Salary of observatory worker?

Salary of observatory worker?

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I am thinking of becoming an astronomer becuase I love looking through my telescope at night, and may want to make it my profession. Is there money to be made working at an observatory, or is the BLS median annual wage of $114,590 primarily from other career paths within astronomy? How hard is it to get a job at an observatory?

TECHNICIAN C, to support the fabrication, maintenance, repair, and operations of various complex electro-mechanical systems in the general area of Radio Science, including the receiving systems for the NASA next-generation VLBI (VGOS) Project. Will take direction from scientific, engineering, and more senior technicians. Work will include but is not limited to supporting electro-mechanical antenna systems, data acquisition systems, networks, and cryogenically cooled receiver systems. Perform various routine jobs of skilled or semi-skilled nature. Must have willingness to learn computer systems, i.e., Linux, Windows ability or willingness to learn standard technician tools, e.g., soldering iron, DVM (digital volt meter), oscilloscope and familiarity of machine shop equipment and tools, e.g., drill press, sanders general mechanical systems knowledge and general electro-mechanical assembly skills using hand and power tools. Must have the ability to work within a team, able to follow instructions, and work in a technically diverse and physically challenging work environment. Familiarity with control of complex electro/mechanical systems is a plus. May need to travel if necessary to support various projects. The ability to lift 50 lbs. and willingness and ability to climb towers. On rare occasions, operations activities may require monitoring an experiment off hours. Must be a U.S. citizen who is able to obtain and maintain a security clearance.

FINANCIAL ADMINISTRATOR, to perform a wide range of accounting and financial functions as part of a fiscal team. Will collaborate closely with Haystack PIs, researchers, and staff interact with a variety of MIT offices, including Research Administrative Services, Payroll, Property, and VP for Research and work with outside vendors, sponsors, funding agencies, and counterparts at other universities/laboratories. Responsibilities include approving travel reports, purchase requisitions, invoices, requests for payment, and credit card transactions performing monthly salary adjustments for both trades and salaried staff creating and submitting fabricated equipment account requests for approval overseeing subaward administration and monitoring updating the projection tool for all PIs which involves downloading monthly financial information for each PI and reviewing charges and account balances compared to the budgets as well as verifying forecasted personnel effort is accurate entering new awards and actions (i.e., creating child accounts, extending dates, distributing funds, etc.) tracking capital equipment purchases and providing reports to fiscal officers, facilities manager, and IT manager as needed maintaining capital equipment wish list and updating as necessary monthly financial reporting to sponsors per award requirements generating LLSC graphs and statements completing proposal and other duties as assigned.

Astronomers: Salary, Job Description, How To Become One, and Quiz

observe, research, and interpret astronomical phenomena to increase basic knowledge or apply such information to practical problems.

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Last updated: June 25, 2021

Table of Contents

Job description

Astronomers observe, research, and interpret astronomical phenomena to increase basic knowledge or apply such information to practical problems.

  • Study celestial phenomena, using a variety of ground-based and space-borne telescopes and scientific instruments.
  • Analyze research data to determine its significance, using computers.
  • Develop theories based on personal observations or on observations and theories of other astronomers.
  • Collaborate with other astronomers to carry out research projects.

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Astronomers with little to no experience tend to make between $57490 and $74300 while the more experienced ones can earn over $147710 per year.

Top 5 paying states Hourly Annual
HI $61 $126,170
DC $59 $123,640
CA $54 $113,130
TX $52 $107,350
AZ $50 $104,100

One of the easiest ways to increase your salary as an Astronomer is to move to a higher paying state like HI. Right now, the highest paying states for Astronomers are HI, DC, CA, TX and AZ.

However, a higher pay at HI doesn’t guarantee that you will make more because the living expenses at HI might be twice as high than where you are currently at now.

Three other factors that can increase your salary as an Astronomer is the degree you hold, the industry you work in, and lastly the company you work for.


We asked other Astronomers what degree they had when they got the job and most of them said they had a Post-Doctoral Training followed by a PhD.

