How To Become a Planetary Scientist

A scientist in fundamental research, the astrophysicist seeks to understand the mechanisms, the formation, and the evolution of the Universe as well as of the objects which constitute it. Originally a sub-branch of astronomy, the profession is increasingly confused with that of astronomers. Traditionally, astronomy has been the study of the movement and position of celestial objects, while astrophysics considers its physicochemical properties. These distinctions do not really hold true today. For this, he takes as an object of study the planets, the stars, the solar system, the galaxies, the black holes, nebulae, dark matter, etc., and is interested in their formation, their position in space, or their composition. To study these phenomena, he uses, in particular, many sophisticated measuring instruments such as telescopes, satellites, or even space probes, and uses computer models to simulate and interpret the results of his observations. The astrophysicist can specialize in a discipline or an object of study as well as in a working technique. Many specialties exist in astrophysics: stars, galaxies, planets, dark matter, solar physics, astrochemistry, astrobiology, cosmology., are all possible fields of study.

From a professional point of view, the astrophysicist can focus on three specializations: observation, theory, and instrumentation.

If he devotes himself to observation, the astrophysicist will seek to collect, study and interpret the data collected through his observations. He will thus seek to test, confirm or determine new theories. The astrophysicist then writes and publishes scientific articles in order to share his findings with experts around the world.

If he devotes himself to theory, the astrophysicist will concentrate on the development of theoretical models in order to explain the formation, movement, and properties of stars. They then see if these models match the observations.

If he works as an instrumentalist engineer, the astrophysicist must then design or advance from a technological point of view astronomical observation and measurement instruments such as telescopes or those present onboard space missions.

The main skills and qualities to have

  • The astrophysicist is versatile and must demonstrate multiple skills and qualities:
  • master computer tools and measuring instruments;
  • have multidisciplinary knowledge in physics, mathematics, chemistry and computer science;
  • master statistical analysis;
  • know how to analyze, model and interpret observation data;
  • be fluent in oral and written English;
  • write and publish their research results;
  • participate in international conferences;
  • know how to work in a team;
  • carry out a scientific and technological watch;
  • be rigorous, organized, passionate and have a sense of observation.

Work conditions

The astrophysicist divides his work time between observation and analysis in the laboratory. He may have to travel regularly and far from his place of residence, with very long hours. He also participates in numerous international conferences in order to share and learn about new discoveries with astrophysicists from all over the world. He can work in the public sector, in an observatory, or in certain large private companies in the space sector.

 How to become an astrophysicist?

A bac + 8 is required to be able to become an astrophysicist. Here are some possible trainings:

  • Master in Fundamental Physics and Sciences for Engineers, specialization in Astronomy, Astrophysics, Space Engineering;
  • Master in Fundamental Physics and Sciences for Engineers, specializing in Dynamics of Gravitational Systems;
  • Master in Astronomy, Astrophysics and Space Engineering;
  • Doctorate in astrophysics.