Astronomer

South Africa has a long tradition in astronomy due to its favourable climate and geographical location. It is becoming increasingly advanced in this field with the establishment of observational telescopes, in Carnarvan and Sutherland in the Northern Cape Karoo, the latter being the largest in the southern hemisphere. Astronomy investigates celestial objects, space and the physical universe to understand origins and evolution.

Astronomers study matter, space, time, energy, forces and fields and the interrelationship between physical phenomena to further understand the laws governing the universe. They apply these laws to solve practical problems and discover new information about the Earth and its connection to outer space. They also investigate how interstellar dust, gas clouds, planets, stars, galaxies and clusters of galaxies came to exist and how they behave.

Astronomers collaborate with other scientists and carry out research using large telescopes and advanced technologies. The majority of their time is spent in observatories and offices where it is common to work irregular overnight hours for night sky observation.

Skills

Astronomers need to have an excellent understanding of physics, chemistry and mathematical principles and the ability to work with and interpret astronomy specific software, additionally benefiting from:

  • Excellent research capability
  • Strong analytical competence
  • Creative problem-solving ability and innovation
  • Good verbal, written communication and presentation skills

Tasks

Develop and test theories, software and astrological observation techniques

Analyse large quantities of celestial data

Design computer simulations to model physical data

Write scholarly articles based on discoveries and draft funding proposal

Studies

B.Sc., B.Sc. (Hons), M.Sc. in Physics specialising in Astronomy or Astrophysics at NWU, RU, UCT, UFH, UFS, UJ, UKZN,UNISA, Univen, Unizulu, UP and Wits

B.Sc., B.Sc. (Hons), M.Sc. in Applied Mathematics at all universities

B.Sc., B.Sc. (Hons), M.Sc. in Computer Science at NMU, NWU, RU, SPU, SU, UCT, UFH, UKZN, UL, Unizulu, UP, UWC, and Wits

Employers

Astronomical research observatories.

Research institutions.

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