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Astronomer - “space” profession


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Interest in stars, planets, galaxies and the whole Universe can lead you to the fact that astronomy will become your profession, and not just a hobby. And this is a good opportunity to gain recognition in the world, as well as make important discoveries. But in order to become an astronomer, you need a good education and the ability to learn. To do this, focus on certain areas of science.

Profession Features

Astronomy is the science of the structure and development of cosmic bodies, their systems and the universe.

Astronomer is a very rare profession.

The theoretical astronomer is engaged in theoretical astronomy, cosmology (the science of the birth and development of the Universe and the objects in it). He summarizes the data obtained during the observations.

Observing astronomers are developing a methodology for observing, extracting veils, which then become the basis for scientific conclusions and hypotheses.

The specific work of an astronomer depends on specialization. There are many areas: cosmology, celestial mechanics and stellar dynamics, astrophysics, radio astronomy, physics of galaxies, stars, astronomical instrumentation.

However, astronomy will not be developed without the constant development of technology. The development of new observational instruments is carried out by engineers (astronomers, "instrumentation").

Astronomy is closely connected with other exact sciences, first of all with mathematics, physics and some branches of mechanics, using the achievements of these sciences and, in turn, influencing their development.

The career path of a Russian astronomer is the same as in any other field of science: university studies, postgraduate studies, master's theses, defense, scientific work, doctoral studies, etc. With the acquisition of a new scientific title, the qualification category also grows, from which first of all salary depends.

In addition to astronomy itself, there are applied specialties directly or indirectly related to this science (Space and Information Technology, Astronomogeodesy, Research of Natural Resources by Aerospace Tools, Space and Information Technology).


Russian astronomers work at the State Astronomical Institute. PC. Sternberg (GAISH) Moscow State University named after M.V. Lomonosov Institute of Space Research, Institute of Astronomy and Physical Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences, the Main (Pulkovo) Astronomical Observatory, the Special Astrophysical Observatory of the Russian Academy of Sciences in the North Caucasus.

Short story

"Astronomy" is a word of ancient Greek origin. This is the name of science that studies celestial bodies and the laws of their motion. Stars and planets have interested man since ancient times. This is evidenced by written sources that have survived to this day. Scientists date the first mentions of astronomical observations to the 8th century BC. However, discoveries in this area were made 3 thousand years ago BC. For example, over 2 thousand years BC, the ancient Chinese learned to predict the dates of eclipses of the moon and the sun. Historians attribute such an early and rapid development of astronomy to the acute need for knowledge in man, which is important for safe travel and successful farming.

Among the first applied developments in astronomy is the lunar-solar calendar, as well as the gnomon, a special tool with which you can determine the height of the Sun. When the sundial appeared, the latter became an important part of it.

Profession Description

Today, representatives of this profession are not at all like ancient stargazers. Of course, they work with a telescope, viewing celestial bodies and the depths of space into it. But they spend only a couple of hours on it. What then do they do in the remaining time? The main task of an astronomer is to process the data that he received as a result of observations. In addition, he must:

  • to simulate the processes occurring in space,
  • make formulas, carry out mathematical calculations,
  • make cards of the starry sky.

Among professional astronomers there are those who are developing new apparatuses and devices for improving the observation of celestial bodies and the processing of information received. There are also those who are creating new research methods in the field of astronomy.

Representatives of this profession are conditionally divided into theorists and observers:

  1. The field of activity of theoretical astronomers extends to theoretical astronomy and cosmology (a science that studies the birth and development of the Universe, as well as the objects in it). They are engaged in the synthesis of data that are obtained as a result of observations.
  2. The tasks of observers include the development of observation techniques, the extraction of facts that subsequently form the basis of scientific hypotheses.

What exactly the astronomer will do depends on the specialization that he will choose for himself. Among the main areas of astronomy can be identified:

  • cosmology
  • celestial mechanics and stellar dynamics,
  • astrophysics
  • radio astronomy
  • physics of galaxies and stars,
  • astronomical instrumentation.

Human resources alone are not enough for the development of astronomy. Science will decline if not given due attention to the continuous improvement of technology. New observational instruments are being developed by engineers. They are also called astronomers, "instrumentation".

There are not so many places for employing an astronomer in Russia. The best specialists work in such institutions:

  • State Astronomical Institute. P. Sternberg at Moscow State University. M. Lomonosov.
  • Institute of Astronomy of the Russian Academy of Sciences.
  • Space Research Institute.
  • Special Astrophysical Observatory of the Russian Academy of Sciences in the North Caucasus.
  • Home (Pulkovo) astronomical observatory.

To become an astronomer, love of the stars alone will not be enough. Only a person with the appropriate higher education can receive such a position. Keep in mind that astronomy is impossible to do without a deep knowledge and understanding of mathematical methods. Therefore, you will need specialized technical education. It is also necessary to pre-determine the specialization. You can study astrophysics, astrobiology, astrochemistry and so on. To improve their professional level, physics students are encouraged to additionally engage in specialized courses.

