What is Astronomy?
Astronomy is the study of everything that lies beyond the surface of the Earth. Astronomy is as old as Galileo Galilei and Isaac Newton—to put it simply Astronomy is one of the oldest sciences. It began with making observations about the night sky and today it includes celestial bodies that aren’t even visible with the naked eye like faraway galaxies, black holes, neutron stars, etc. Astronomy is split into two clear types: Observational and Theoretical and has multiple branches.
Observational Astronomy uses physical instruments to observe the sky and celestial bodies and present this information through journals and academic papers.
Theoretical Astronomy, on the other hand, uses mathematical equations and physical laws to deduce and understand the meaning of these observations. They then not only predict future patterns, but also study the beginning of the universe.
Astronomy/Astrophysics is a course that is highly in demand, however, it does require an extreme amount of hard work and dedication, and more importantly a strong grasp of Mathematics and Physics. Astronomy is considered a specialization subject, there are different paths that a student can choose after completing his 12th:
Bachelor’s Degree: A BSc in Physics is the first step to building a career in Astronomy. BSc can be pursued by any student who has taken Science and Mathematics in the 12th grade. One can also pursue a BSc in Applied Sciences or a BTech in a relevant field such as Aerospace Engineering.
Master’s Degree: Since Astronomy is a part of Physics, it is a specialized course. And for someone who wants to study core Astronomy/Astrophysics, it is important to pursue an MSc in either Theoretical Astronomy, Astrophysics, or Applied Physics.
Ph.D. In Astronomy: Astronomers and Astrophysicists are highly educated scientists and researchers and tend to have a doctorate in their field. Of course, there are multiple branches of Astronomy that can be focused upon: Cosmology, Astrobiology, Spectroscopy, Photometry, Planetology, etc.
Amateur Astronomy is another huge part of Observational Astronomy—many observations about new comets and transient events have been done by normal people who like watching the sky through telescopes and binoculars. Since Astronomy isn’t considered a ‘professional’ degree so far, there are very few institutions dedicated wholly to Astronomy. However, the ones on the list have made some incredible contributions to the field.
|BSc Physics/ Applied Sciences|
|IIT Bombay||After completing 12th in the Science stream, the student must give the Joint Entrance Examination (JEE)|
|Delhi University||Merit-based admission based on 12th-grade results.|
|MSc in Physics/ Applied Sciences|
|IIT Bombay||After completing a BSc in Physics or a Btech in Aerospace Engineering and related fields one must give entrance examinations like GATE/ IIT JAM.|
|Delhi University||Entrance test for merit basis.|
|Ph.D. in Astronomy/Astrophysics|
|ARIES Nainital||JEST/CISR/UGC-NET/INSPIRE Fellowship|
Careers in Astronomy
Astronomy is a field that is highly in demand, since there are very few academically qualified Astrophysicists and Astronomers in the country, it may be due to the amount of education required to qualify as an astrophysicist. Most of them are employed at India’s autonomous institutions like IIA, IUCAA as part of the research team. NASA, ISRO, and similar private and public organizations are also good places to work as an Astrophysicist.
There are multiple career paths to choose from after receiving a degree in Astronomy and related fields:
- Astrophysicist: Astrophysicists study the physics of Astronomy. They are concerned with researching planets, stars, and galaxies. They study how the universe works today and how it evolved from centuries ago. Astrophysicists earn somewhere around 7,00,000-13,00,000 PA.
- Research Scientist: Research Scientists work in labs and agencies, they generally work with peers to achieve a common goal, or produce a thesis that is presented at scientific meetings and summits. Scientists can earn between 5,00,000–10,00,00 PA.
- Academics: After a Ph.D., one can choose to teach Astronomy to students at universities and continue to conduct research on an individual level. Professors tend to earn 8,00,000-10,00,00 PA.
- Planetarium Director: Apart from working as Planetarium Directors, which is a senior post, freshers can begin by working at Planetariums as technicians and other junior posts. They earn an average of 6,00,000-8,00,000 PA.
- Meteorologists/Climatologists: Weather is closely related to Atmospheric Science with is part of Astronomy. Therefore, people who are pursuing degrees in Astrophysics or Applied Sciences can choose to work in Meteorology and Climatology. They typically earn about 6,00,000-8,00,000 PA.
The majority of Astronomy and Astrophysics graduates tend to work in the Research & Development fields of large and small organizations so that discoveries about the past and future can be made. Many students also work in private sectors, where instruments like telescopes and binoculars, and other related equipment are produced.
Well qualified researchers tend to go forward and work for organizations like NASA and ISRO. Astronomy isn’t just a rarely explored field, it is also one that is exciting, and rewarding.