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  • An astronomer is a scientist who studies celestial bodies such as black holes, moons, planets, stars, asteroids, comets, nebulae and galaxies, as well as Gamma-ray bursts and cosmic microwave background radiation. A related but distinct subject, cosmology, is concerned with studying the universe as a whole. An astronomer researches the world beyond earth. Historically, astronomy was more concerned with the classification and description of phenomena in the sky, while astrophysics attempted to explain these phenomena and the differences between them using physical laws. Today, that distinction has mostly disappeared and the terms "astronomer" and "astrophysicist" are interchangeable. Professional astronomers are highly educated individuals who typically have a PhD in physics or astronomy and are employed by research institutions or universities. They spend the majority of their time working on research, although they quite often have other duties such as teaching, building instruments, or aiding in the operation of an observatory. The number of professional astronomers in the United States is actually quite small.

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