Watching the night sky is a fascinating hobby. We can learn endlessly, share the experience with others, and enjoy peaceful and beautiful sights.
But is there potential for more than just a hobby?
Here’s what to know about stargazing as a job
While stargazing itself isn’t a job, it’s a part of many jobs. The most common example is astronomy, which could think of as a scientific approach to stargazing that emphasizes math, physics, chemistry, and engineering research. Astronomy is a well-paying job, too, since the average salary is around $82,000 per year. Organizations that promote stargazing or make equipment for stargazing also offer related jobs.
In a world where everything is pretty much explored, except perhaps for the deepest parts of the oceans, stargazing might allow anyone the opportunity to discover something new. In this article, we will discuss stargazing as a passion but also as a career, enjoy!
You’ll learn exactly what can make stargazing a job, and how you can start exploring these fields.
Jobs for Stargazing Hobbyists
The night sky and its mysterious wonders fascinated people from ancient times. Who did not watch the bright stars during a hot summer night? Some amateurs turned their passion into a career, and here is a list of jobs that are related to stargazing.
1. Planetarium Staff
A planetarium is a perfect place for stargazers. Either a customer or member of the staff, the stars watching experience is equally pleasant.
Some planetaria are quite big and require a high number of employees. The average wage is also a decent one.
The job offers vary from professional staff such as astronomers to guides or cashiers at gift shops. Whatever the role is, you will be surrounded by what you love: stars.
An astrophotographer is usually interested in the night sky’s beauty rather than the scientific aspect. However, astrophotography is one of the earliest types of scientific photography.
There are several types of astrophotography, such as deep space photography, wide-field, and time-lapse. Deep space photography is the most complicated and technical.
However, the result matches expectations. Wide-field astrophotography is, however, accessible to many hobbyists. All you need are DSLR lenses and a great deal of planning and observing.
Astrophotography requires an excellent level of commitment, artistic creativity, and some technical skills as you will be using sensors, telescopes, and computer software.
But you know what is cool about astrophotography? While you build your portfolio, you also build your career as different scientific organizations might hire you.
3. Amateur astronomer
Yes, you read it well. Different private companies run private stargazing experiences for astronomy enthusiasts, and they hire amateur astronomers.
From this role, you will coach and share your knowledge with different groups, using the equipment supplied by the employer. The remuneration is per night and goes up to $160.
There are also projects run by professionals, and they seek amateurs’ help in observing different celestial bodies and phenomena. The researchers started to recognize the amateur astronomers’ expertise and potential. So this is an excellent opportunity for you to get involved in professional stargazing.
4. Telescope manufacturing industry
Many telescope manufacturers are employing staff for daily operations such as logistics, component assembling, or distribution. These jobs usually do not require any specific qualifications.
Also, many companies offer specialized training to personnel so you might be able to improve the technical knowledge and thrive in this domain. Needless to say that you can learn how to operate your telescope better.
5. Telescope Operator
Astronomers spend numerous nights observing the sky and looking for quasars, dwarf stars, or other impressive celestial bodies. However, this will not be possible without the telescope operators who deal with equipment maintenance.
Getting such a job requires some level of expertise. Although many amateur astronomers have extensive knowledge of telescopes and their characteristics, a bachelor’s degree diploma might be needed.
Solid math skills are also a plus when applying for such a job.
You will work exclusively during the night time, but it’s a rewarding job to get paid for what you already do as a hobby.
The previously listed jobs are some examples of roles that fit your passion. If you decide to take your hobby to the next level, there are more interesting astronomy-related jobs that you might get. But, to pursue an astronomy career, you will need to study. So let’s talk about the professional astronomy jobs.
Professional work in astronomy
When speaking of science professions, astronomy is quite a small field. This fact bears both advantages and disadvantages. While there is intense competition when applying for a job, the low number of astronomers leads to better communication between professionals worldwide. Only those with quality education, passion, and talent are likely to find a permanent job in this field.
