Here in the southwest USA we are spoiled with our dark skies. Anyone only has to travel a few miles into the desert and they will be able to see the wonder of the universe first hand. Elsewhere things are not so good. Many people have never even had the chance to see our own galaxy, the Milky Way. From now through Earth Day, April 22, an on-line “Earth and Sky” photo contest is open for submission by any photography enthusiasts of any age from around the world. International projects The World at Night and Global Astronomy Month along with the National Optical Astronomy Observatory are the organizers of the Earth and Sky Photo Contest. The contest was founded by TWAN and Dark Skies Awareness project in 2008 as a regional program. It was expanded to an international effort in 2009 during the International Year of Astronomy. In 2012 participants from about 50 countries submitted a wonderful collection of nightscape images. The contest news was broadcasted by major science news media world-wide and the winning images were widely promoted. With the growing efforts of Astronomers Without Borders (AWB), the organization behind the Global Astronomy Month, the Earth and Sky Photo Contest will have an even larger feedback this year.
So 50 jobs a year appear in astronomy? Not too sure about that one. Seems a little high to me. I wonder how many of those were real job, and not just 2 year soft money positions somewhere. We have a real problem in science with this. If we assume that a retired professor’s position will be replaced, then each professor should only ever have 1 PhD student. An average professor will put through 30-40 PhD students in a career, so that means 29-39 students must get a job in a research institute. Sounds unlikely.
So what is the solution? More research money in industry might work, and leads to the bonus of making companies more efficient. But this poses a second question- why should the tax layer fund PhDs if the students are just going to go into industry. More money in education, and a stricter selection of grad student might work. But this leads to the accusation of throwing good money after bad.
In general education is always good. So I recommend that students pursue a PhD because they love science, not because they think it’ll be good for their career or will lead to a job. If money is your chief concern, better to stay clear of research. Or aim to become president instead.