In general, astronomers seek an understanding of how the Universe works; from the planets in our own Solar System, to the evolution of stars and nebulae, to whole systems of galaxies, to the properties and fate of the Universe as a whole. Modern astronomy relies upon fields such as physics, chemistry, computer science, and mathematics.
The study of astronomy has not always been considered science nor has it always been legal. There was a time that practicing astronomy could get you tortured or killed for heresy. Today, professional astronomers are highly educated individuals. They usually have a PhD in physics or astronomy and are employed by research institutions or universities. The majority of their time is spent on research, but quite often they have additional duties like teaching, building instruments, or aiding in the operation of an observatory.
Only the very nearest astronomical objects (all within our Solar System) can be reached by spacecraft in a reasonable amount of time. Information about all other objects comes indirectly from earth-bound telescopes or earth-orbiting satellites, which observe light emitted or reflected from such objects. The collection and detailed analysis of this light is key to unlocking the mysteries of the observable Universe. The sole purpose of a telescope is to collect this light; it is the role of the astronomer to analyze and interpret this data.
Filed Under: Cosmo Basics
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