Other than that, we also asked them what did they major in and here are the most popular majors that came up.

Planetary Astronomy and Science
Astronomy and Astrophysics, Other

Pros and Cons

Here are some of the pros and cons of being an Astronomer .

Suitable for people who likes to solve problems mentally
Suitable for people who values achievements and are results-oriented
This career is perfect for people who love to work indoors.
One of the highest paid careers in the world
Not suitable for people who likes to start and carry out projects
It is very hard to get into this career. Extensive skill, knowledge, and experience is required for this career.
Long working hours (More than 40 hours per week)

What is the job like

69% of Astronomers said they were satisfied with their job and 65% said they feel like their job is making other people’s lives better.

I have a Ph.D. in astrophysics and did research & teaching in astronomy for 16 years at various UK Universities and for NASA, at Goddard Space Flight Center, Washington DC.

I traveled to telescopes in exotic locations like Hawaii, the Canary Islands, Chile, and Australia, as well as use the Hubble Space Telescope & other satellite telescopes.

Day to day life was not as glamorous as that sounds though. About 95% of my time I would be office based. I would usually be sat in front of a computer, in my own office. Typical tasks were analyzing data, emailing & talking to colleagues, attending meetings, writing research proposals & papers, reviewing other research, and teaching. A typical day would be to get to my office around 8.30 am, check and reply to emails, and then work on one of my current projects. That might involve analyzing data from a recent visit to a telescope, which might take weeks to complete, or preparing a grant or research proposal. Then, with colleagues from down the corridor, and also abroad, I’d write up the research and its implications. That can take a long time!

Getting time on the large telescopes is very competitive you write a proposal, with detailed evidence, and then you may (or may not) get allocated 3-4 nights of observing time the following year. For satellite telescopes like the Hubble or satellite X-ray telescopes (like XMM & Chandra), it’s even more competitive. They are hugely oversubscribed.

Lunch would sometimes be with colleagues, but more often at my desk. After lunch, I would go through the details of the astrophysics I was due to teach that afternoon. That would be a lecture to 50 students for an hour or perhaps in-depth teaching in a small group. I might also have other people’s research papers or proposals to review, or a Department meeting. I’d finish at perhaps 5pm.

Around 2-3 times a year I would go observing to a telescope, talk at an international conference, or go to a progress meeting of a large international research project. Occasionally we would have a very interesting research result, and get excited!

Pros: Most astronomers work in universities or at government organizations like NASA. These employers are flexible on holidays and work hours. Plus you get to travel. You can choose what research to work on, to a large degree. There is the intellectual stimulation of discovering new things.

Cons: You need a good degree in Physics, then a Ph.D. That’s a long time being a student. Your first research job after that will not be permanent (typically for 3 years), and you can be very concerned about where the next grant to pay your salary is coming from. Or you might have to move a big distance to a new University or lab to get the next job. Competition for the few permanent jobs is intense.

Why did I change my career? I was always on 3 or 5-year job contracts, and looking over my shoulder at the next grant or job. In the end, I decided to put down some roots, we started a family, and I turned my photography hobby into a business, KidsNaturally Photography.

Astronomer Salary in Arizona

How much does an Astronomer make in Arizona? The average Astronomer salary in Arizona is $114,207 as of May 27, 2021, but the range typically falls between $112,392 and $131,782. Salary ranges can vary widely depending on the city and many other important factors, including education, certifications, additional skills, the number of years you have spent in your profession.

Percentile Salary Location Last Updated
10th Percentile Astronomer Salary $110,740 AZ May 27, 2021
25th Percentile Astronomer Salary $112,392 AZ May 27, 2021
50th Percentile Astronomer Salary $114,207 AZ May 27, 2021
75th Percentile Astronomer Salary $131,782 AZ May 27, 2021
90th Percentile Astronomer Salary $147,783 AZ May 27, 2021

Lowell Obervatory - Flagstaff, AZ

Britt Medical Search - Oro Valley, AZ

Britt Medical Search - Oro Valley, AZ

CompHealth - Sierra Vista, AZ

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How To Become an Astronomer

A graduate degree is required for all astronomer positions, though some positions require a master’s degree and some require a Ph.D. The level of degree you earn will depend on the types of roles you want to pursue. Regardless of how much education you need, the first step will be to earn a bachelor’s degree. A bachelor’s degree will be required before you can earn a graduate degree common degrees pursued include physics or astronomy. Both degrees offer relevant education for graduate programs.

