Five Reasons to Study Astronomy
1. Astronomy helps us approach the big questions
Astronomy is more than mere stargazing. According to ScienceDaily.com’s definition: “Astronomy is the scientific study of celestial objects (such as stars, planets, comets, and galaxies) and phenomena that originate outside the Earth's atmosphere (such as the cosmic background radiation). It is concerned with the evolution, physics, chemistry, meteorology, and motion of celestial objects, as well as the formation and development of the universe.”
One of the most important aspects of astronomy is its ability to help us understand our place in the universe. With each new discovery, we come one step closer to comprehending the vastness of space and all that exists within it. This knowledge can give us a sense of perspective and help us to better understand our own existence.
2. Astronomy can improve people’s everyday lives
That’s not to say astronomy’s benefits are exclusively in the abstract. Its study can also have an immediate impact on how we live today, as evidenced by a recent Universe Today article which set out to prove how astronomy directly affects us. From the iPhone and Kodak film to GPS and defense satellites to MRI technology and the computer language Forth, a breadth and depth of concepts, inventions and applications can be traced back to astronomical roots.
As Dr. Marissa Rosenberg told Universe Today of the critical role of astronomy both in a macroscopic and microscopic context, “Astronomy constantly reminds people of two seemingly contradictory things. First, that the universe is infinite and we are of but the tiniest fraction of importance. And second, that life is rare and precious. A home as beautiful and unique as Earth does not come often. We must protect it.”
3. Astronomy is a gateway to other sciences
Astronomy is often considered the foundation for all other sciences. Knowledge of the stars and other galaxies has been a part of human culture since we first discovered they existed. By studying astronomy, you gain a basic understanding of physics, chemistry, and mathematics – the essential building blocks for more specialized fields of study. It can also be a stepping stone to a career in science or engineering. No matter what you choose to do later in life, astronomy provides you with vital scientific knowledge and transferrable skills.
4. It’s a very diverse field
We’ve already established that astronomy has applications across numerous industries ranging from aerospace and energy to medicine and industry. It follows that there are many different fields within astronomy, as well. Astronomics are often classified according to the astronomical objects they study -- such as solar systems, stars, galaxies, nebulae, etc.
Astronomers also have different skills and specialties. Explains Scholastic, “Many astronomers consider themselves to be either theoreticians, instrumentalists, or observationalists. The theoreticians specialize in creating models using computer programs to simulate a star, or a supernova, or whatever it is that they are studying. The instrumentalists specialize in designing and building new instruments to make measurements or designing new telescopes. The observationalists specialize in obtaining, analyzing, and interpreting the data. Of course there are also some astronomers who do all of these things.”
4. Astronomy is a source of inspiration
The sky and its stars have inspired art, music, and religion throughout the history of mankind. It is no secret that the beauty and mystery of the universe are a source of inspiration for many people. For some, astronomy provides a sense of wonder and awe, while others see it as a way to uncover the secrets of the cosmos. No matter what your motivation - whether it comes from artistic wonder or a wish to understand humanity better - astronomy has the power to change your perspective on everyday life.
5. It’s fulfilling work
Astronomy is a mystery to many people, uniquely positioning astronomers to bridge the awareness gap. As planetarium director Christine Brunello told the American Astronomical Society (AAS) of her work, “Discovering new information about how our universe works is always an incredible experience, but sharing that information is also a source of satisfaction. As a planetarium director, I transport audiences to distant planets and stars daily. I am constantly rewarded by children's amazed gasps and squeals as I make the sky move, and give them their first look at the wonders of the stars. Astronomy is an excellent way of exposing young minds to the thrill of scientific discovery."
6. It offers transferable skills
Admittedly, competition for full-time astronomy jobs is fierce. However, this doesn’t mean a future of unemployability. Continues AAS.org, “In such a small and popular field, only those with a quality education, ability, and passion for the subject are likely to find a permanent position. Astronomy training, however, emphasizes a remarkably broad set of problem-solving skills. With careful selection of graduate school courses and experiences, one may prepare for an interesting and productive career in a related field, such as industrial research, education, and public information.”
7. Astronomy is fun!
Last but not least, astronomy is a fun, constantly changing, and entertaining subject to study. It’s a never-ending journey of discovery, with new revelations about the universe happening all the time. Even after years of study, there is still so much to learn about the universe we live in. If you’re looking for a subject that will keep you engaged and interested, astronomy is definitely it.
How to get a degree in astronomy
There are different levels of astronomy degrees that one can pursue depending on a student's interests and goals. The most common type of degree is a Bachelor of Science in Astronomy, but there are also Master's and Ph.D. programs available for those who want to continue their studies.
Students start by learning about the basics of our Solar System before moving on to more advanced topics like stellar evolution and cosmology. Along the way, they`ll develop a strong understanding of the physics and math that govern everything from the movements of the planets to the behavior of galaxies.
Astronomy is a fascinating and important science that helps us understand the enormity of the universe. It can improve people’s lives by giving them a greater appreciation for our place in the cosmos and helping to answer big questions about existence. Astronomy also offers opportunities for transferable skills and personal growth, making it an enjoyable and fulfilling pursuit. Carl Sagan once said, “We are a way for the cosmos to know itself.” And while a solar eclipse like the one happening today may occur just once in a century, there’s an endless number of other opportunities for discovery out there. If you are interested in studying astronomy, learn more about the different programs available and find the perfect one for you.
This article was updated on 09 May 2022.
Joanna worked in higher education administration for many years at a leading research institution before becoming a full-time freelance writer. She lives in the beautiful White Mountains region of New Hampshire with her family.
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