has been driven by the exciting opportunities in the field. Although the research enterprise itself may not be able to offer permanent positions to all qualified new entrants to the field, training in U.S. astronomy and astrophysics programs affords the ability to pursue many valuable career paths.
Astronomy stirs the public imagination and the human spirit. Indeed, the results of modern astronomical research are already deeply ingrained in our culture, and terms like “light-year,” “big bang,” and “black hole” have joined the vernacular. The astronomy aisle of any fully stocked bookstore includes large, beautiful picture books of the cosmos as well as technical books about the advancing frontier—written by working astronomers, writers educated as astronomers, and journalists. About once per week on average, national television broadcasts an interview with a professional astronomer, a rate that increases dramatically during the semiannual meetings of the American Astronomical Society (AAS). The steady stream of discoveries from space missions and ground-based telescopes generates hundreds of press stories per year and has made some facilities, such as the Hubble Space Telescope (HST), into international icons.