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What is Astronomy?

When you look up at the sky at night, you see the stars as pretty sparkling lights. An astronomer admires the beauty of the celestial objects and learns what they are and how they work. An astronomer tries to /understand and interpret the universe.

  • Astronomy is a natural science dealing with all the celestial bodies in the universe. It is a study of the movement, nature and structure of celestial bodies.

  • It uses math, physics and chemistry to explain their origins and development. It is also a study of the laws that govern them and their mutual influence.

What do Astronomers do?

  • As civilizations developed, astronomical observatories were put together. Ideas about the nature of the universe began to develop. The earliest astronomy was to map the positions of the stars and planets. Science is now known as astrometry. From these observations, early ideas about the movements of the planets were formed. The nature of the sun, moon and earth in the universe was philosophically researched.

  • Originally, astronomy was limited to a very tight regime. The only signals we could receive were visible light. Even after the invention of the telescope, astronomy was limited to what we could see in visible light.

  • They seek to crack the past history of heavenly bodies and their possible future development. Although the use of modern technology and new devices has made astronomy a specialized field of research, this is indeed a very old science.

  • Modern astronomical research requires work in the field of theoretical and observational physics. Most astronomers focus on a specific question or area of astronomy.

  • Observation astronomers design and run observation programs. They use a telescope or spacecraft to answer a question or test the predictions of theories. The actual time spent on a telescope to collect data for analysis is the beginning. Observational astronomy focuses on the acquisition of data from observations of astronomical objects.

  • Theoretical astronomers develop models to describe astronomical objects and phenomena. They try to explain results, and observations are used to confirm results.

What are the Branches of Astronomy?

  • Astrochemistry: a branch of astronomy and chemistry dealing with the chemical composition and evolution of the universe and its parts.

  • Astrogeology: the science dealing with the structure and composition of planets and other bodies in solar system astronomy

  • Astro meteorology is the study of the theoretical effects of bodies and astronomical forces on the Earth's atmosphere.

  • Astrometry: a branch of astronomy that measures the position and movement of celestial bodies.

  • Astrobiology: studying life beyond the Earth's atmosphere like on a planet

Astronomy and astrophysics have made important interdisciplinary links with other important fields of science.

  • Archaeoastronomy is the study of ancient or traditional astronomy in its cultural context. This is done using archaeological and anthropological evidence.

  • Astrostatistics is the application of statistics to astrophysics. The objective is to analyze a large amount of astrophysical observatory data.

  • One branch of amateur astronomy, amateur astrophotography, involves photographing the night sky.

Astrophysics is a very broad subject. Astrophysicists generally apply many disciplines, including

  • Mechanics

  • Electromagnetism

  • Statistical Mechanics

  • Thermodynamics

  • Quantum Mechanics

  • Relativity

  • Nuclear And Particle Physics

  • And Atomic And Molecular Physics

What are the Admission and Eligibility criteria?

  • For pursuing a career in Theoretical Astronomy/observations, a B.Sc. in Physics and /or Mathematics after 10 + 2 is preferable. Master’s level course in Astronomy with specialization in Theoretical Astronomy is offered by various institutes and universities. 

  • To pursue a career in Instrumentation/Experimental Astronomy, a Bachelor of Engineering (BE)/Btech after 10 + 2 will give an advantage. Then one can appear for the Joint Entrance Screening Test (JEST) examination, which makes one eligible to do specialization in astronomy leading to Ph. D.

Top institute offering this course in India are -

  • Physical Research Laboratory, Ahmedabad

  • Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Mumbai

  • Raman Research Institute, Bangalore

  • Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore

  • Indian Institute of Astrophysics, Bangalore

  • Mahatma Gandhi University, Kottayam

  • Osmania University, Hyderabad

  • Pondicherry University

  • Aligarh Muslim University

What are the job opportunities and career prospects in India?

There is an urgent need for young astronomy scientists. After completing your post-graduation or PhD you can aspect options in following fields

  • Experience with highly developed astronomical instruments and know-how in computer programming and data processing can be valuable capital for jobs in the industry.

  • Astronomers at leading universities are an important source of astronomical research. National observatories and research facilities provide astronomers with observations. Others, such as theoretical astrophysicists, may not even work with observation devices. They do much of their astronomical research with supercomputers. There will be more free places for astronomy specialists at universities, especially in physics faculties. After qualifying UGC NET or other exams, you can teach in universities as lecturers

  • Research institutes and government organisations hire professionals from Astronomy background for different research programmes

How much will you earn?

  • Avg. Salary in India - Rs 316,657/yr

  • Avg. Entry-level Salary (less than 1 year) - Rs 216,000/yr

  • Avg. Early Career Salary (1-4 years) - Rs ?295,088/yr

  • Mid Career Salary (5-9 years) - Rs 412,599/yr

  • Experienced Salary (10-19 years) - Rs 684,000/yr

How to prepare and what are the study material and books available?

  • Introduction to Quantum Mechanics by David J Griffiths

  • Mathematical Methods for Physicists 7th Edition by George Arfken

  • For Electrodynamics by David J Griffiths

  • Concepts in Thermal Physics 2E by Blundell Stephen

  • Concepts Understanding: Feynman Lectures in Physics

  • Classical mechanics by HC Verma and Goldstein

  • Fermilab at 50 / edited by Swapan Chattopadhyay and Joseph David Lykken

  • Gosson, Maurice de Emergence of the quantum from the classical: mathematical aspects of quantum processes /by Maurice de Gosson. - New Jersey: World Scientific, 2018

  • Petrini, Michela A guide to mathematical methods for physicists:   Advanced topics and applications / by Michela Petrini, Gianfranco Pradisi and Alberto Zaffaroni. - New Jersey: World Scientific, c2019

Interesting Facts

According to NASA inclusion report, 8% of the total employees of NASA are from Asian American communities (Includes Chinese, Indians and others).