What Is Geological Astronomy?

Geological astronomy explores planets, moons, comets and other solid bodies in space, typically using telescopes, space cameras and other remote sensing techniques. Continue reading for information about what this discipline involves and how to enter a career in this field. Schools offering Science, Technology, and International Security degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Geological Astronomy Defined

Geological astronomy, also called astrogeology, exogeology and planetary geology, is an interdisciplinary field that applies geoscientific principles to the study of extraterrestrial bodies and matter, including their history and composition. For example, geological astronomy professionals may search for evidence of lava-flow erosion on the surface of Venus or look for landing sites on Mars. Geological astronomy techniques are of interest to petroleum geologists who aim to better understand Earth's energy resources and to find extraterrestrial energy sources.

This field requires knowledge of remote-sensing technology, image and spectroscopic processing, computer programming, astronomy, geology, geophysics, chemistry and biology. Geological astronomy involves planning space missions, controlling remote space vehicles and producing planetary maps.

Important Facts About Geological Astronomy Programs

Common Courses Physics of the planets, planetary atmospheres, planetary surface processes, planet formation and evolution, celestial mechanics
Online Availability Online geological astronomy programs are not readily available
Prerequisites High school diploma, minimum GPA requirements, research experience and background in quantitative courses for graduate programs
Possible Careers Astrogeology professor, science director at NASA, research director, analyst
Median Salary (2018)* $105,680 (Astronomers); $90,860 (Post-secondary atmospheric, earth, marine, and space sciences teachers)
Job Outlook (2016-2026)* 10% (Astronomers); 10% (Post-secondary atmospheric, earth, marine, and space sciences teachers)

Source: *U.S. Bureau for Labor Statistics

Education

Bachelor of Science in Geology

Earning a B.S. degree in geology or geoscience is the groundwork for an advanced degree in the field of planetary geology. You'll study how Earth formed, the way human populations interact with the geological landscape, energy supplies, ocean basins, mineralogy and stratigraphy. You may be introduced to planetary geology through studies of remote sensing, and a few geoscience programs may offer courses in planetary geology.

Graduate Degrees with a Planetary Geology Concentration

There are a few, highly selective graduate programs in astrogeology that allow you to take graduate courses in topics such as planetary evolution. To obtain a master's or Ph.D. in geology, geoscience or astronomy and focus on planetary geology, you may wish to apply to programs that have faculty members with research interests in this area. You may need to show that you are exceptionally capable at quantitative disciplines, such as math and physics.

Careers

This is a highly specialized field, so there aren't many employment opportunities. However, organizations like the U.S. Geological Survey and the American Association of Petroleum Geologists do have astrogeology teams.

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