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Astrophysicist: A Life's Story

Updated on February 2, 2018

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A life's story: Astrophysicist

As a child, I always looked up at the blue sky and wondered, “what’s behind that blue wall?”. This was something that never outgrew me as I became older. I always had an urge to know what else in “out there”, and how does it all work. Something i’m quite thankful for, actually, as it lead me to find my dream job. I am an astrophysicist. What’s that you might ask? It is somewhat very similar to an astronomer, but my what I do and my responsibilities are a bit different, which I will be talking about later.

Becoming an astrophysicist was not quite easy, but instead, I would say it was worth it. Ever since middle school, science was always my favorite subject. But more than that, astronomy was my favorite unit. Becoming involved and interested in science and math early on in school had helped me immensely on excelling in those subjects for high school. In grade 11, I had to make sure to keep my tempo with functions and physics, but also take computer science, as I realized the career path I will take was going to be an astrophysicist, which is required to become an astrophysicist. Later on I had to take astrophysics in university along with calculus and statistics, as Physicists work with a lot of math and calculations. To become an astrophysicist, I had to get an advanced degree in physics or astronomy, most preferably a doctorate, which is the degree that I had attained.

Observing what's out there is an interesting career!

What do I do as an astrophysicist?

After getting my degree, I was hired by the National Aeronautics Space Administration. As an astrophysicist (which I will now refer to as a.p) works in offices, observatories, and the classrooms of colleges and universities. In the office, I spend time working on a wide variety of research. This includes tasks such as testing theories, running numerical models, and analyzing data. In the office, majority of the time is spent in front of a computer, which why computer science is a required course to take in order to be familiar with computers and programming. Most a.p’s also spend some time in colleges and universities teaching astronomy and physics. Almost all astronomers and a.p’s spend time teaching or even as a teaching assistant. Reading and writing is a big part of an a.p’s job.

Keeping up with major developments in the field or just learning new things, it is very important to keep up to date with all the research and information. Same goes for writing and publishing papers and proposals to show others our research and results. Grant proposals are written in order to get funding from other sources for research, along with an observing proposal to be able to use different telescopes and equipment to enhance and develop our research. Speaking of observing, a.p’s frequently go to observatories in order to carry out the research. We look through these telescopes in order to observe planets, rocks, quasars, stars, supernovas, and other things to learn how everything works in accordance to other things and the universe itself. An astrophysicist needs to make sure he his patient, observant, and curious enough to keep himself interested enough to keep research on a high level.

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Where do astrophysicists spend a lot of their time?

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How much do astrophysicists earn?

As an astrophysicist, I earn $162,000 per year as one of the 10% earning the highest income for astronomers and a.p’s. The bottom 10% earn around $50,500 per year. The median average salary for an astronomer or a.p is from around $90,000 to $110,000. For me personally, It was never about the money. It was a sort of a bonus, getting paid to do something I love.

The Difference between an Astrophysicist and Astronomer

On the note of astronomers and a.p’s, as a youngster I never knew the difference, and you probably don’t know either. Astronomers is mostly theoretical, as they conduct theories, choose what theories to prove or disprove, conduct research and then presenting their research. Astrophysicists, however, or more about what is actually there. We observe using telescopes (as do astronomers), and collect what we find, research on specific regions of space, document what we find, develop conclusions and then write about it all.

Here's a little more information

Overall Verdict

If you think about it, not many people at all know someone who is an a.p, making seem like a not much of a popular job that isn’t really in demand or even needed. However, a.p’s and astronomers will see a rise of 10% increase from 2010 till 2020. This is excellent, as most jobs nowadays are seeing a decrease of demand due to technological advancement replacing many human jobs. But these technological advancements are used to our advantage: more precise and sophisticated equipment.

Now let me break everything down to you in pros and cons. For someone who likes to travel, astrophysicist is a great career choice, as they travel quite frequently to conferences. Another pro is something I had just mentioned. Technological advancements are putting a lot of people out of jobs, yet, it helps a.p’s and astronomers to further enhance research. A good bonus is above average income, coming in to around $100,000.

A con is that it is quite hard to get to where I am right now. A lot of studying, high interest in math and science, along with motivation and determination is required. Sometimes an a.p is even obliged to go to remote locations, which can be the observatories, and even have to work at night a lot as that is when you can make observations best.

Overall, this is a great career path to consider, and I am very happy as to where I am. But the main question still exists in my mind, and frankly, everyone else's: is there anything else out there besides us?

What about Aliens!?

To be honest, as someone who's job it is to observe and record data from space, it's not surprising that we have not found intelligent life yet. Why you might ask? Well, for the simple fact that space is GIGANTIC!

We are practically irrelevant in comparison to this giant fractal of a universe. Here's something just to give you an idea of how big it is: There is a difference between the "observable universe" and the actual universe. As you can tell, the "observable universe" is only the part of the universe that we can universe that we are able to observe using our current available technology. The universe is, well, the whole universe itself. Astronomers, scientist, and even us (astrophysicists), have found that the observable universe we see is like a light bulb sitting on Pluto; just a fraction of the actual thing. And since it's so big, life can be scattered literally anywhere.

We are not yet able to clearly observe our own galaxy yet using the current technology, so finding intelligent life yet is still a far stretch. But do they exist? Most probably. Why? Due to the same reason why we haven't found any yet. Space is just too big for us to be the only ones here.

However, we will never truly know until we actually see or make contact aliens themselves. Who knows, they could already be observing us this very moment!

It's quite a nice career

What career path would you choose?

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