Chillicothe News - Chillicothe, MO
by Antonio Prokup
Writing For the “Stars”
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By Antonio Prokup
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The study of stars and planets has always intrigued me.  I do most of my thinking and pondering when sitting outside.  What is up there?  Who is out there?  And how can I learn more?  These questions swarm around in my head constantly.  To find answers to these questions, I need to research the job of an astronomer and what is needed to become this desired profession.  Not only am I interested in the astronomer, but the astronomer who is able to write the information down for all to read.  Therefore a second occupation should be researched, that of an author or writer.<>
            The astronomer/writer would have various duties throughout their day.  The astronomer would observe the skies through recording devices unlike the astronomers of old.  The picture of astronomers gazing through a telescope is unfortunately outdated.  They at present spend very little time observing and most of their time is spent analyzing their observations.  After hours and hours of collecting data they are ready to put the information on paper.  Writing this information, either for a scientific magazine or a science textbook is grueling and time consuming work.<>
            In both occupations, the astronomer and the writer, their work spaces are quiet and secluded.  The astronomer would spend the majority of his time in a lab pouring over film and analyzing and hypothesizing.  The writer would obviously need a work space that was quiet and conducive to quick and fast production, especially if the writer was trying to meet deadlines.  Both of these work environments suit my personality.  Crowded places make it hard for me to concentrate, let alone write something worth reading.<>
            There are many requirements to be either an astronomer or a science writer, however interestingly enough there are some overlaps.  According to science careers on science buddies.org, both require imagination, creativity, and the ability to see the abstract.  Even their high school requirements are the same.  Both areas should take classes in chemistry, biology, physics, algebra, geometry, and calculus.  The astronomer needs these subjects to understand his job.  The writer needs these subjects in order to write about astronomy successfully.  A writer, of course, would need to also take English courses to learn the art of communicating through the written word.<>
            To be a successful astronomer, you would need not only a BS degree but a masters and a Ph.D.  The writer need only have a BS degree to be a science writer, however I am certain the more classes you could take beyond that degree the better.  Both degrees will take some planning and saving.  The average cost of attending a college to obtain a BS degree is $25,000 however to obtain a degree in astronomy the schoolís tuition may be as high as $36,000.  To continue on with a masters, you would need another $27,000.  To obtain your PhD you could need anywhere from $10,000 to $15,000 depending where you attend.  Needless to say scholarships and financial assistance is necessary.<>
            When deciding a profession, the salary should be of interest to anyone.  You need a good salary to not only keep up with the cost of living expenses, but obviously you will incur college debts to pay.  The astronomer and the writer surprisingly can make the same wage.  According to science careers on science buddies.org, both professions in the United States on an average make $42,270.  This number may be higher than what a writer would make in Missouri.  Astronomy jobs are found in very few states.  The states with these types of jobs are found mainly on the east coast where the cost of living is higher.<>
            Carl Sagan, born November 9, 1934 and died December 20, 1996, was an astronomer as well as an author.  He had many titles and was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for general non-fiction.  His book Contact was made into a movie with Jodie foster. He also wrote for the popular television series in the 80ís called Cosmos.  He attended Cornell University, Harvard University, Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, and University of California in Berkley.  Throughout his studies, he was the first to entertain the idea that Saturnís moon Titan might have oceans of water making it habitable for life.  His credentials are numerous, but the reason for his success is his imagination and inquisitive nature at a very young age.  His parents supported his interests by supplying him with equipment and materials.  This support allowed him to pursue his dream.<>
            I too, have an extreme interest in learning about the universe around us.  Will I be able to complete the expected course work is another matter entirely.  However, my ability to write can lead me to many opportunities.  I, as a science writer, could observe and interview an astronomer to complete an informative essay.  Combining my fascination with the stars and my love for writing would be a dream to strive toward.<>

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