After earning a bachelor’s degree, you’ll want to gain experience in the field as well as pursue a master’s degree. With a bachelor’s degree, you’ll qualify for roles as an assistant at an observatory, or as a technician or assistant in a research facility. While earning professional experience, you’ll want to pursue a master’s degree in astronomy, and possibly choose a degree with a focus on the career field you’re interested in. Many astronomer positions in scientific research and development only require a master’s degree.

However, if you want to work in academia and teach college astronomy courses, you’ll need to go on to earn a Ph.D. in astronomy. Most colleges and universities require astronomy professors to hold a Ph.D. Additionally, while earning your master’s and Ph.D. degrees, you’ll want to gain professional teaching experience. This can be achieved by working in adjunct instructor positions, or through a graduate teaching assistantship that allows you to teach classes in exchange for paid tuition and a stipend.

Astronomer Jobs

Position Summary The National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) is committed to maintaining the worlds most accomplished observatories while developing new technology to enable further research in .

Opportunities exist to develop software in other radio astronomy -related domains including embedded systems, FPGA systems, and machine learning. * Designs, develops, implements, and supports mission .

Job Title: Academic Office Coordinator (AA/S II) - Physics & Astronomy Academic Office Coordinator (Administrative Analyst Specialist, Exempt I) - Physics & Astronomy SF State University San .

Canyon of the Eagles is accepting applications for an Astronomer . This position can be permanent part time and/or permanent full time. The Astronomy programs are being expanded to include seven days .

Locations Maui, HI, USA The Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA), is a consortium of over 40 US institutions and four international affiliates that operates world-class .

The University of Virginia's Astronomy Department ( invites applications for an Assistant Professor of Astronomy on the academic general faculty, expected to begin August 25, 2021. We are .

The Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics of The Pennsylvania State University has an opening for a programmer/software designer with the high energy astrophysics detector and instrument group of .

A Ph. D. in astronomy , astrophysics , or physics is required. We seek candidates with strong interpersonal and communication skills. The Johns Hopkins University is an Affirmative Action/Equal .

Advanced Systems Manager I - Astrophysics What You'll Do: * Support Civil Space business unit as mission area lead for Astrophysics opportunities. This includes creating, finding, pursuing .

Description EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITY: Santa Rosa Junior College is currently accepting applications to establish a pool for adjunct faculty assignments. Adjunct assignments may be temporary, part-time .

Celsius and Beyond, an award-winning science summer camp, is seeking an astronomy instructor. Each weekly session has no more than 14 children. Your material budget is generous. Our team members are .

Provide students with appropriate learning activities and experience designed to help them fulfill their potential for intellectual, emotional, physical, and social growth. Enable students to develop .

* Teaches all courses as assigned by the Department Chair or Coordinator. * Maintains attendance and punctuality. * Maintains a professional appearance at all times. * Prepares course syllabi (if not .

Over the last two decades, we have been designing and manufacturing computerized telescopes and other unique amateur astronomy equipment. We are currently looking for an energetic and motivated .

Summary This is the position of IT Specialist (Back Office Developer/Data Analyst) in the NASA Astrophysics Data System (ADS) Project, High Energy Astrophysics Division of the Smithsonian .

Expertise in satellite operations, analysis, computer programming, and solar astronomy KBR is an equal opportunity employer. All qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without .

Astrophysics , Physics: Plasma Required Education: Doctorate Columbia University invites applications for a Postdoctoral Research Scientist position involving complementary studies in experimental .

