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What are the differences between Astrophysics and Astronomy?

  1. Feb 26, 2012 #1
    Hello, i am deciding between a career in astronomy or astrophysics and need help.

    I wish to know the differences in the two careers. What do each study? what is the pay difference in Canada? Where do each work and what do they work on?
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 26, 2012 #2
    There is no clear/rigid difference between the two. Often they are used interchangeably and/or synonymously.

    The differences are primarily in their connotations, and the lay person's associations with each. Astronomy tends to have connotations of being more observationally based, astrophysics more theoretically based. To people outside of science, astrophysics often sounds more 'impressive' -- and there does tend to be a slightly higher starting salary for 'astrophysicists' than 'astronomers' outside of academia. Again, in the fields themselves (and in academia in general) they are basically identical.

    Numerous universities have been moving towards the term 'astrophysics' as it is more modern, more descriptive, and perhaps more impressive.
  4. Feb 27, 2012 #3


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    Almost all universities maintain a distinction between the physics and astronomy departments, which tends to perpetuate the use of two different terms. Someone in the physics department working on astronomical problems would be an astrophysicist, while everyone in the astronomy building might just be an astronomer.

    Zhermes is completely correct though, for all intents and purposes the two terms are interchangeable (best to just describe what you work on/are interested in).
  5. Feb 27, 2012 #4


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    Astrophysicist are the project managers. They work day shift. Astronomers are the technicians running the equipment. They work the night shift. Seriously though, the distinction is pretty vague.
  6. Feb 27, 2012 #5
    So how much would an astrophysicist make per year with a PHD?
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