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Astronomy vs Astrophysics

  1. Sep 4, 2011 #1
    Hey all,

    I am starting to think about colleges, it's a bit early for me (I'm entering 11th grade) but knowing which colleges I am seriously interested in would be a big help for a lot of reasons. I am absolutely sure I want to pursue a path in theoretical physics (not sure if thats the right word, but not applied physics), and I am 90% sure I want to do either astrophysics or astronomy.

    Now while I had always assumed I would go to college for physics and would later pursue a path in astro-something, when looking through colleges, I've noticed that a few of them offer Astrophysics as separate courses for undergrads (instead of being a later choice).

    My question is: if I am going to study Astrophysics, is it a considerable advantage to start off along that path as an undergrad? And as a more broad question, what are the differences between a working Astrophysicist and a working Astronomer in contemporary science?

    Thank you, and I applaud you if you read all of that.
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 5, 2011 #2


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    I would advise you to take an undergrad degree in physics and then specialise later. Most universities should have some astrophysics options that you can take during your physics degree.

    As for the difference between astronomy and astrophysics, I don't think there is an agreed upon definition. I would say that astronomers tend to be more observational and astrophysicists more theoretical.
  4. Sep 5, 2011 #3
    You should do the main physics courses first as astrophysics is an amalgamation of many physics disciplines such as mechanics, E&M, quantum, optics, thermodynamics, nuclear physics, relativity, etc.
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