NSF's National Optical-Infrared Astronomy Research Laboratory (NOIRLab) is the preeminent US national center for ground-based, nighttime optical and infrared astronomy . NOIRLab is a Federally Funded .

Application documents that are not uploaded as part of the application may be sent to [email protected] astronomy .org. Veterans, disabled individuals or wounded warriors needing assistance with the .

Special emphasis is placed on translating complex ideas into lay terms, helping people understand and be engaged by astronomy and the sciences. Candidates must be adept at understanding scientific .

Objectives include educating the public on the value of astronomy and science, furthering the organization's reach, and generating interest in the organization's mission and programs. * Deepens the .

Basic knowledge of physics, astronomy , and orbital mechanics concepts is required * Knowledge of UNIX or LINUX operating systems is required * Working knowledge of Python or a similar scripting .

No prior knowledge of astronomy is required, but it is a plus. **To apply please

The LIGO Laboratory's mission spans a broad and vibrant array of activities related to gravitational-wave physics and astronomy , including detector operations, RD toward detector improvements .

This is a chance to join one of the largest open source projects in astronomy and be part of the team that will enable characterizing dark energy, the hunt for dark matter, all manner of transients .

Astronomer - Tenured/Tenure Track

The National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) is seeking to appoint one or more tenured or tenure-track scientific staff members. NRAO’s mission is to enable forefront research into the Universe at radio wavelengths. In partnership with the scientific community we:

provide world leading telescopes, instrumentation and expertise,

train the next generation of scientists and engineers, and

promote astronomy to foster a more scientifically literate society.

To fulfill its mission, the NRAO has an outstanding scientific staff, and supports a program of staff independent, self-directed research that enables leadership and high quality in all these areas. Our scientific staff is expected to push the telescopes’ capabilities, building on their own research and the needs of the broader astronomical community.

The succesful candidate(s) will work in areas related to the Observatory’s current and planned future facilities: the VLA, VLBA, ALMA, and the ngVLA. These appointments will be made on the basis of the candidates’ demonstrated abilities to further the mission of NRAO, to develop the scientific, technical, and broader impacts environment of the Observatory, and to deliver world class science and scientific impact in the general astronomy research community. The successful candidate(s) shall have demonstrated excellence in research and research leadership, and demonstrated the ability to provide vision and leadership for development of new, innovative science and engineering concepts and directions relevant to NRAO’s mission.

The tenure track at NRAO parallels the tenure system in research universities, with the expectation that scientists will conduct a strong program of research and support the mission of the Observatory. Successful candidate(s) will support Observatory functions in areas of mutual interest.

NRAO staff scientists hold 12-month salaried appointments, and are provided travel and computing support. While NRAO is not a degree-granting institution, its programs for undergraduate and graduate student research experiences afford opportunities for staff to mentor and interact with students. NRAO also conducts a varied program of education and public outreach, and invites interested staff to participate in these activities.

The initial appointments are expected to be for a period of three years, with the possibility of a further three-year term, and of progression to tenure no more than six years after the initial appointment. In the case of more senior-level applicants, a modified initial term or even tenure at the time of the initial appointment may be offered. The award of tenure is the responsibility of the Board of Trustees of Associated Universities, Inc. (AUI), the management organization for the NRAO.

Position Details

Depending on mutual interests, appointments may be made to the staff of the North American ALMA Science Center (NAASC), the New Mexico Operations department, or elsewhere in the Observatory. The NAASC is the science operations division of North American ALMA. It provides support for the North American astronomy community to facilitate their use of ALMA in order to deliver world-class science, and provides scientific support for the operations of the Joint ALMA Observatory (JAO) in Chile, in collaboration with the other international ALMA partners. NRAO activities in New Mexico comprise the operation of the Very Large Array (VLA) and the Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA), and a variety of technical support functions for ALMA-NA, as well as being the center of the next generation VLA (ngVLA) design and development project.

