I grew up in Bath in the West of England and had an interest in science, and in particular astronomy, from a very early age. I was inspired by the television series Cosmos which was co-created and presented by physicist and science communicator Carl Sagan. The thirteen part series gave an overview of many aspects of science, physics, astronomy, and cosmology.
For its day, the series was visually stunning, the presenter engaging, and when he looked out of the TV screen and told me that all of the heavy atoms of which we are made were created during nuclear fusion processes in stars - and that therefore “we are all made of star stuff” - I was utterly blown away.
As I learned more about astronomy, more revelations followed: the light from the sun takes 8 minutes to reach the Earth, the light from the nearest known star outside our solar system - Proxima Centauri - takes four and a half years to reach us. On a clear night you can see light from objects thousands of lightyears away. The light from the Orion Nebula, for example, has taken more than 1300 years to reach us travelling at the speed of light, of course. Think about this for a minute: when you look at the Orion Nebula you are seeing it as it was more than 1300 years ago. In a very real sense you are looking back in time.
I still find these things amazing.
Anyway, I ended up studying for a degree in physics and astronomy at Southampton University in the UK; I even passed! As part of the course I was privileged to spend some time at the Izaña Observatory on Tenerife which was a fantastic experience, but a career as a researcher was beyond me and instead I went in to publishing.
I maintained an interest in astronomy and for a while had a cheap and cheerful telescope - a 6” Newtonian reflector - but it wasn’t until Stargazing Live appeared on TV screens in the UK in January 2011 that I was motivated to buy another telescope. Before long I was dabbling in astrophotography using a digital SLR camera and soon I was hooked on taking images of the night sky. Like many before me I embarked on a steep learning curve and started to improve my equipment. I now use mono CCD cameras, which are designed especially for the purpose and have very low levels of ‘noise’ even when using the long exposures necessary for taking images of the very faint deep sky objects that are my primary interest.
I am still learning, and actually believe that astrophotography is a hobby that requires continual learning and experimentation, but in May 2013 I had my first image published in Sky at Night Magazine. I didn’t have to wait too long for my second image to be published as in June 2013 I was awarded Picture of the Month in Astronomy Now.
In 2013 I was delighted to be elected a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society.