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Careers in Science - Astrophysics

Updated on August 21, 2016
Austinstar profile image

L. Cargill, B.A., Sam Houston University, Huntsville, TX., has been writing cool and interesting articles for the internet world since 1995.

Astrophysics - Study the Stars

Space is the Final Frontier
Space is the Final Frontier | Source

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 Sagan

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Carl Sagan - Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson - Astrophysicist
Carl Sagan - Astrophysicist
Carl Sagan - Astrophysicist | Source
Neil deGrasse Tyson - Astrophysicist
Neil deGrasse Tyson - Astrophysicist | Source

Famous Astrophysicists

Who became an astrophysicist and then became famous or vice versa?

Brian May:

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.

Margaret Burbidge:

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.

Carl Sagan:

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.

  1. Stellar astronomy
  2. Star evolution
  3. Cosmology
  4. Planets and solid bodies
  5. Quasars and background radiation
  6. Infrared spectrometry
  7. Telescope and visible photography and interpretation
  8. Astroparticle physics
  9. High-energy collider physics - HADRON
  10. 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.):

  1. Princeton University
  2. California Institute of Technology
  3. University of Chicago
  4. Harvard University
  5. Stanford University
  6. University of California at Berkely
  7. Mass. Institute of Technology
  8. University of California - Santa Barbara
  9. University of Texas at Austin
  10. 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.

Cosmology and the study of black holes
Cosmology and the study of black holes | Source

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

81 Central Park West, New York, NY 10023:
81 Central Park West, New York, NY 10023, USA

get directions

Neil deGrasse Tyson, astrophysicist, is the director of the Hayden Planetarium in New York City.

© 2015 Lela

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  • Say Yes To Life profile image

    Yoleen Lucas 

    4 years ago from Big Island of Hawaii

    You guys - check out this cool song and video!

  • Austinstar profile imageAUTHOR


    4 years ago from Somewhere near the heart of Texas

    And yet, they are so very cool! Neil deGrasse Tyson just looks like the perfect TeddyBear to sit with on a hillside and watch the stars!

  • CatherineGiordano profile image

    Catherine Giordano 

    4 years ago from Orlando Florida

    Neil de Grasse Tyson has become the super star of astrophysicists. I watched his TV program , StarTalk, this week. He said that astrophysicists are literally one in a million as there are only 7000 astrophysicists in the world. Thanks for your report on some of these one-in-a-million people. Voted up. ++

  • Austinstar profile imageAUTHOR


    4 years ago from Somewhere near the heart of Texas

    Hi drbj! I used to go to the planetarium in Houston. Not as prestigious, perhaps, but so much closer to NASA! hahaha

  • drbj profile image

    drbj and sherry 

    4 years ago from south Florida

    I appreciated this info, Lela, since I used to be a regular visitor to the Planetarium when I lived in Chicago. In fact I once toyed with the idea of becoming an astrophyzicist ... an astrofizicist ... an astrowhatsitsname but had to give it up when I couldn't learn to spell the word. ;)

  • Kristen Howe profile image

    Kristen Howe 

    4 years ago from Northeast Ohio

    Great hub, Lela. I love astronomy. But astrophysics is too advanced for my taste, especially since it has a lot of math in it. Voted up!

  • nicomp profile image

    nicomp really 

    4 years ago from Ohio, USA

    Astrophysicists also become media whores.

  • Austinstar profile imageAUTHOR


    4 years ago from Somewhere near the heart of Texas

    What a great gig! I wish I still lived in Hawaii. I would volunteer too.

  • Say Yes To Life profile image

    Yoleen Lucas 

    4 years ago from Big Island of Hawaii

    Mauna Kea is one of the best sites in the world for observatories, since it is isolated in the middle of a vast ocean and, at just under 14,000 feet, rises above most of Earth's atmosphere. I volunteer at their visitor's center. They have "star parties", where they view through telescopes, every night. They give volunteers free meals; the food is FABULOUS!

  • Austinstar profile imageAUTHOR


    4 years ago from Somewhere near the heart of Texas

    I just found the hub and read it. I have to think about it for a bit. The article explains a great deal about why people believe in religion. But as an atheist, I still don't really get it.

  • Thomas Swan profile image

    Thomas Swan 

    4 years ago from New Zealand

    Yep, my second most recent hub summarizes what it is and covers important research from the field.

  • Austinstar profile imageAUTHOR


    4 years ago from Somewhere near the heart of Texas

    Thomas, have you done a hub on cognitive science of religion? I don't know what that is.

  • Thomas Swan profile image

    Thomas Swan 

    4 years ago from New Zealand

    An interesting article for the curious beginner. It was reading Carl Sagan's book, Cosmos, that ignited the two major interests in my life: astrophysics and the psychology of religion (as the book is quite critical of religion). I went into physics soon after, but took it more in the direction of nuclear physics, which was a mistake because I was more interested in astrophysics. Anyway, I now study the cognitive science of religion... so I guess Sagan's power to inspire never left.

  • Austinstar profile imageAUTHOR


    4 years ago from Somewhere near the heart of Texas

    Hey Bob, You know HP now has our names next to our photos at the top of the pages. Helps me a lot! I too, was a great fan of Carl Sagan. And Neil deGrasse Tyson is his protégé. He's like a big teddy bear!

    Hi Nell, I wish I had gone into more physics and math too. I took the path of science in medicine and should have become a doctor, but only got close. I'm retired now.

  • Nell Rose profile image

    Nell Rose 

    4 years ago from England

    Hi, this is definitely the sort of career I would have loved to do. In fact I have just finished watching a program about gravitational waves and how they are studying them in the antarctic. the waves were found, which proved the theory of expansion, but sadly the Planck institute looked into it and now they believe its probably space dust! lol! long story short! so, yes what a great career, if I could go back, it would be astrophysics or quantum physics, great hub! voted up!

  • diogenes profile image


    4 years ago from UK and Mexico

    Interesting article Star...I forget everyone's name, even my own these days (76 and counting...down).

    I will never forget Carl Sagan, he got us all captured and enraptured with space and all its wonders and mysteries. Marvellous series, Cosmos.

    It's quite a relief to let the mind escape this sordid world and wander out to the edge of the Universe...or the beginning of the next. I wonder if we will colonise Mars? It won't be in my lifetime I'm sure, though I may get to hear Sarah carolling aboard a space ship, (Ughh!).

    Good to see you on here.



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