1. Limited time only! Sign up for a free 30min personal tutor trial with Chegg Tutors
    Dismiss Notice
Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Thinking about taking an astronomy or astrophysics course for fun

  1. Apr 20, 2013 #1
    Hi all,

    I've had an itching lately to dive into something new. Currently, I am a professional computer programmer but have always been interested in astronomy. I took an astronomy course (as well as a lab for it) when I was in college and I remember enjoying it all immensely. I want to get back into it again and maybe even go further with it this time. It's been maybe 6 years+ since I took that course so probably won't remember much. So I probably have to start from scratch again or else I will be lost. I remember it not being all that math-intensive, but I wouldn't mind it one bit (in fact, I enjoy math quite a bit as I am a computer programmer).

    I have been reading about the differences between astronomy and astrophysics and deciding on which course I should do. I'm leaning towards astronomy since that seems to be closer to what I would like to get into (just more observational in nature and learning more about the universe around us). However, astrophysics also sounds fun as you would get to learn about the physics of the universe which seems fascinating too. I would definitely enjoy the more mathematical side of it if that makes any sense. At the same time though, I fear that it would be too theoretical of a subject that it would feel like all I'm doing is just solving interesting math problems. Am I way off base here?

    I guess I'm maybe looking for a combination of the two subjects if there is such a thing. I see that some community colleges around me are offering night courses for astronomy but not sure how in-depth it would be (it sounds like they are not lab courses but rather writing courses). Maybe I have to shell out more money for a cooler class at a 4-year university instead? Something else entirely?

    Thanks for your input!
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 20, 2013 #2

    Vanadium 50

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Education Advisor
    2017 Award

    You're making it sound like you are only allowed to take one course in your entire life. Why not take what's easily available now - sounds like the community college course - and see how you like it.
  4. Apr 20, 2013 #3


    User Avatar

    There's not much difference between astronomy and astrophysics anymore. All astronomers need to be able to use physics and math to explain their observations, not just some. Any courses above the introductory level in astronomy are going to require calculus and physics classes as well.

    Most intro astronomy classes are pretty similar - an overview of the major topics in the field without much math or getting too in-depth. That's saved for more upper level classes if the school offers them.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook