Astronomy
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What are the typical tasks an astronomer performs daily?

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2010-09-23 16:07:44

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 trained 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 6500

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 10,000 members from 87 different countries who are

involved in astronomical research at the PhD level and beyond.

While the number of professional astronomers world-wide 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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