Do you remember Dr Cooper? Yeah, the one from the movie Interstellar who went into the black hole, Gargantua. Fiction and science go hand in hand. This is one of those movies that every space lover and aspiring space scientist loves. But who exactly is a space scientist? In our case here, Dr Cooper was a space scientist.
A space scientist studies outer space and the various phenomena that happen there. Many areas of study fall under the broader umbrella of space science. Some of the most popular ones are astronomy, astrophysics, astrobiology, astrochemistry, space exploration, space weather, aerospace engineering, etc.
This blog will discuss the following topics:
- What is Space Science?
- What does a space scientist do?
- What is the scope in India?
- What needs to be done to become a space scientist?
What is Space Science?
Space science is the study of planets, stars, galaxies, and other celestial bodies, as well as the things and events that happen in space. It is an interdisciplinary field that uses astronomy, physics, chemistry, biology, and geology, among other scientific fields, to understand the universe and our place in it. Space science includes a wide range of topics, such as the study of the origins of the universe, the formation and evolution of stars and galaxies, the search for life on other planets, the behaviour of matter and energy in extreme environments, and the development of space technologies for exploration and research purposes. Scientists who work in space science use various tools and techniques, including telescopes, satellites, probes, and computer models, to collect and analyse data from space.
Here are multiple fields of space science:
It studies celestial objects, including stars, planets, galaxies, and other phenomena, by making observations. If you want to know more about astronomy and how to become an astronomer, check out our other blogs.
It is the study of the stars and planets by using mathematical models and physics. You can check out our other blogs to learn more about Astrophysics.
Cosmology involves the study of the whole universe as one system, including the structures and behaviour of galaxies, nebula, megastructures, Cosmic Microwave Background radiation, etc.
It studies the origin, evolution and distribution of life in the universe. It also deals with the search for extraterrestrial life. Astrobiology seeks to understand the environmental conditions that support life and the limits of life’s adaptability. This includes studying extreme places on Earth, like deep-sea hydrothermal vents, arid deserts, and the polar regions, as well as the possibility of life in other extreme places, like oceans below the surface of icy moons or Mars. Astrobiology plays a crucial role in developing our understanding of life, its origin, and evolution.
It encompasses the study of space weather and the perturbations caused by solar winds, coronal mass ejections, the earth’s magnetic field, etc. Space physics research has essential real-world applications, such as making it easier to predict and protect Earth-based technologies from the effects of space weather, creating new tools for space exploration and communication, and learning more about how the space environment works in our solar system and beyond.
Remote sensing is the gathering of information about the Earth’s surface and atmosphere from a distance using sensors on satellites, planes, drones, or other platforms. Remote sensing technologies provide detailed information about natural resources, environmental conditions, and other features of the Earth’s surface, making it an essential tool for a wide range of applications, including agriculture, forestry, climate research, and disaster response.
Space Engineering & Medicine
Space engineering involves developing spacecraft, rovers, and other technologies for exploring and observing planets, moons, stars, galaxies, etc. With technological advancement, it has become easier to go to space. Space medicine is the study of how space travel affects the human body and the creation of medical treatments and technologies that can help people go into space.
What does a space scientist do?
Space scientists use telescopes and other instruments to observe and study the properties and behaviour of stars, planets, and other celestial bodies. They analyse data obtained from space probes, telescopes, and other instruments to gain insights into the nature of the universe. They do both theoretical and experimental research to develop new ideas about the universe and understand the ones that already exist. They design and develop new instruments and technologies to observe and study the universe.
They plan and carry out space missions, which include designing and building spacecraft and analysing the data gathered during the mission. They study rocky planets, which helps them understand their origin, composition, and evolution. They study various aspects of Earth’s geology to understand that of other planets. They can also be professors at universities or science communicators. They can be astronauts.
The work of a space scientist is multifaceted and involves a wide range of activities, from conducting research to developing new technologies to communicating their findings to the public.
What is the scope in India?
Space science, being an interdisciplinary field, hosts several career opportunities. In the above section, we discussed what research a space scientist does. Let’s now discuss the scope of space science in India and how you can prepare yourself for that.
- The space agency of India, ISRO, hosts plenty of career opportunities for engineers, researchers, and scientists. You can work on designing and developing space systems, planning missions and their execution, data analysis and interpretation, project management, etc. You can learn more about ISRO from our other blogs.
- India has made a number of remote sensing satellites that have been used to map resources, help with disasters, and predict the weather, among other things. Since the need for geospatial data is growing, there is a lot of room for this sector to grow. Indian Institute of Remote Sensing (IIRS), Centre for Remote Sensing and GIS (CRSG) Odisha, National Institute of Oceanography (NIO), and Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) are some of the key organizations working in the field of remote sensing. These institutes also offer graduate programs in agriculture, forestry, environmental monitoring, urban planning, disaster management, and more.
- Several institutions in India conduct research in space physics, including the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), the Physical Research Laboratory (PRL), the Indian Institute of Geomagnetism (IIG), the Centre for Excellence in Space Sciences India(CESSI)-IISER Kolkata and the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR). These institutions work on a range of topics, such as plasma physics, magnetospheric and ionospheric physics, and solar-terrestrial interactions.
- There are several institutes dedicated to astronomy and astrophysics in India. Some of them are Indian Institute of Astrophysics (IIA), Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics (IUCAA), Aryabhatta Research Institute of Observational Sciences (ARIES), and the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR). You can check out our other blogs to know more about them.
You can pursue a career in space research after you BS-MS from IISERs or NISER.
Here are some important points:
- Strengthen your background in Physics, Chemistry, Mathematics, Biology, Geology and computational programming (MATLAB or FORTAN) depending on your field of interest. Space science is an interdisciplinary field and you need to be an expert in more that two fields at a time.
- Gain enough experience in your interested field by doing internships, interacting with professors or senior students. It is better to clear whether you interest really aligns with the research work of that field. Improve your hands-on experience in labs as well as on field.
- Being in research institute, you might not be having a lot of technological knowledge; it would be advantageous if you gain some insights in the technological aspects of space sciences. You should be adaptable and open to the new challenges.
- Space sciences involve working in teams and communicating ideas and results to others. Strong communication and collaboration skills are essential for working effectively in this field.
Overall, there is a lot of potential for space science in India, which is growing and making more room for research, innovation, and collaboration. In the coming years, the Indian space program is likely to keep making important contributions to space science. Moreover, you can apply to foreign institutions and observatories for further studies and research. Countries like Germany, USA, UK, France, Japan, etc. provide excellent career opportunities in space sciences. To know more about other career opportunities in detail, check out our other blogs.
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