Astronomy Career Questions

Question: I wanted to ask you if you could help me with some questions about how to become an astronomer?  — Disha

  1. How do you detect black holes? I mean, I know that you use x-rays but how do they function and what types of machines do you use?
  2. What are the main labs or headquarters for NASA?
  3. Is a Ph.D okay for a career in Astronomy?

Answer(s): To answer your first question, astronomers basically look for the affects of a black hole on the objects near it.  For example, we can see stars moving very quickly around an object near the center of our galaxy which is not visible.  Calculations involving how the stars move tell us how massive the object that they are moving around must be.  What we find is that only a black hole can meet the requirements for this mass and still remain unseen.

For your second question, let me refer you to a listing of NASA centers.  Finally, regarding your third question, the answer is yes, a PhD is required to become a professional astrophysical researcher.  There are, though, plenty of jobs that one can pursue in areas related to astrophysical research that do not necessarily require a PhD.  You should also look at a previous post on this subject called “Potential Careers Related to Astronomy”.

Jeff Mangum


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