In addition to conducting a strong program of independent research, a successful candidate will enhance the NRAO science environment and output, extend the reach of NRAO telescopes and initiatives within the broader astronomical community, and contribute to operations and deliverables. These may include support for Observatory initiatives, programs, users, or other mutually-agreed functions. Specifics are to be determined based on the candidate’s interests and skillsets, and the needs of the Observatory.

Location and Compensation

Appointments may be in residence at our NRAO headquarters located in Charlottesville, Virginia or at our sites in Socorro or Albuquerque, New Mexico. A remote work station may be possible, with periodic presence at one or more of the sites. In addition to competitive pay, NRAO provides excellent paid time off benefits (vacation and sick leave). Medical, dental and vision plans are effective on the first day of employment. NRAO’s retirement benefit contributes an amount equal to 10 percent of a qualified participant’s base pay, and is effective the first full pay period after six months of employment. No contribution is required of the employee we also offer an optional supplemental, tax-deferred plan for employee retirement contributions.

Job Duties Summary

Tenured and tenure-track appointments entail 50% independent scientific research and 50% functional responsibilities that directly support the delivery and development of the Observatory’s facilities and capabilities. The research may be multi-wavelength in nature but is generally expected to be synergistic with the science relevant to NRAO’s current and planned facilities, and with the mission of the NRAO. Appointees will be expected to undertake functional duties that are in alignment with overall requirements of the host department within NRAO, and that are consistent with their personal expertise, potential and interests. Staff scientists on the astronomer track are expected to contribute to the scientific vision of the NRAO, leadership within NRAO and in the broader astronomy community, to participate in training the future generation of scientists and in activities to broaden science appreciation in the public.

Minimum Education

Ph.D. in astronomy, astrophysics, or a related field

Minimum Experience

  • At least one year of postdoctoral research experience by the time the appointment begins
  • Established record of independent research

Preferred Experience

  • Three or more years of postdoctoral research experience
  • Demonstrated record of high-impact research productivity
  • Demonstrated record of scientific leadership and strategic vision
  • Strong interpersonal skills/proficiency in communication (verbal and written)
  • Evidence of successful science advocacy and public outreach
  • Evidence of understanding of and commitment to the principles of diversity, equity, and inclusion
  • Demonstrated success working collaboratively in a team environment
  • Experience with radio/millimeter/submillimeter astronomy and interferometry and/or associated instrumentation
  • Familiarity with scientific computing

Application Instructions

Apply online at the Associated Universities, Inc. Careers page: Please prepare a single PDF document consisting of the following items:

  1. Cover letter describing how your education and experience match the requirements and qualifications described above (maximum 2 pages).
  2. Curriculum vitae.
  3. List of refereed publications.
  4. Summary of past technical and/or observational and/or broader impact experience relevant to the position (maximum 2 pages).
  5. Description of research accomplishments and future research plans (maximum 4 pages).

Applicants should arrange for three letters of recommendation to be sent to [email protected]

In addition to competitive pay, NRAO provides excellent paid time off benefits (vacation and sick leave). Medical, dental, and vision plans are effective first day of employment. Our retirement benefit contributes an amount equal to 10 percent of a qualified participant's base pay. No contribution is required of the employee we also offer an optional supplemntal, tax-deferred plan for employee retirement contributions.


  • strong physics, mathematics and statistics skills
  • computer programming skills
  • research and analysis skills
  • problem solving/trouble shooting skills
  • excellent communication, both oral and written
  • the ability to make progress without strict deadlines
  • the ability to collaborate and work in a team
  • project management skills
  • the ability to train and mentor students
  • motivation and drive to study your area of research.

Research Analyst

The University of California Observatories (UCO) is a Multi-Campus Research Unit of the University of California, with headquarters at the UC Santa Cruz campus. UCO operates on behalf of astronomers on eight UC campuses and two national laboratories and consists of extensive technical facilities, a business office, telescopes and support facilities at the Lick Observatory on Mt. Hamilton. UCO provides UC’s scientific and administrative interface to the Keck Observatory on Mauna Kea, Hawaii, and the Thirty-Meter Telescope international project, and supports the training of astronomy Ph.D.s throughout the UC system.

