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Nasa (this one)

  1. May 26, 2009 #1
    Hello everyone! My name is Christian and I'm in 8th grade (2 weeks until schools out!) Ever since 5th grade I've loved astronomy, and its been just recently that I've actually began to think about my future. When I was in 5th grade I was already taking 7th grade math so I would consider my self smart, a little lazy though. I am currently taking geometry and will be taking Algebra II as a freshman.

    When I first got into astronomy I wanted to be an astronomer, but now that I've have matured quite a bit I'm still thinking. About four months ago I thought about working for NASA and since then its been my dream. And even more recently (about a month ago) I have gotten into physics. I love them both so I decided I want to be an astrophysicist.

    My question is this. Can astrophysicists work for NASA? Where would an astrophysicist work? What kinds of jobs are there at NASA anyway? (besides engineers)

    Thanks millions,

    Last edited: May 26, 2009
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  3. May 26, 2009 #2


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    Re: Nasa

    Most astronomers and astrophysicist work in universities, very few work for Nasa.
    Some work for institutes like the Space Telescope Institute supporting the work of researchers in universities by helping them use HST while doing some of their own research.

    Of course it's difficult to know what the makeup of Nasa will be in 10 years but generally there is a trend to having missions designed and built in universities and reducing Nasa scientific staff.
  4. May 26, 2009 #3
    Thanks for the reply :smile: What kinds of jobs does NASA have?
  5. May 26, 2009 #4
    Absolutely astrophysicists can work for NASA. NASA does tremendous amounts of research and they employ plenty of scientists. Just have a look at NASA's website and check out the research they are doing.

    Remember: All the data and information obtained from space missions and flights need to be analyzed to be useful. That's just one place where astrophysicists can fit in.
  6. May 26, 2009 #5


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    Browse these pages:


    Goddard and JPL do alot of exploratory research. JPL does the missions to the planets, and Goddard has done a lot with respect to solar physics and astrophysics.


  7. May 26, 2009 #6


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    The data is normally analysed by the researcher that submitted the proposal.
    For a general purpose observatory like HST an astronomer in a university will apply for time, the proposal will be judged by other astronomers for it's scientific value and by Nasa mission specialists (astronomers and engineers) for technical feasibility. The observation will be run by the Nasa/STSci engineers and the data sent back to the astronomer. Sometimes the first steps of processing, removing satellite specific effects, will be done by a Nasa employee.
    Nasa astronomers, who mostly work supporting other peoples observations, can also apply for time on the telescope subject to the same application process as anyone else. Most mission specialist jobs include some % of time for your own research, it's a way to attract good employees and keep them interested, but the majority of the research is done by university researchers.

    For specialist missions like Hipparcos or COBE the data is all analysed by the team that built it - since there is only one experiment and one final answer. The team is sometimes inside Nasa but now is more likely to be a collaboration of different universities often in different countries.

    There are also independent institutes like STSci that runs Hubble and JPL that designs some missions. Then it's such a complicated maze of subcontracted and management contracts that only the IRS actually know who is working for who.

    It's a bit like if you want to be a pilot apply to United and if you want to be an aircraft designer apply to Boeing. Even though Boeing do have pilots and the large airlines do have a few designers.
  8. May 26, 2009 #7

    Yeah, I understand what you're saying, but I sort of packaged all of that into my "yes, astrophysicists can work for NASA" answer. Seeing as how the OP is only in 8th grade, I didn't think it was necessary to go into that much detail. Good points, though.
  9. May 26, 2009 #8


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    Yes I understand, but it's important to note that science is done in universities it's just that Nasa has a bigger publicity budget - and more impressive fireworks!

    It's like deciding you want to be a pilot and assuming you must join the airforce.
  10. May 26, 2009 #9
  11. May 27, 2009 #10
    The original questions you asked have all been answered now so i'll just add something a little different. I don't want to be the usual killjoy, but there are hundreds of threads on this forum about this very subject (just check the similar threads at the bottom of this page!). Have a read of them and you'll get some more information - you'll likely mature and develop more as you get more knowledgeable about what astronomy and astrophysics actually are, but keep an open mind! Working for NASA is just one of the thousands of possibilities there are out there for physicists. Astronomy is great fun, and at your level it's especially enthralling because it has all the lovely pictures etc. but at this stage I would say it's best to keep all of this interest up in the same mindset you would a hobby, keep it there for the enjoyment.
  12. May 27, 2009 #11
    Ok thanks for the help :smile:
  13. May 27, 2009 #12


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  14. May 27, 2009 #13
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  15. May 27, 2009 #14


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    The OP is in 8th grade. No way to tell if they'll be hiring when he's ready for his first internship....
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  16. May 27, 2009 #15
    NASA is always hiring for some position. They are a fairly large institution and tend to have at a minimum a few openings at each center. They are typically very specialized jobs.

    Are they specifically looking for an astrophysicist right now? Well yes, actually, my center is looking for one in fact. I just checked that link and found the listing on USAjobs.gov. Only caveat you need to already be an employee of NASA for the position.
  17. May 27, 2009 #16


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    An interest in astronomy can lead in lots of directions. One of the best (IMO) is Tucson. A young friend of mine from Mongolia attends the University of Arizona at Tucson. He has an abiding interest in astronomy, and found himself with some paid astronomy-related positions right away at the school. He operates the on-campus observatory's telescopes some nights for visitors and (even as a freshman) was privileged to participate in the construction of some instrumentation intended for use at the Steward Observatory. UA has very impressive facilities for casting, figuring, and coating mirrors, as well as the machine shops and instrumentation shops. I know that he will find a niche in the programs there, and end up with NASA-affiliated projects among others. He is a VERY bright young guy and a hard worker. He is also generous. I sent him a collection of large copier-lenses that I had accumulated over the years, and some other stuff perfectly suited for building zero-power finders (bazooka reticles) and he sent them all to an amateur astronomy club back home so the kids could build their own wide-field 'scopes.
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