Careers in Science - Astrophysics
Astrophysics - Study the Stars
Astrophysics (from Greek astron, ἄστρον "star", and physis, φύσις "nature") is the branch of astronomy that deals with the physics of the universe, especially with "the nature of the heavenly bodies, rather than their positions or motions in space"— Wikipedia
Carl SaganClick thumbnail to view full-size
Who became an astrophysicist and then became famous or vice versa?
Would you believe that Brian May, famous guitarist and songwriter for Queen, was an astrophysicist? He got his PhD in astrophysics from Imperial College London of Great Britain. Asteroid 52665 Brian May, was named in his honor on 18 June 2008. His doctoral thesis was written onRadial Velocities in the Zodiacal Dust Cloud. While in college he studied reflected light and velocities of space dust.
Probably the most famous woman astrophysicist, Burbidge is still active today at the age of 96. She has held positions at several observatories where her field of studies were B stars, the red shift puzzle, and faint object spectrography.
Arguably the most famous astrophysicist of all, Carl Sagan wore several hats. He was also an astronomer, cosmologist, astrobiologist, and noted author. He wrote over 600 scholarly books and papers. He made many valuable scientific contributions including determining the surface temperature of Venus. Sagan was extremely interested in life on other planets and helped to develop the fist message that was sent into space.
Neil deGrasse Tyson:
Tyson has followed his hero, Carl Sagan, to become the director of the Hayden Planetarium, Rose Center for Earth and Space, NYC. Tyson is also a famous science communicator and is well known for his work on the NOVA TV series, the remake of Cosmos, and for his continuing radio show, Star Talk.
What Astrophysicists Do:
The first thing one thinks of when thinking of what astrophysicists do is - study the stars. And yes, this is a large part of what they do. But as on Earth, there are many specialties of studies available. When one studies the Earth, they might choose biology, geology, or another branch of science. When one studies the stars there are just as many specialties.
- Stellar astronomy
- Star evolution
- Planets and solid bodies
- Quasars and background radiation
- Infrared spectrometry
- Telescope and visible photography and interpretation
- Astroparticle physics
- High-energy collider physics - HADRON
- The study of our sun, Solar Astrophysics
The usual route to becoming an astrophysicist is to take as many relevant courses as possible on the way to obtaining a PhD in physics or astrophysics. During the course of writing a thesis, one may decide to specialize in any particular area of study.
Top 10 Universities for Astrophysics (U.S.A.):
- Princeton University
- California Institute of Technology
- University of Chicago
- Harvard University
- Stanford University
- University of California at Berkely
- Mass. Institute of Technology
- University of California - Santa Barbara
- University of Texas at Austin
- University of Pennslyvania
Current Trends in Astrophysics
There are new projects opening all the time in the field of astrophysics. Most astrophysicists will need to be adept at astronomy on different levels. There are telescopes now that scan the cosmos visually, photographically, digitally, infrared, via radio signals, and many other methods that the typical lay person is unfamiliar with.
The Hubble Telescope is probably the most familiar tool in use by astronomers, but it is by no means the only telescope available.
Current projects for astrophysicists include lots of job openings in the space program. The Mars projects are experiencing good project funding at this time. But lunar studies are ongoing and some people predict that we may be mining the moon for various substances in the near future.
Physics teachers are in demand at this time. The future for physicists and astrophysicists look bright.
Why Study Astrophysics?
The universe is a never ending source of study. Everything we are is due to the existence of the universe. Without the universe, the planets, the stars, and all the matter and energy generated by the cosmos, we would cease to exist.
Physicists and astrophysicists attempt to learn the secrets of this vast and seemingly limitless universe. Studies of universe have given us practical applications regarding energy, exploration, defense, and more.
Some astrophysicists seek to unravel the mystery of why we are here. What is our purpose? Where did everything come from? Others seek esoteric and existential meaning in black holes, life on other worlds, spirituality.
It looks as though the universe has been here for a very long time and will be here for a long future. To be able to harness only a micro fraction of the amount of energy generated in the universe would solve all of our energy needs.
So You Want To Be An Astrophysicist...
Visit the Hayden Planetarium
Neil deGrasse Tyson, astrophysicist, is the director of the Hayden Planetarium in New York City.
Job Outlook for Astrophycists:
- Physicists and Astronomers : Occupational Outlook Handbook: : U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Physicists and astronomers study the ways in which various forms of matter and energy interact. Theoretical physicists and astronomers may study the nature of time or the origin of the universe.
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