Now let’s talk about some technical stuff such as the employment potential and job opportunities. Here are some potential domains where an astronomer might work:
1. Academic environment
Many universities and colleges hire astronomers. This job is a combination of teaching and research. Some astronomers work in astronomy departments while others teach physics. In some cases, astronomers will teach astronomy and physics as they are well qualified for both sciences.
Apart from teaching your students about the universe mysteries, you will have the opportunity to conduct research. Writing and speaking about your discoveries is another advantage that should make you think of an academic career.
To have the opportunity to pursue such an academic career, you will need some strong qualities and also, recommendations. You will need strong communication skills and some technical capabilities as you will be working with expensive equipment.
2. National observatories and government laboratories
Most astronomers are qualified in the engineering field as well as in physics and astronomy. These experts have usually been hired by government-supported laboratories and observatories.
The difference between this sector and academia is that the research field is defined by the employer and sometimes is not the same as the astronomer’s interest. Another difference is the fact that such a job does not involve teaching.
Apart from focusing on the research, an astronomer will not be involved in other tasks such as administrative duties.
The salary level is similar to the academic sector, and the possibility of continued employment is guaranteed.
3. Private sector jobs
In the private sector, astronomers are hired by aerospace companies and consulting firms. These private companies usually work with the government and require astronomers who are capable of translating the customers’ science requirements into technical specifications.
Working for such a company will allow you to design any piece of equipment from telescopes to space probes, or you may be writing software used by NASA.
Employment is less secure since everything is contract-based. However, most companies offer high compensation. The private sector is accessible to astronomers who do not have PhDs.
4. Public sector employment
Professional astronomers may find exciting jobs in planetariums, science museums, or as science journalists. Their role is to translate the scientific terminology into a friendlier language, easier understood by the general public.
If you aim for such a job, you will need strong qualities like communication skills or writing talent. A Ph.D. might help you to get such a job, but it is not mandatory.
Other jobs you might be interested in are technical writer, meteorologist, research scientist, climatologist, or aeronautical engineer. These roles are exciting and rewarding. The average salary ranges between $80,000 and $100,000 per year.
Some of the best-paid jobs in the astronomy field are those involving research work. For example, an astronomer in the public sector will have an average salary of $111,000 per year, and a physicist will earn about $125,300 per year.
If you’ve got a passion for science, then those salaries are great motivation to transform your stargazing hobby into a career.
How to learn more about stargazing
Nowadays, learning about stargazing is not a challenge anymore. You can find many online guidelines and other interesting information on the internet. Professional astronomers are willing to share their expertise, so all you need to do is read about the topic you are interested in.
We made a list of the most important things to consider when you are a stargazing amateur.
Find the right place
If you live in a city, your stargazing experience might be affected by light pollution. Try to find a high building so that nothing will obstruct your view. And make sure you find the darkest place.
Don’t purchase a telescope yet
Before investing in expensive and complicated equipment, get used to the night sky. Try using binoculars instead. Firstly you will need to find some anchor objects such as constellations or planets. Setting up a telescope might prove challenging, and the frustration will ruin the whole experience.
Know when to look
Before starting to observe the sky, learn the moon phases. The best moment for watching the stars is when the moon is in a crescent phase. Also, winter nights are better for stargazing as there is no humidity in the air.
Use a star chart and stargazing apps
Star charts are the best way to learn about the sky, and we recommend using a printed version.
The apps designed for computers and smartphones are also beneficial.
Connect with other astronomy hobbyists
It is a good idea to find a local astronomers’ club and join them. It’s easier to learn how to use a telescope. Also, it’s nice to have someone to share your passion with.
Learn about the sky objects
Lastly, learn about the celestial planets. With a little practice, you will start to differentiate stars and planets. Another interesting object to observe is the International Space Station.
Stargazing is a fascinating passion for many people. Some of them turned their passion into a career. As we proved in our article, watching the sky is a fulfilling job if you consider pursuing an astronomer career.