Ask astronomers when they became interested in the field, and most will tell you about an early encounter with the night sky — a comet, a meteor shower, or their first glimpse of another planet. Invariably, a rush of questions followed: Why is the universe organized like it is? How is it evolving? And, of course, are we alone?
For many professional astronomers, the same questions captivate them today. And thanks to advancements in statistics, supercomputers, and telescopes that tap the full range of the electromagnetic spectrum, more and more of these questions are tantalizingly within reach.
In fact, the field of astronomy has exploded in the last half-century. We’ve witnessed the discovery of black holes, giant voids and walls in the universe, and planets outside our solar system. And we’ve devised intriguing theories that require exploration — like dark matter and energy and their role in an expanding universe.
If these questions excite you and you have an aptitude for math and physics, astronomy may be a dream career in more ways than one. In addition to providing the opportunity to do work you love, astronomy has also proven itself a practical path to job security. Data from the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce indicate that, even in the current economy, majors in Astronomy and Astrophysics have a near-zero percent unemployment rate.
Image Credit: NASA, ESA, M. Livio and the Hubble 20th Anniversary Team (STScI)