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Astronomer

Job Description

Do you want to be the next Patrick Moore? Well, you’re in the right place.

Wearing a monocle like Patrick is optional, but regardless of what kind of facial accessory you choose to sport, your job will be all about discovering the secrets of the universe.

Astronomy is the study of the universe, including stars, planets and other objects beyond the earth and the solar system.

These scientific studies are carried out by means of telescopic observations from ground-based observatories across the world and manned or unmanned space vehicles and inventions, such as the Hubble Telescope.

Essentially, an astronomer’s objective is to observe, record and analyse the fabric of the universe in order to understand its composition and origin.

Astronomers mainly work in large ground-based observatories, built in locations where there is little or no atmospheric and light interference. For instance, observatories are based in Hawaii, Australia and Jodrell Bank in North West England.

Other astronomers may work in research and development facilities, tasked with the interpretation and analysis of data and images that have been captured by telescopes.

Astronomers are also responsible for maintaining the state-of-the-art equipment they use to peer into space, preparing reports, writing research papers and sharing their research findings with the scientific community through academic presentations at astronomy events and conferences.

Salary & benefits

Entry-level astronomers can earn between £19,000 and £28,000 per annum.

However, as you progress and gain more experience, your salary may rise to between £30,000 and £40,000.

Senior astronomers with a wealth of experience can earn upwards of £60,000.  

Working hours

Your working hours are completely dependent on the specific project you are working on; for instance, your time may be dependent on recording certain astronomical events, such as eclipses, comets or other astral bodies coming close to Earth.

Travelling outside of the UK is a regular fixture for astronomers engaged in observation and data recording projects. You may also need to attend events in other countries from time to time so that you can share your knowledge and research with other professional astronomers. 

Entry

Entry into this profession with just a BSc is possible. However, the majority of astronomers usually have multiple qualifications at postgraduate level in subjects such as pure and applied mathematics, physics, astrophysics, statistics or other scientific subjects which involve a healthy amount of quantitative reasoning. 

Training & progression

Opportunities available in this profession are limited, both within the UK and abroad. Consequently, competition is extremely fierce and employers tend to favour academically outstanding candidates and experienced professionals.

Gaining additional credentials from professional bodies such as the Institute of Physics (IOP)Royal Astronomical Society (RAS) or government agencies, such as the Science & Technology Facilities Council, are vital for establishing your reputation and developing your expertise.