Question: Hello. I’m a Junior in High school and a sophomore in College. I just recently became interested in the field of astronomy, but I’m having a hard time understanding the different types of astronomy fields there are. I would enjoy to go into the field of planetary or radio astronomy, but was wondering where i could go to understand each of these fields a little better. Also, do you have any suggests for universities that have great astronomy programs? – Sandra
Answer: Great to hear of your interest in studying astronomy. Like specialization of research in other scientific fields, planetary and radio astronomy are specializations associated with the study of particular objects and/or using specific wavelengths for study. Planetary astronomy involves the study of objects in our solar system, and can be defined to include the study of planetary systems outside our solar system (the so-called “extrasolar planets”). Radio astronomy, on the other hand, involves the use of radio frequency measurements to study a wide range of astronomical objects. Radio wavelengths span the range from wavelengths of several meters or more to wavelengths as short as a few hundred microns (sometimes referred to as “submillimeter astronomy”). Every object that is studied using other wavelengths, such as optical wavelengths, can also be studied at radio wavelengths. Regarding your question about universities with good astronomy programs, I can say that there are many! The best way to find a graduate program in astronomy is to look at the web pages for any astronomy program that you might be interested in and look at the research that the faculty in that department are working on. If you find a researcher whose work you find interesting, contact them for more information. Most astronomers are more than happy to discuss their work with students.