You can get higher education in one of the many institutes and universities of Russia. Focus on the mechanics and mathematics and physics and mathematics departments or institutes in such universities:

  • National Research University Higher School of Economics.
  • National Research Nuclear University MEPhI.
  • Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology (MIPT).
  • Moscow State Technical University N. Bauman.
  • National Research Technological University "MISiS".
  • St. Petersburg State University.
  • Moscow State University M. Lomonosov.

The training of a young specialist involves an in-depth study of mechanics, statistics and higher mathematics. The initial stage of astronomer training is practically no different from the training of a mathematician or physicist. Subjects that are directly related to work in an observatory or the study of astrophysics will appear after mastering the basic ones.

To enter a university and study as an astronomer, you will need to pass an exam in Russian, mathematics and physics. Try to score maximum points. Then you will have a good chance to go on a budget form of training.

Range of duties

The main duty of an astronomer is to study the position of celestial bodies in space, to determine their orbits and trajectories of motion. He must track any changes, in particular, the appearance in the field of view of any unknown foreign object. Its task is to obtain information that would help to make scientific discoveries and develop new, more advanced, methods of conducting observations.

An important part of the astronomer’s activity is the processing of the data that he receives in the process of working with the telescope and other devices. It is produced using special computer programs. Despite automation, this is a very painstaking work that requires utmost care. The duties of the astronomer also include the analysis of the results that were obtained as a result of the calculations.


Previously, during the Soviet era, special astronomical calendars were printed in which one could read about the astronomical events of the year, in the printed literature one could also find star maps with marked the most interesting objects. At present, it is much easier to use a personal computer for this purpose, which, with certain programs, can be turned into a full-fledged planetarium. There are quite a lot of them, let us dwell on the most interesting ones.

This is a free program, which is a realistic sky simulator, the program features are sufficient for almost any needs of a novice astronomy lover.

Program distributions are available for various platforms - from Windows to MacOS. Installation does not cause any difficulties, the only thing that is important to note is that you need to configure your location in the program settings, for which it is desirable to know the coordinates (latitude and longitude), otherwise the program will not be able to correctly show the sky at the desired point. It’s easy to find out your coordinates using the Google Maps service. It is also necessary that the time and time zone are correctly configured on the computer.

The features of the program are truly amazing. You can configure various display modes, get information on any selected object, you can even zoom in on any object. The program can even become a kind of “time machine” - you can shift the time to any date and see how the sky will change in a week or what a solar eclipse will look like in a year ...

You can also, accelerating the passage of time, watch how objects sweep across the sky, how day and night change.

Redshift 7
This program has great capabilities, including direct control of the telescope, printing of star charts, built-in lectures on astronomy, and a three-dimensional “flight” mode through space. However, Redshift is not free, is it worth it to purchase this version, everyone can decide for himself.

These programs are more than enough to roughly determine which objects will be available during the night for observation. It is recommended to print fragments of maps of the most interesting areas in advance, because it is extremely undesirable to use a computer during observations - your eyes should get used to the dark. It is also recommended to get a red flashlight, it will allow you to navigate in the dark without irritating the eyes (red light is considered the most favorable). The "astronomical" flashlight can either be bought or made from the usual one by painting the glass with nail polish, the second method is much cheaper and no worse in quality.


Using a telescope, you can observe many different celestial objects, try to break them into several categories.

moon and sun
The moon is the most accessible object for observation, lunar landscapes look very beautiful under a large increase. To make observations more meaningful, you can download the free program “Virtual Atlas of the Moon”, with its help you can find various objects and get information about them.

The sun is no less interesting and mysterious object for observation. Unlike the Moon, this is a much more dynamic world, spots appear and disappear in the sun, prominences can be seen on the edge of the disk, the appearance of which also gradually changes.

If you observe the Sun for several days in a row, you can easily see the rotation of the solar disk, and with a camera, it is easy to calculate the period of rotation of the Sun. It is extremely important - you can look at the Sun through a telescope only if you have a special protective filter, without it it is strictly forbidden to direct the telescope towards the Sun! What can be otherwise with the eye, it is easy to see if you conduct a simple experiment with a magnifying glass and a piece of paper ... A special filter can be purchased in astroproduction stores, with it, observations are completely safe.

For those who want to seriously engage in solar observations, specialized solar telescopes are produced; they have narrow-band filters that allow you to see finer details of the surface of the body, but the price of such telescopes is quite high.

Planets are also an observable object. The polar caps of Mars, the rings of Saturn, the moons of Jupiter - these objects are easily accessible with an amateur telescope. The brightest moons of Jupiter - Io, Europe, Ganymede and Callisto - for example, were discovered by Galileo as early as 1610, and even more so for modern telescopes they are not difficult. Farther planets are somewhat more difficult to see, but finding them from this can only be more interesting.

Deep space objects
No less interesting than the elements of the solar system may be more distant objects. For example, galaxies that are even larger than ours, gas and dust nebulae, star clusters ...

