An astronomer (Greek ἄστρον astron, star ',' star ' and νόμος nomos, custom ', ' Act ' ) is an ( academically trained as a rule) person who scientifically deals with astronomy.
Main activity of the astronomers
Confining the term astronomer to those scientists who devote themselves full-time astronomy, then are usually two of the following activities Subject of the profession:
- Scientific research in the field of astronomy, especially in astrophysics, astrometry, cosmology or in the region of the solar system or the space The work may consist in observing, in their analysis or in the theoretical field.
The profession of professional astronomers is usually a university degree in astronomy or related natural sciences advance, such as a diploma in physics or astronomy (in Austria ), sometimes degrees in mathematics, geodesy, aeronautics, and others. The writing of a dissertation closes in most cases, because the doctoral degree is often seen as condition of employment.
The job description of astronomers has changed significantly in recent decades. In the past, astronomers observed the heavens mainly by optical telescopes at observatories. Today, most astronomers are working on very specialized topics and use electromagnetic signals from all wavelength ranges of the short-wavelength gamma rays to the longest radio waves. Many measurement data is distributed via the Internet - especially when regular international measurement campaigns such as the IVS - or taken from the grid.
Therefore, astronomers are now working hardly on the telescope itself, but only a comparatively short part of their working in the control rooms of the observatories. The information they provide are usually evaluated and treated outside night services. More and more wins the so-called " service mode observing " (observation on call ) in importance, in which only observation target and type specified, the observations are carried out independently or even automatically to the telescopes or from earth satellites.
Professional and amateur astronomers
Since many students of the subject later work in other fields, it depends on their self-understanding, whether they continue to refer to themselves as an astronomer. To what extent are scientifically active amateur astronomers to name as astronomers in the proper sense, is also open. Especially in earlier centuries is a separation between professional and amateur astronomer little purpose, as is shown by the example of Wilhelm Olbers.
Since astronomy is still a science, which is also marked in the professional field of individual and small research groups, even amateurs with the right skills and equipment have the opportunity to participate. Amateurs are often successful where continuous monitoring is necessary, but because of the cost through large telescopes is hardly feasible professionally, such as asteroids and comets - monitoring or in the field of variable stars and astrometry.
Since astronomers naturally - if not more so pronounced as in former times also by the modern observation and information technology - acts in the night, the work of professional astronomers requires clear rules for service.
The days of "astronomical sleep deprivation " on the also famous astronomers have sometimes complained in their letters or reports, however, are over for the most part. Modern observatories are often equipped with technologies that allow a degree of control or even offer international, such as some observatories in Hawaii or ESO observatories as in Chile. Since visual measurements or checks are only rarely required and electro-optical sensors generally allow a function check by computer or over the Internet, nocturnal working hours are consistently becoming increasingly rare.