Confessions of an astroholic

Dorset Magazine, Dorset Night Skies

I find it difficult to write about myself. It is much easier to select a topic, gather information and write about something objectively. Dark Matter, Antimatter, Dark Energy, The Universe, I will take that any day of the week. However, as I have learned recently, it is good and healthy to get out of your comfort zone once in a blue moon, so here goes nothing!
The last few months have been great, I attended a few interesting science events, continued to go to the meetings at Durlston, Swanage and had the privilege of meeting two astronauts – Alfred Warden and Tim Peake.
I feel so lucky to have met an astronaut from the Apollo Project, as they are a rare breed these days, especially with the recent passing of John Young, Commander of the Apollo 16 mission. Al Worden, who I met at New Scientist Live, was the Command Module Pilot for the Apollo 15 Lunar Mission and has been listed in the Guinness Book of World Record as the most isolated human in existence in during his time alone in space. I got a signed copy of his book, which is a great read for those of you who are interested in learning more about the Apollo Program.

The Tim Peake’s book launch was something else entirely. The Barbican Centre was buzzing with astronomy lovers and children who wanted to meet their hero and quiz him on how to become astronauts one day. I attended the event with a fellow astronomy enthusiast and an incredibly talented artist, Kathryn Thomas. Tim’s talk was very engaging as he shared a lot of fun facts about space and his time on board of the ISS. I personally didn’t realise how many superstitions the Russian Astronauts have – listening to a specific song and watching a particular film on the night before the big day, peeing on the rear tyre of the bus on the way to the launch pad is just the tip of the iceberg. Trust me, there are more!

Half-way through the talk, Kate and I started planning on how to quickly get in the queue and get our books signed. As Dallas announced where the book signing will take place, we rushed through the doors and were almost first in line to meet Tim Peake in person!

Confessions of an Astroholic

After the event, Kate introduced me to Dallas Campbell, broadcaster, speaker and author of the book, Ad Astra: An Illustrated Guide to Leaving the Planet. I’ve just started reading it and as it is a guide to leaving planet Earth and living in space, I am fairly sure we can count this as our version of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

Confessions of an Astroholic

Undoubtedly, we have truly gone a very long way since the Apollo Project and the fun is yet to come. Did you know that NASA is already planning for a Space Launch System, as part of its deep space exploration plans or that Elon Musk is planning a manned mission to Mars by 2024? Companies like Space X, Blue Origin, and Virgin Galactic are shaping up the future of spaceflight and are paving our way to the stars.

Dorset Magazine, Dorset Night Skies

Towards the end of the year, I got invited to participate in an article on the Dorset Dark Skies and had the pleasure to work with three inspiring individuals, who share my passion for the night sky. The feature got published in the January issue of the Dorset Magazine and needless to say I have been over the Moon about it. The article was devoted to people who are influenced by the night sky in various ways and express their passion through their work. You will discover Kathryn Thomas’s astonishing paintings and Sam King’s stunning astrophotos featured in the magazine and you will find out more about what inspires them. You will also get a glimpse of what encouraged Bob Mizon to pursue astronomy as his full-time career, travel across the country with his Planetarium, and inspire the next generation of astronauts, physicists, artists, and night sky lovers.

If you are interested in brushing up on your astrophotography skills, be sure to contact Sam King at Digital Reef Photography, he is certainly the go-to person for tips and expert advice on nightscapes.

As for me, I’m planning to visit the Kielder Observatory and the Royal Observatory, Greenwich in London this year, explore more topics and continue looking up.

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