Under general supervision of the Associate Director of Business and Administration, the incumbent is responsible for the fiscal management of approximately 70-80 contracts and grants, seed, start-up, and Faculty Research Committee accounts in support of UC Observatories Principal Investigators. Works on proposals of moderate scope such as single investigator NSF proposals where analysis of financial information or reports requires review of a variety of factors (e.g. budgets, salaries, expenses, etc). Receives assignments on project basis and fully analyzes problems, gathers data and information, and recommends solutions.

The incumbent operates in an advisory capacity to the Principal Investigators by analyzing and interpreting agency regulations, providing budget analysis and problem resolution. Most of these researchers have multiple awards, spanning several years, requiring long range planning and resource management. Funds cover postdoctoral and GSR employment, summer salary for faculty, equipment purchases, travel and research support.

Will Rancho Mirage discover the next inhabitable planet?

Hundreds attend the Rancho Mirage Observatory dedication ceremony.

Eric McLaughlin is the new Rancho Mirage astronomer, May 3, 2018. (Photo: Zoe Meyers/The Desert Sun)

As the August solar eclipse neared its end and the sun just began to poke out from behind the moon, a trick of the light created a diamond ring shape in the sky and astronomer Eric McLaughlin popped the big question to his then-girlfriend: “Will you marry me?”

The 30-year-old Rancho Mirage scientist obviously had found a soulmate, willing to trade a diamond in the sky for one on her finger, because she answered “yes” to being the wife of a star-gazer and a few months later McLaughlin said "yes" to becoming Rancho Mirage's chief astronomer.

This year will not just be a year of firsts for the star-blessed lovers, but a year of firsts in Rancho Mirage. With the city's observatory now open, McLaughlin and city staff are having fun along the way while they continue to learn what it means to have a taxpayer-funded astronomer who takes home about $72,000 annually, plus benefits.

McLaughlin’s salary and employment letter were obtained by the Desert Sun following a public records request. His salary is quite below the mean salary for astronomers nationally, which hits at about $109,000, according to 2017 estimates from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. But it is McLaughlin’s first astronomy-related job out of graduate school, and the city does have all employees on a salary schedule that allows for year-to-year increases.

Eric McLaughlin is the new Rancho Mirage astronomer, May 3, 2018. (Photo: Zoe Meyers/The Desert Sun)

The city's 2018-19 budget list McLaughlin's future salary at just above $77,000. McLaughlin’s salary, the observatory’s programs, and its maintenance are taxpayer-funded through library and observatory dollars. The city has budgeted $30,000 for the observatory's annual maintenance cost and $40,000 for its annual programming.

The observatory, completely funded with city money, cost $4.2 million to build. City officials said the project was paid for with non-city trust funds that would have been returned to the state if not spent locally. A professional astronomer was needed because without an expert, the observatory's programming would have been sub-par.

And as if it was written in the stars, the city's astronomer position was posted at the height of McLaughlin's job search. Before making the move to an apartment in Rancho Mirage, McLaughlin was living in San Diego after completing a Master’s degree in astronomy at San Diego State University. He worked as a mechanical engineer for several years in San Diego before giving in to the pull of the stars.

By way of explanation, McLaughlin quoted Carl Sagan, the celebrity astronomer and astrophysicist, who said: “The sky calls to us.” But McLaughlin wasn’t just called by the sky – he was called by memories of Rancho Mirage and a pull to make the complexities of the stars accessible to all. He said a city astronomer position is not a common job to find as most astronomy positions are strictly research-based or connected to universities. McLaughlin said he jumped at the chance to fill the unique role as a community educator in a city he called home as a child.

Eric McLaughlin is the new Rancho Mirage astronomer, May 3, 2018. (Photo: Zoe Meyers/The Desert Sun)

McLaughlin lived in Rancho Mirage for a span of years growing up, and his family has owned a condominium in the city for generations. “The general life and feel of this area was very unique and I always felt like the Coachella Valley was a set of cities bounded by adventure,” he said. “The hills all around and the wonderful places to explore – and I love hiking – and the openness of the area is a good scale to take in the vastness of earth.”

