Astronomy and Astrophysics - Physics and Astronomy - University of Canterbury - New Zealand

Astronomy and Astrophysics

Astronomy is the oldest science, from ancient China and classical Greece through the Renaissance, where Copernicus, Kepler and Newton made huge contributions to our knowledge and understanding of the solar system and planetary motion. But the science of astrophysics which seeks to explain the structure and evolution of the stars and other celestial objects by applying the principles of physics to interpret our observations, is little more than a century old.

The McLellan Telescope

Currently astronomy is undergoing huge expansion as we can now view the Universe at all wavelengths of the electromagnetic spectrum. Satellites can get above the atmosphere to detect gamma rays and on the ground huge telescope arrays many kilometres across make exciting discoveries with radio waves. Electronic detectors, known as CCDs have replaced photography for optical observations in astronomy, and this data has led to new advances in our knowledge of the Universe.

Career Paths

A career in astronomy might be as a university academic, or you might work in a government funded observatory or institute. Many astronomers are also employed by the major space agencies, such as NASA and ESA. Some are also employed in public outreach programmes, such as in planetaria. Astronomers have a broad training in many branches of physics as well as astronomy (such as optics, atomic physics, electronics, electromagnetism and radiophysics, nuclear physics, spectroscopy) and they are also skilled in computing and in image processing. All this means that students trained in astronomy are highly employable in many areas of science, technology or computing.

  • Department of Physics and Astronomy
    University of Canterbury,
    Private Bag 4800,
    Christchurch 8140,
    New Zealand.
    Phone: +64 3 364 2523
    Fax: +64 3 364 2469
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