There are a lot of such objects, hundreds and thousands, and the question may arise, where is it better to start. Great help to novice explorers of the starry sky was provided by the French astronomer Charles Messier, who as early as 1774 had compiled a list of 110 of the most striking and interesting objects. This catalog is still relevant today, it is included in all reference books on astronomy, the coordinates of all Messier objects are also stored in the memory of modern computerized telescopes.

Unfortunately, in the conditions of modern cities, it is quite difficult to observe many nebulae, the haze in the sky from exhaust gases and the illumination from many lamps almost completely “clog” the light from weak objects. One can only advise periodically taking the telescope out of town, where you can see much more. Alas, the smog cloud of a large city is so large that it is necessary to drive off at least 20-30 kilometers to see a more or less clear sky. However, the brightest objects, such as the Orion Nebula, are also visible in the city.

It is interesting to note that the sky is not static, it moves and changes, and with regular observations the expression “celestial mechanics” acquires a completely visible meaning. You can see the rotation of the satellites of the planets, the shadows that they cast, some lovers are engaged in photographing the movement of flying meteors, comets, with the help of cameras it is possible to record changes in the brightness of some variable stars. You can also observe the flights of artificial Earth satellites, and using the Orbitron program to determine which satellite will be visible at a particular time.

Of course, for more meaningful observations, it is advisable to refer to special literature to learn about various objects in more detail. As the French scientist Arago said, "astronomy is a happy science, it does not need jewelry." The starry sky is really impressive, and studying it with a telescope is a great way to spend family time.

The author hopes that among a huge number of objects of the starry sky, everyone will find the most interesting for himself. Have a nice observation!

Salary on 07.24.2019

Astronomers are trained by the physical and mechanical-mathematical faculties of the leading universities of the country: Moscow, St. Petersburg, Kazan, Yekaterinburg.

However, universal astronomers in Moscow are trained only at the astronomy department of the physics department of Moscow State University. M.V. Lomonosov.

Knowledge, skills and personal qualities

First of all, an astronomer should like to study celestial bodies and phenomena. Love for the profession is the best motivator for achievement and professional growth. For quality work, he also needs an analytical mindset. Without it, it will be extremely difficult to make calculations without errors. Inborn analytical skills are great. But in order to successfully perform complex calculations, a specialist must be well versed in physics and mathematics. Since the results of the astronomer’s work cannot be seen and appreciated immediately, he will need such personal qualities as determination, patience and perseverance.

A competent and clear statement of thoughts is what the astronomer also needs to master. After all, writing scientific articles for collections and journals, making presentations at conferences is the responsibility of a scientist. Good English is required, as in the course of work you sometimes have to communicate with foreign colleagues. Conferences and other scientific events can be held in different countries of the world. Поэтому специалисту следует быть готовым к командировкам.

Если вы хотите достичь успеха в астрономии, нужно отлично разбираться сразу в нескольких сферах. Mathematics and physics, as they say, are by default. Additionally, one must have knowledge of computer science and biology. In addition, the astronomer will have to work with modern computer programs and technologies. They help simulate processes that are not observable. Therefore, he needs to learn how to use them correctly. Talking about owning a personal computer will be clearly superfluous. Without this skill, it is impossible to successfully graduate from a university, not to get a job.


The size of the salary of any researcher directly depends on the level of his qualification, the availability of a scientific degree and work experience. The astronomer is no exception. But the salary of such a specialist is low. The average salary of an astronomer in Russia is from 11 thousand to 35 thousand rubles. In Moscow and St. Petersburg, the level of remuneration for representatives of the "space" profession ranges from 15 thousand to 50 thousand rubles.

Today, research in the field of astronomy is very active - new programs are opening, discoveries are being made. For their significant contribution to astronomical research, the best of the best have repeatedly been awarded the Nobel Prizes. As of 2017, the size of this premium was 1.118 million US dollars.

Career building

A vertical career for an astronomer is a rarity and hardly ever occurs. Basically, the career ladder of such specialists has a horizontal orientation. Some of them, traveling on a business trip abroad, remain there to work as a full-time employee. However, this can hardly be considered a career in the classical sense of the word. In this case, it is rather about improving working conditions.

In Russia, astronomers can work at an observatory, a space research institute, a research and development center, and even a planetarium. If there is a penchant for pedagogy, such a specialist may well teach a university course, training future astronomers. Since most representatives of this profession possess knowledge and skills in several areas at once, they are very valuable in related industries: IT, engineering, astrogeodesy, and so on. There are enough professions related to astronomy.

Career prospects

Today, the profession of an astronomer is rapidly gaining momentum in popularity and demand. Without exaggeration, we can even talk about a real astronomical boom. Modern technologies and more powerful optical telescopes allow you to make discoveries much more often than before. Scientists were able to consider the dark side of the moon. The Mars rover "Curiosity" has been walking on Mars for several years, regularly supplying important data to specialists. Constantly there are reports of the discovery of "doubles" of the Earth. Asteroids and black holes are being studied. The work of astronomers, astrophysicists and other workers in the space industry is in full swing and does not stop even for a minute.

The profession of an astronomer is ideal for those who like the secrets and mysteries of space. The Universe still has a lot of them.