McLaughlin is tasked with taking his own wonder of the universe and using it to lead educational programs for the community and conducting astronomical research with collaborating partners from other institutions. Since the observatory opened in March, McLaughlin has led a handful of talks and events that he says have been well attended, with more planned in the future.

“I’m excited about the variety of things we will actually be offering,” McLaughlin said. “So far we have talked about exoplanets (planets outside of our solar system) and stars. We are going to have a variety of star-gazing events, taking people to the observatory deck to give a tour of the sky and will have some talks about a few important space probe missions and are working on guest speakers as well.

There are so many different subjects we could talk about, we’re just trying to get everything on the schedule.” Visitors will be able to see distant galaxies, star clusters, nebulae and details on planets such as Mars and Jupiter. Isaiah Hagerman, Rancho Mirage assistant city manager, said the public interest in the observatory has been amazing.

For example, all 12 May star-gazing tours were immediately booked as soon as the sign-up was opened to the public, but more will be available in June, with registration opening for those dates at the end of May. “Over time our free public library has evolved into much more than just a place for books,” Hagerman said. “One of the most exciting aspects of developing an observatory was the ability to expand the library campus and enhance its mission of life-long learning. The observatory was a natural addition, as it sparks the imagination and education interests of the young and the young at heart.”

Hagerman also wanted to remind readers that library cards are free to all, as are the majority of educational programs. When not leading educational programs, McLaughlin will be continuing his own research. His personal interest lies in failed supernovas, or stars that don't always dramatically collapse into a black hole, but "just very quietly turn off." The observatory’s main instrument is a set of cameras that drive photometric research, which allows researchers to study light from stars.

Eric McLaughlin is the new Rancho Mirage astronomer, May 3, 2018. (Photo: Zoe Meyers/The Desert Sun)

The study of light will allow information about supernovas to be collected, such as how the star is decaying. The light studies can also provide information about the temperature of stars, their chemical elements, how the star is moving and the strength of gravity on the surface of the star. And those same tools can also be used to learn new information about planets outside of our solar system. The information gained could give hints at the stability of the planet and if it could be inhabitable.

When asked if Rancho Mirage could be responsible for discovering the next inhabitable planet, McLaughlin said while he tends to be an overly hopeful and zealous researcher, he declined to speculate. He said any significant research conducted would most likely be done in collaboration with other institutions. He said there had been talks with the California Institute of Technology about collaboration efforts, and someone from the institute’s Palomar Observatory even consulted on the design features of Rancho Mirage’s observatory.

Palomar has three research telescopes, a 48-, 60- and 200-inch telescope. In comparison, Rancho Mirage's research-level telescope is 27 inches, referring to how large the instrument's primary mirror is, which is what allows the telescope to collect light. The more light collected, the easier it is to see very faint objects. The larger the mirror, the better the images. Dan McKenna, from Palomar Observatory who advised Rancho Mirage's design, said many cities do have small observatories such as the Griffith Park Observatory in Los Angeles.

Eric McLaughlin is the new Rancho Mirage astronomer, May 3, 2018. (Photo: Zoe Meyers/The Desert Sun)

But McKenna said while larger observatories take on the majority of competitive research, it would be possible that Rancho Mirage could contribute some useful data, though McKenna said that he Rancho Mirage observatory "was to place a research grade instrument into the hands of the public." However, McKenna said "in general there are not enough telescopes to monitor the sky everywhere, every night, thus it is possible for (Rancho Mirage) to contribute to the scientific literature."

But on a more local level, McLaughlin is hoping he can share those research experiences with others, especially students who may be interested in pursuing astronomy or science-related fields. His goal is to allow people to understand the true vastness of the universe.

“The research is a great aspect of this job,” he said. “But being able to bring other people along with me is great. The universe is bigger than any one person can experience and getting people excited about it is the big things we’re focused on.”