That lucrative career in astronomy

By Phil Plait | July 2, 2007 12:04 pm

Astronomers like me who stick their toes into the waters of public outreach get asked lots of questions, but the most common one is "Do you believe in aliens? " "How do I get a job in astronomy?"

There are lots of answers to that question — I posted one years ago, and it still holds up IMO — and Tony Darnell over at Astronomy Buff just posted his take on it as well. I can’t find too much fault with what he wrote; it dovetails with what I wrote, too. With new observatories going online, we’ll be flooded with far more data than any 100 astronomers can sift through. I hope that the folks in charge of such projects just go ahead and make the data public; that way hordes of online readers can find the gems in the noise.

But we’ll always need trained eyes to work on the data, and to make sure the data are cleaned up nicely and ready for analysis. That’s hard to do automatically and get right 100% of the time — I did it for some time, and it’s tough work, but man, when you find that gem…!

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, Science

Comments (5)

  1. but don’t you also get briefcases of cash dropped off by the black helicopters of the E.A.C.?

  2. I would love a career i science, if I could handle classwork and crunch the math. But I’m very content being part of what astronomy and sciences needs the most of: interested folks who follow it closely.

  3. Hi Phil,

    I agree that we need trained eyes to look at the data, but that’s data analysis. That requires a trained eye as well as a brain to make sense of it.

    What I was referring to was some of the more ‘crank-turning’ aspects of collecting, calibrating, storing and serving data for use by the people trained to understand and interpret it. As you know, there’s a lot that has to be done to the data once it leaves the spacecraft and before anyone can really make sense of it.

    The areas of virtual observatories and data compression are particularly promising. And anyone who understands how to calibrate data would also be in demand, in my opinion.

    Thanks so much for the plug, I really appreciate it.

  4. briefcases of cash! now wouldn’t that be cool!
    :)

  5. Crux Australis

    Not to mention the pay-offs from NASA for shutting up about the Moon landing loonies (intentional pun).

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