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Advice on going into astronomy/astrophysics

  1. Jun 16, 2011 #1
    First off, I would like to say hello :smile:

    I didn't see an introduction thread or forum section, so I suppose I will introduce myself in my first post I make here. I'm Isaac, from sunny(and humid) Florida, and I forgot how I found this forum. Introductions aside, here's the juicy details :tongue:

    At the moment I'm working on my Associates in Business Administration(completely irrelevant but I thought I would mention it anyways, job market and economy at large here is really bad, and I have no money to move anywhere where it would be comparatively better, I figured a Bus. Admin. degree would help me find something temporary). I get the degree in August next year, so that's really my main focus at the moment.

    BUT, I want to take up a career in astrophysics or something to that effect. Although I just turned 17, I've already graduated(3.3 GPA, or anything equivalent to) and I am good at addition, subtraction and multiplication, but long division is where everything becomes completely incomprehensible. Algebra was considerably hard, but most of my problem was keeping up with the classroom pace and remembering everything the teacher presented to us the day before. I've always contemplated the possibility that I may have a mathematical learning disorder, maybe dyscalculia? Throughout my schooling, my grades in math were between a B or D grade, generally depending on the class(learning environment) and teacher. I still in general struggled though.

    My science background isn't as complicated. Every year where Earth-Space sciences were the main subject in science, for the most part, got an A(on the rare occasion the B). Physics was alright, it was fairly easy to understand, I just never took interest in the mechanics, so I was pretty mediocre in that aspect. Biology is another story, but I only want to know about Astronomy and Astrophysics in the meantime.

    As far as astronomy and astrophysics go, I'd say that the most specialized field that interests me is 'planet hunting', or rather exoplanetology. But I am interested in other aspects outside of that small specialized field as well, so there are other options to look at. In astrophysics, I am gravitated towards theoretical physics mostly, but I'm also intrigued by stellar and planetary physics. So my interest in both astronomy and the physics therein are pretty general.

    Anyhow, to wrap this up, I'd love to get advice and maybe references to resources I will want to take a look at. Anything would be great, links, recommended books, magazines, etc. I definitely feel that I need to brush up on my math, mostly Algebra at the moment. Later on in my current degree program I actually have a course in college algebra, so that will be mutually beneficial. I'll also look around personally and see what kind of stuff I can find, I saw a 'Learning Materials' section with tutorials, maybe that's a good start?

    Cheers :smile:
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 16, 2011 #2


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    Before you can even start taking physics classes, you need to work your way up to calculus, and that's just for the introductory classes. You'll need several years of calculus, linear algebra, and differential equations to earn a bachelors in physics, and more advanced math for a PhD. A theoretical physicist has almost as much math as a PhD in math. It sounds like this might be a lot more work than you were anticipating. Astronomers and astrophysicists have about the same math background as any physicist.
  4. Jun 16, 2011 #3
    Also one thing that it cool about astrophysics is that astrophysics uses things from just about every other branch of physics.

    The most important thing is to work on the math. If you can get yourself at the point where you can do partial differential equations, then you are pretty much set.
  5. Jun 20, 2011 #4
    I also want to become an astrophysicist
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