Astronomer Job Description: Top Duties and Qualifications

An Astronomer, or Astrophysicist, is a scientist who studies solar systems, galaxies, stars, planets and other celestial objects. Their duties include researching how the universe works, formulating hypotheses and testing them through observation and using theoretical models based on physics and chemistry to learn about specific astronomical phenomena.

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Astronomer Duties and Responsibilities

An Astronomer uses telescopes and space-based instruments to observe the planets, galaxies, stars and other celestial bodies. They study the origins of the universe, time, the life cycle of suns, black holes and others. Astronomers perform scientific experiments to prove theories, find properties of matter and different forms of energy. 

Here are examples of an Astronomer’s duties:

  • Plan, design and conduct observational experiments, as well as analyze telescope, radio and satellite data.
  • Develop computer models to test and prove theories of spaces processes.
  • Create and deploy software and instrumentation to observe and analyze space bodies and processes.
  • Collaborate with other Astronomers, Scientists, Technicians and Computer Engineers to design, develop, implement and maintain hardware and software products for astronomy.
  • Develop, deploy and update operational standards and guidelines for lab activities.
  • Test new equipment and operational guidelines of data gathering systems.
  • Supervise non-scientists with a detailed explanation of engineering and astronomical requirements during project execution.
  • Prepare reports on activities of teams, test performance and recommend strategies to improve results.

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Astronomer Job Description Examples

 

Example 1

*Job Title: Astronomer Engineer* *Location: Boston, MA * *Full time/Permanent * Relevant Experience
  • Scientific data processing, pipelines, and workflows
  • Use of astronomical archives for research
  • Astronomical imaging and/or spectroscopic data
  • Relational databases (SQL)
  • Software and programming languages such as Python, MS SQL Server, or other technologies
  • Familiarity with Linux operating system
  • Experience with the following is helpful but not required:
  • Familiarity with large data sets and associated analysis methods
  • Cloud computing on platforms such as Amazon Web Services (AWS)
  • Working with teams in an agile/scrum environment.
  • Data science methods such as machine learning
  • Astronomical instrumentation and observational techniques
  • System configuration management (DevOps) Skills
  • Scientific data processing, pipelines, and workflows
  • Use of astronomical archives for research
  • Astronomical imaging and/or spectroscopic data
  • Relational databases (SQL)
  • Software and programming languages such as Python, MS SQL Server, or other technologies Job Type: Full-time Salary: $130.00 - $145.00 per year Schedule: * Monday to Friday Work Remotely: * Temporarily due to COVID-19
  • Example 2

    Job Description: Aerodyne Industries is a dynamic, rapidly growing engineering and information technology services firm headquartered on Florida’s exciting Space Coast. With locations throughout the US, we take pride in delivering small business agility with large corporation capabilities. Our list of clients count on us to prepare NASA’s Mission to the Moon and Mars and defend our nation supporting the Missile Defense Agency and Department of Defense. Join the adventure of a lifetime by becoming a teammate with Aerodyne Industries and work on projects that will define our future. *Overview: * As an Astronomer, the candidate will assist the Meteoroid Environment Office (MEO), located within the MSFC Natural Environments Branch/EV44, in defining the meteoroid environment as it pertains to spacecraft design and risk. The candidate will carry out fundamental/original research in the meteor/meteoroid discipline, develop software and tools to analyze meteor-related data, conduct any required astronomical observations, and respond with quick-turnaround analyses of bright meteor events (“skyfalls”) occurring over the United States. *Duties will include the following: * * Developing, and assisting in the development of, models and simulations pertaining to the meteoroid environment, including meteoroid structure/properties and the Solar System small bodies associated with meteoroids. * Analyzing observational data collected from telescopes, cameras, radiometers or other instrumentation. * Conducting observations of meteors and their parent bodies; monitoring the Moon for flashes caused by meteoroid impacts. * Presenting results to the NASA customer and at conferences. * Publishing results in the appropriate journals. * Delivering quick-turnaround of skyfall events to the MEO customer. *Job Requirements: ** Qualifications: * Must have received a Doctorate degree in Astronomy, Physics, or similar field from an accredited institution, along with having at least five years’ experience in said fields. *The successful candidate **MUST**: * * Have at least 2 first author publications in a peer-reviewed journal. * Have extensive experience coding in *Python* and be familiar with software tools such as Git. * Have a good knowledge of statistics. * Have some experience in operating telescopes or observational astronomy coursework. * Have strong customer relations skills. * Have the ability to multi-task and transition between quick turnaround assignments. * Show initiative and be proactive to make connections and build relationships with key players on the tasks. * Demonstrate strong technical writing and presentation skills in order to present data to internal and external customers. * Demonstrate the capability to plan and perform analyses independently and within a team. * Research experience in *Solar System* small bodies is highly desired. *Essential functions: * Telework, transitioning to an office environment at MSFC once COVID protocols are lifted. This is a support position at MSFC in Huntsville, Alabama. The applicant should expect remote/on site work to be dictated by assigned tasks, and is expected to live in or near Huntsville, Alabama. Requires ability to provide clear, concise, accurate and timely communication, both verbally and in writing (100%). Requires ability to interact professionally with co-workers, management, and client (100%). Requires sitting for extended periods in meetings with peers, management, and with our client at NASA facilities to discuss technical issues (10%). Also, requires sitting for extended periods at a desk to write reports and perform engineering tasks (70%), and sitting at an observatory to conduct overnight astronomical observations (5%). Requires ability to use stairs or elevators for access between floors and multiple buildings at NASA and Jacobs facilities (10%). Potential exists to travel to other US government facilities and to conferences (5%). *Other Essential Functions: * The ability to work independently with minimal supervision, and to make rational decisions, and to exercise good judgment is essential (100%). Grooming and dress must be appropriate for the position and must not impose a safety risk/hazard to the employee or others. Job Type: Full-time

    What Does an Astronomer Do?

