers study distant galaxies and phenomena such as black holes and neutron stars. Others monitor space debris that could interfere with satellite operations. Astronomers typically work on research teams with engineers, technicians, and other scientists.
Astronomers cannot experiment on their subjects, which are so far away that they cannot be touched or interacted with. Therefore, astronomers generally make observations or work on theory. Observational astronomers view celestial objects and collect data on them. Theoretical astronomers analyze, model, and speculate about systems and how they work and evolve. The following are examples of astronomer job titles:
Cosmologists and extragalactic/galactic, planetary, and stellar astronomers study the creation, evolution, and possible futures of the universe and its galaxies, stars, planets, and solar systems. These astronomers develop and test concepts, such as string theory and dark-matter and dark-energy theories, and study models of galactic and stellar evolution, planetary formation, and interactions between stars.
Optical and radio astronomers use optical, radio, and gravitational-wave telescopes to study the motions and evolution of stars, galaxies, and the larger scale structure of the universe.
Astronomers, especially planetary astronomers, must understand physical geographic principals. Although geologic processes on other planetary bodies have different dominate characteristics, there are many similarities. Geographic skills are also important in understanding spatial relationships, mapping other planetary bodies, and in the use of geographic information systems. In the example of Mars, climate change has been a driving factor in planetary evolution. Interstellar space is also continually being mapped, including discoveries of “M-Class” (Earth-like) planets.
Geographers at work: Planetary geographers, exo-cartographers, extrasolar cartographers
Recommended College Courses: Physical geography, geographic information science, climatology, cartography
Skills: Understanding and assessment of physical features (soils, topography, hydrology), geographic information systems, spatial skills and thinking, map reading and interpretation, computer and database systems
Occupation Group: Life, Physical, and Social Science
Learn more about Astronomers from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and U.S. Department of Labor: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/physicists-and-astronomers.htm#tab-2
Written by Christopher Anderson