What are the different kinds of astronomers?
What are the different kinds of astronomers and what do they do?
There are a couple different ways to classify astronomy jobs. The simplest is "observationalist" or "theorist". Observationalists take data with telescopes or spacecraft and then explain what it means. Theorists use physics to make computer models or simulations of things in the universe. However, many times this isn't a clear distinction since observationalists use physics theories to explain their data, and theorist models have to match observations.
Another way to classify astronomers is by subject specialty. For example, I'm a planetary scientist; I study planets and moons. Other astronomers include stellar astronomers (study stars), solar astronomers (the sun), galactic astronomers (study the galaxy), extragalactic astronomers (who study all different galaxies and the structure of the universe) or cosmologists (study the origin and evolution of the universe). Your specialty can also be in the use of a specific telescope type, for example, there are radio astronomers who study many different objects with radio telescopes. There are also instrumentationalists who specialize in building new equipment. Sometimes you'll be multiple things, like an extragalactic astronomer and cosmologist, or a planetary scientist who builds new instruments. There aren't really clear-cut distinctions here either, but these kinds of classifications are generally what astronomers will respond with when you ask them "What kind of astronomer are you?"
Get More 'Curious?' with Our New PODCAST:
- Podcast? Subscribe? Tell me about the Ask an Astronomer Podcast
- Subscribe to our Podcast | Listen to our current Episode
- Cool! But I can't now. Send me a quick reminder now for later.
- What kinds of jobs do astronomers do?
- How do astronomers come up with their facts?
- What other careers involve Astronomy besides Astronomer?
- Can you describe a day on the job as an astronomer?
How to ask a question:
If you have a follow-up question concerning the above subject, submit it here. If you have a question about another area of astronomy, find the topic you're interested in from the archive on our site menu, or go here for help.
This page has been accessed 43387 times since September 18, 2002.
Last modified: October 3, 2002 6:30:42 PM
Ask an Astronomer is hosted by the Astronomy Department at Cornell University and is produced with PHP and MySQL.
Warning: Your browser is misbehaving! This page might look ugly. (Details)