    Astronomers can specialize in a range of subjects related to space and the universe including theoretical astronomy, solar astronomy, planetary astronomy, stellar astronomy and galactic cosmology. Astronomers can work in a laboratory or classroom environment where they analyze data, or do fieldwork at an observatory where they can observe planets and stars using powerful telescopes and cameras. They collaborate with mathematicians and physicists to develop technology and contribute to current knowledge about the natural behavior of the universe and different heavenly bodies. They explain complex theories to their colleagues, write reports on their findings and give presentations on their research.

    Astronomer Skills and Qualifications

    A successful Astronomer will have various prerequisite skills and qualifications needed for their job duties. The right candidate will have a high-level of problem-solving skills and an in-depth knowledge of research and data analysis. They must be grounded in mathematics, physics and the sciences, proficient in science-related software programs and be able to work within a team. 

    Here are common Astronomer skills and qualifications:

    • Ph.D. in astronomy, physics, mathematics or related field
    • 5-10 years’ in a postdoctoral research position
    • Excellent research skills and an ability to solve complex problems
    • Proficiency in using astronomy, mathematical and physics software packages
    • Data analysis and computer modeling
    • Strong communication and collaborative skills

    Astronomer Salary Expectations

    The data is not available for the average annual Astronomer salary. However, Astronomers are specialized professionals and receive excellent salaries. They often work in research institutions, universities, observatories, labs and other science-related fields. They can be Researchers, Professors, Civil Servants or Field Scientists. Pay varies based on seniority, the area of specialization, geographical location and employer, among other factors. 

    Astronomer Education and Training Requirements

    Depending on the position, Astronomers require a bachelor’s, master’s or doctorate degree in astronomy. Candidates can specialize in a specific area of astronomy including stellar and planetary physics, astrophysics, cosmology, optics and interstellar medium. They need a solid background in mathematics including calculus, statistics and algebra, and excellent computer skills such as data analysis and modeling. 

    Top candidates will have postdoctoral research experience, especially when applying for industrial and government positions. They require an extensive knowledge of industry specific software tools to analyze and model data from ground and space-based equipment. Astronomers have to be proficient researchers and writers because they must consistently read, write, publish and present scientific papers at conferences. 

    Astronomer Experience Requirements

    A successful Astronomer will be an adept researcher and excel at solving complex problems. The job requires an excellent understanding of the fundamental principles of physics and mathematics and how they relate to the universe. 

    Experienced Astronomers will have a good working knowledge of the industry’s computer programs to aid in the analysis, modeling and troubleshooting of data from multiple sources. They are also excellent communicators because their work requires seamless collaboration with several teams of scientists and engineers across different time zones. 

    A great Astronomer will understand the different aspects of astronomy and how they can answer big questions about the universe and its elements.

    Job Description Samples for Similar Positions

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    Frequently asked questions about Astronomers

     

    What are the daily duties of an Astronomer?

    Astronomers can have different responsibilities depending on their field of study, but a typical day for an astronomer generally involves a few key duties. Astronomers may dedicate a few hours every week working with a telescope or teaching astronomy concepts in the classroom, but they spend most of their time at a computer using advanced software to analyze data on planetary movement and different phenomena. When working in the field, they make meticulous notes and take photographs so that they can share their findings with others.

    Additionally, Astronomers read scientific research and new theories related to space so that they can stay informed on developments in their field and apply them to their research projects. They attend conferences to learn the latest updates and discuss theories, best practices and new technologies with their peers.

     

    Who does an astronomer report to ?

    Depending on where they work, Astronomers can report to senior colleagues in their field, a university director or their organization’s Chief Science Officer. As academics, Astonomers are highly collaborative with other scientists and may not always report to a superior in the workplace.

     

    Where do astronomers work?

    Astronomers work in three main environments: education, government and the private sector. Astronomers who enjoy teaching others about the universe can work at colleges, high schools and science museums, either full-time or in addition to a research-based position. Government-sponsored labs and observatories hire Astronomers to develop national intelligence, refine equipment designs and develop new research methods. Astronomers can also build a career working at aerospace firms and private consulting companies, providing scientific advice for projects related to space travel and satellite development.

     

    Is astronomy a good career?

    Astronomy is a good career for people who are interested in how the universe works, enjoy working out complex theoretical problems and like to spend time in academic settings. Long-term, being an Astronomer can be both financially lucrative and intellectually stimulating. Astronomers who work at a university have the option to apply for tenure, which gives them reliable job stability and academic freedom to study and teach the topics that they find most interesting and benefit their research career. People who are good at math, creative, inquisitive and analytical can make excellent Astronomers.

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