How often should I study astronomy?

Hey there! My goal is to become an astrophysicist so I have a few questions for all of you astronomy experts out there.

1)how often should I study astronomy compared to physics?

2) what are the major math subjects I need to know?

3) Do you have any tips?

7 Answers

  • 9 years ago
    Favorite Answer

    <QUOTE>1)how often should I study astronomy compared to physics?</QUOTE>

    As often as you like. When you study at your own pace it becomes easier and more pleasurable. However, you should indeed mix both.

    If you're starting off, I'd say pick an astronomy book, a math book (which includes at least trigonometry) and a physics book, and for every hour of astronomy take about two hours worth of math and two hours worth of physics. That's a ballpark figure, not a hard number. It might seem excessive to study so much math and physics, but beyond the "awe and beauty" of astronomy you'll really find yourself at a loss without having a solid background in mathematics and in several physics subjects (mechanics, optics and electromagnetism, thermodynamics and some atomic and nuclear physics but not so much). The later subjects become more significant in some subjects of astrophysics (e.g. how stars work, etc.).

    <QUOTE>2) what are the major math subjects I need to know?</QUOTE>

    In the first chapters of any astronomy book, you'll find it discussing quite a lot of observational astronomy, i.e. really "astronomy" in the sense of MEASURING stuff in the sky and giving it names. Particularly history -- e.g. observations by Tycho Brahe, Johannes Kepler, etc. It also discusses measurements of angles, and so on -- so it often uses geometry in general and trigonometry in particular, and some algebra in the mix.

    Later on, to the more complicated subjects, you'll find yourself using calculus. If you go into the serious stuff such as the most basic models of how stars work, with the physics part of it you'll find yourself using differential calculus (derivatives), which is basically relating variations of quantities. The thermodynamics math is somewhat more straightforward and looks more algebra-ey than calculus-ey.

    If you happen to go into cosmology (large scale universe) you'll be going into general relativity mostly, and there you'll be using differential geometry (tensor calculus).

    <QUOTE>3) Do you have any tips?</QUOTE>

    You'll have plenty of time to master the later subjects. By all means feel free to read the more advanced materials, but if you don't get those leave them alone or just pass through them without trying to understand it right away, and come back later.

    Gerard t'Hooft has a webpage

    about how to study to become a theoretical physicist. It's not exactly astronomy, but it's somewhat related, and it hints at a tour guide of which subjects to pick. You can use it later on after you get acquianted for, say, one year of reading about astronomy and learning some basic geometry and trigonometry and algebra.

    The idea is: if you find yourself struggling too much against it, put it aside and pick SOMETHING ELSE and come back later on to give it a try. Ask questions if you have them.

    A few books you might want to give some look into:


    - (this one is college level physics, but the first three chapters are quite readable and you might want to take a look into them).

    If they're too advanced for you, feel free to pick others. In that case, I recommend you pick books that focus on the OBSERVATIONAL astronomy, i.e. how to find constellations with your eyes, how to identify planets in the sky with your eyes, how to buy and use a binoculars or small telescope, etc, and leave the more advanced stuff for later on.

  • eri
    Lv 7
    9 years ago

    There are very few jobs in astrophysics if you don't have a PhD in astronomy or physics (and not that many even if you do). In college, major in physics. Take the courses they have in astronomy, and if they have an astronomy major, double major, but it doesn't matter if they don't. It does help to have at least one astrophysicist on the faculty, however - you'll need research experience at your school and others to be competitive for graduate school. The physics major, however, is essential - pretty much all astronomy and physics PhD programs require a high score on the physics GRE, and you need a physics major to do well on it. As far as math goes, you'll need calc I and II, linear algebra, differential equations, and a few semester of math for physicists at undergraduate and graduate levels. You'll also need basic programming skills (computer science). Don't bother unless you love it - it's a lot of time spent in school for a job that you might not be able to get after earning the PhD. I'd recommend a PhD in physics - it's a lot more versatile, and you can still study astronomy to get it.

    Source(s): astrophysicist
  • Anonymous
    9 years ago

    1) It does not matter, because anything in physics applies to astronomy as well

    2) a) Algebra

    b) geometry

    c) calculus

    3) I used to DESPISE doing math. The concept that you were suppose to things with numbers, other than count them, was an emotional shock to me in the first grade in 1958, because I didn't understand what my teacher was talking about. That is NOT my mother's fault. My mom, DID try to teach me how to some basic arithmetic, but I just didn't have the attention span when I was three and four years old. My mom didn't doing math that much either, although she did teach algebra one semester. She was a science teacher. I developed math testing anxiety VERY early. In timed math tests my brain would "freeze" at some point, and I would start to panic that I might not finish the test. I had this problem through undergraduate college and taking and passing FOUR semesters of calculus. I didn't start to understand that I might not be dumb in math, I just didn't have the aptitude in math that I had in verbal aptitude. I took German while I was in college. When I was working on my second bachelors degree and taking calculus, I made the connection in my mind that math is a LOT like a foreign language. I could tear a mathematical equation apart into terms I could understand, and then translate it back into a mathematical equation. The problem was that it would take me a LOT more time for me to do that than it would for someone else that I higher mathematical aptitude. I am NOT dumb in math.

    I read "A Wrinkle in Time" when I was 13 years old. The concept of a hypercube/tesseract (a four SPATIAL dimension cube) fascinated me. That flame of curiosity was the beginning of my NOT despising math more than a decade later.

    IF you are fascinated with something, you'll WANT to do it. The concept of devoting several hours to something that you may not be fascinated with just because you want to get a job in a particular field means that you really should try to find something that really DOES fascinate you, so you can work to get a job in THAT field. Astronomy does NOT bring you lots of money. People in astronomy, both professionals and amateurs, do astronomy because they love astronomy.

    Source(s): See the education part of my profile if you are interested
  • Serious astronomy and astrophysics requires a lot of preparatory education in math and in physics. You should skip the early "ohh-ahh-pretty" undergraduate electives in astronomy.

    You'll need to understand algebra, trigonometry, differential and integral calculus, differential equations (ordinary, partial, linear, non-linear), vector algebra, Fourier transforms, and study numerical analysis methods until you can devise your own as you need them. You'll need to understand tensors.

    You'll need to understand classical mechanics well enough to replicate Kepler's laws. You should be familiar with nuclear physics and quantum mechanics because those inform you about how stars generate energy. You should understand relativity and know when it is worth your while to use it instead of classical physics.

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  • cosmo
    Lv 7
    9 years ago

    There is no need to study astronomy at all at the undergraduate level. The important things to learn are math, computer science, and physics.

  • 9 years ago

    There is a ratio as study hour/units of credit.

    Lifelong study of astronomy is recommended.

    It is a lifelong philosophy.

  • 9 years ago

    Yes, I have a tip... read my book, it will tell you everything you need to know about astrophysics, cosmology, and physics.... 'A NEW FORM OF ENERGY; ITS DESCRIPTION; ITS GENERATION; AND ITS APPLICATIONS' (Amazon).


    Source(s): 27n years research physics, quantum physics, relativity, cosmology, astrophysics
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