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    Career Option - Astronomy
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    Introduction

    Astronomy, the oldest and the most fascinating science, deals with all the celestial bodies and the material universe beyond the earth's atmosphere. It is the science of the Universe which includes the study of motion, nature, law, constitution, history and possible future developments of heavenly bodies like the sun, planets, stars, comets, meteors, galaxies, satellites etc. 

    Astronomy, sometimes considered as a sub-field of Physics is further divided into several branches such as Astrophysics, Astrometeorology, Astrobiology, Astrogeology, Astrometry, Cosmology etc. All these branches together helps to unravel the mysteries of the universe. It is a promising and amazing career for those who are interested in the mysteries of the universe and has a desire to unravel them. Since each country is going in for nuclear testing, the need for scientists in the filed of Astronomy is increasing. 

     

    In the professional level, astronomy is divided into observational astronomy and theoretical astrophysics. While the former deal with observing celestial bodies by using telescopes, binoculars, cameras, unaided eyes etc and collecting data for building and maintaining instruments; the latter is concerned with data analysis - finding out the conclusions of observations of computers and  explaining the observational results. Theoretical astrophysics is more analytical and astrophysicists model data.

    For entering into this field, one should be good at general physics. Astronomy is a vast field which varies from the instrument building teams to the theoretical branches where mathematical ability and physical intuition is essential. Apart from good programming skills, curiosity and ability to search out answers are also essential in this field. One's career in this field depends on what aspect of astronomy they are interested to work in. If interested in doing instrumentation or experimental astronomy, one can opt for the engineering stream. Instrumental astronomy specialises in the design and construction of astronomical instrumentation at different wavelengths, for ground and space-based observatories. Experimental Astronomy acts as a medium for the publication of papers on the instrumentation and data handling necessary for the conduct of astronomy at all wavelength fields. Those who have chosen science stream can do theoretical astronomy or observation.

    Eligibility

    A doctoral degree is the usual educational requirement to become an astronomer, since most of the work tends to be related to research and development. 

    Those who opt for this field, should pass their plus two examination under the science stream, specially in physics and math's. For pursuing a career in theoretical or observational astronomy one may go through the science stream after plus two. Since universities offering undergraduate programme in Astronomy are rarely found, one can join for a major/ honours in Physics with Mathematics as a subsidiary subject. Thereafter, take a master's degree in Physics or Astronomy. After the successful completion of MSc, one can do specialization in astronomy leading to Ph. D. which enables one to become an astronomer/ astronaut/ astrophysicist or a scientist/ research officer etc. in the field of space research. 

     

    For doing Ph.D, which is mandatory to do research, one should appear for the Joint Entrance Screening Test (JEST) examination.

    For pursuing a career in Instrumentation/ Experimental Astronomy, after plus two one can go for Bachelor of Engineering (BE) in Electrical / Electronics/ Electrical Communications. An engineer with a B. Tech or BE degree could also enter the field as a research scholar.

    Personal skills : 

    The essential quality to become an astronomer is curiosity, enthusiasm and greater concentration. They should have above average intelligence, high imagination, persistence, problem-solving and analytical skills and must possess both mathematical and computer skills. Loads of patience is required in this field as the astronomers has to work long for irregular hours.  Excellent oral and written communication skills are also important because most astronomers are expected to work as part of a team. They must be capable of explaining scientific phenomena and conveying the information in an easily absorbed format and language. 

    Rather, astronomers must apply equal measures of analytic thinking and imagination, logic and intuition, to answer the most fundamental questions about the cosmos.

    Job Prospects & Career Options

    Working on research is the main profession of an astronomer and this may usually involve travelling; working long hours including day and night. The work of an astronomer involves analysis and interpretation of enormous data gathered by observatories and satellites and making scientific papers or report their findings. They make observations with ground-based telescopes or any other sources and apply their knowledge to solve problems in navigation, space flight, and satellite communications. 

    A beginner in the field of astronomy may be inducted as a researcher into an existing team which would be already working on a project. Ph.D. holders begin their careers in a postdoctoral research position, in which they may work with experienced physicists as they continue to learn about their specialty and develop ideas and results to be used in later work. Initial work may be under the close supervision of senior scientists. Depending on their areas of specialization, astronomers are classified into various groups like observational astronomers, stellar astronomers, solar astronomers etc. 

     

    Most jobs in the basic research and development usually require a doctoral degree. The Ph.D. holders ultimately teach at the college or university level. Master’s degree holders are qualified for many jobs in manufacturing and applied research and development. Some master’s degree programs prepare students for specific research skills that does not require a Ph.D. Bachelor degree holder in this field are often qualified as technicians, research assistants or other types of jobs. 

    An astronomer usually work for the government, defence and space research organisations, electrical and electronic equipment manufacturers etc. They may work for commercial/ non-commercial research, development and testing laboratories, observatories, planetarium, science park etc. Degree/ Diploma/ Doctorate holder in these disciplines can find job opportunities in major establishments like the  Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC), Space Physics Laboratories, Space Applications Centres, etc. One can also join non-profit organizations like the Association of Bangalore Amateur Astronomers (ABAA) which is involved in telescope making, organizing observation sessions for the public and popularization of Astronomy. 

    The prospects of traveling to far distant lands are also open as international seminars and conventions are held regularly in different countries.

    Remuneration
     
    The remuneration depends on the aspects of work, kind of organization and experience in the field. As a beginner in the research work, a junior can earn a monthly stipend of approximately Rs.10,000 per month. Government bodies and research institutes employ astronomers who are paid high salaries with other perk and allowances.

      
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