Uncovering Astrophysics with Nasa and an insight into becoming an Astrophysicist

According to NASA, Astrophysics focuses on “discovering how the universe works, exploring how it began and evolve and searching for life on planets around stars”. How does the universe work? Dark matter, dark energy and black holes. How did we get there? Galaxies, stars and planets. Are we alone? Life beyond Earth. 

Astrophysics relies on physics laws and chemistry to explain the birth, life and death of objects in the universe: stars, planets and galaxies. The Hubble Space Telescope showed that the universe is expanding at an increasing rate. The Big Bang explains the origins of the Universe and appearance of the first objects including the formation of the first stars. NASA rover Perseverance seeks out signs of microbial life on Mars. Rock and soil samples are to be potentially collected back for study on Earth. 

What to expect in Astrophysics? Subdisciplines of Astrophysics include: physical cosmology (origin and evolution of the universe), plasma astrophysics (study of plasma in outer space), high energy astrophysics (phenomenon occurring at high energies). These also overlap with observational astronomy, the observation of celestial objects mostly via telescopes. For example, the Big Bang evidence emerged from discovering left over radiation from when the Universe begun through NASA’s Cosmic Background Explorer (COBE) satellite. 

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The above themes interest you? You’re thinking of pursuing a degree or career in Astrophysics but don’t know where to start?

  1. Continue quantitative sciences all through high school: Physics, Maths even Chemistry and Biology will be helpful to you! Look out for internship opportunities in universities, companies and even NASA to boost your personal statements. 
  1. An Astrophysics bachelor at university is ideal but computer scientists and mathematicians are also welcomed in this field. Look up available university programs early on and talk with your school counsellors to find out where would be best for you. Favour courses in astronomy, physics, computer science and mathematics to widen your skill palette. Expect have modules in mathematics, classical/quantum physics, astronomical spectrometry and cosmology!  
  1. A doctorate in Astrophysics: According to the US Bureau of Labour Statistics, most astrophysicists have a doctoral degree. This allows you to build on your strong scientific skills (data analysis, critical thinking and problem-solving) beyond imposed lecture materials. Through your thesis research you will be exposed to creating scientific posters, writing scientific paper and attending seminars. 
  1. Most importantly, let your passion fuel you. With perseverance and motivation, you will go a long way and collaborate with like-minded peers.