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All Posts by Richard Tresch Fienberg

What do I study in college?

Mon, 2012-08-20 16:18 -- Rick.Fienberg

Attend a school with a good physics or astronomy department and be prepared to work hard! Although it is hard to become an astronomer, most who get graduate degrees in the field are employed (fewer than 2% are unemployed) and most feel that their graduate education prepared them well for their current job.

What colleges are the best?

Mon, 2012-08-20 16:17 -- Rick.Fienberg

There is no easy answer to your question as there isn't a one-size-fits-all program. Each department, and each school, offers different programs, opportunities and environments. You will benefit from spending some time researching colleges and universities; they have web pages describing their programs, the schools and so forth. You may wish to contact the department chair for additional information on the schools you are interested. The AAS maintains a list of programs that offer Astronomy related degrees.

I need to interview an astronomer.

Mon, 2012-08-20 16:16 -- Rick.Fienberg

The AAS does not give out names of astronomers. However, there's probably an astronomer near you. Check with your local community college, or four-year college or university, planetarium or science museum. Be sure to provide your name, school, and a specific description about your project. If you're working with time constraints some online interviews with astronomers are available.

I'm doing an astronomy project and I need help.

Mon, 2012-08-20 16:16 -- Rick.Fienberg

The AAS is not a reference library, however when we receive inquiries we will do our best to steer you toward reasonable sources of reliable information. We do not have regular staff dedicated to this, so do not rely on an immediate response. Such queries should be directed to There are many sources for school projects. Start with your school or local community library.

I'm in high school. How can I prepare for an astronomy career?

Mon, 2012-08-20 16:15 -- Rick.Fienberg

If you are a high school student who wants to become an astronomer, the best advice is to study hard. It's important to take a lot of academic classes in high school if you want a career in any of the sciences, so make sure you fit in four years of science, math, english, and social studies. You should read magazines like Sky and Telescope or Astronomy and follow the new developments in astronomy that make it into the news. Any readings or research that you do early on can only help you later.

What does it take to become an astronomer?

Mon, 2012-08-20 16:14 -- Rick.Fienberg

Most research astronomers have doctorate degrees in physics or astronomy and also bachelor's and/or master's degrees in a physical science, usually physics or astronomy. It takes about 10 years of education beyond normal high school education to become a research astronomer. Astronomers are usually comfortable with computers, both usage and programming in addition to being knowledgeable about basic science, especially physics. They also have extensive mathematical knowledge.

Can I buy a star?

Mon, 2012-08-20 16:06 -- Rick.Fienberg

There is no place where you can purchase a star. There are a few businesses which claim to sell or name stars, but the names they give are not recognized by anyone in the scientific community. Stars are named by the International Astronomical Union, headquartered in Paris, France. They are given numbers determined by their exact location in the sky. This system is organized so that it is most beneficial to the scientists that are studying them.

What's the difference between astronomy and astrology?

Mon, 2012-08-20 16:05 -- Rick.Fienberg

Astronomy is a science that studies everything outside of the earth's atmosphere, such as planets, stars, asteroids, galaxies; and the properties and relationships of those celestial bodies. Astronomers base their studies on research and observation. Astrology on the other hand, is the belief that the positioning of the stars and planets affect the way events occur on earth.

What exactly is astronomy?

Mon, 2012-08-20 15:53 -- Rick.Fienberg

Astronomy is a physical science concerned with the smallest particles and the largest natural objects. The name Astronomy comes from the Greek roots Astr- and -nomia to literally mean "name stars". Astronomy is the study of everything outside of the earth's atmosphere and their chemical and physical properties.