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Astronomy Degrees Rock

Students often can't decide what they want to be when they grow up, or what they should major in in college. Regardless of your age or current job, you can always go to school and earn you degree. Michael Koppelman, a former rock star, who performed and recorded with Prince, was fascinated by the night sky and wanted to get his degree in astronomy.

"I can't look at anything and not think about the physics behind it. When I see the wind blow or the sun shine or water dripping I'm thinking about our understanding of that in terms of physics and to me it's amazing, it's miraculous," said Koppelman.

Koppelman started taking classes at the University of Minnesota. He took his first class in 2000 and eventually earned a degree in astrophysics in 2008. Roberta Humphrey has a Ph.D. in astrophysics.

"I was like, oh my God, that looks like a gamma ray afterglow," exclaimed Koppelman.

A gamma ray burst is a beam of photons coming from an exploding massive star at an extraordinary distance. It may not look like much on a computer screen, but it would be like snapping a picture of a single light house beam that originated nearly 10 billion years ago.

Remember, that beam he found was flash that left that exploding star 10 billion years ago.

"Literally before the earth was here," said Koppelman. "We're not talking the dinosaur times. We're talking before the sun formed and yet I was able to catch it on a backyard telescope. To me that is just fascinating."

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics reports 92.3% of employed astronomers held a bachelor's degree or higher in either physics or astronomy. Many astronomers continue their education beyond they doctorate and focus their path on post doctoral research, or teaching astronomy. Jobs with an astronomy degree can pay in excess of $110,000 annually.


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