Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Paying it Forward : Don't forget to look up

After speaking to my colleagues at FT today, I would like to post something a bit personal.

Quietly and with a bit of free time , which was not booked on the telescope, which I then had allocated to me today, I pointed our Faulkes Telescope South, a wonderful educational resource run by the great people at LCOGT at an asteroid. This is something we do at Faulkes a lot, with projects engaging schools and young minds in astronomy, as we've had a lot of success with our asteroid programs with the IASC, my own team and teams from the BAA + more. It's now something we're developing more and more in to great school projects with comets and asteroids, and above all, it's valuable science too.

It's a wonderful facility to work with and for, as you get to see/hear via teachers about the look on kids faces when they take an image or find a new object. But today was (and only for a short period of time) something a bit more personal.

I took an image of an asteroid, named after someone who himself, as a young child, showed an interest in astronomy.  A young child who went on to write presentations, make maps, but never ever became a professional astronomer in his own right, despite showing a phenomenal level of intelligence.

He helped in the RAF during the war, and lost the person he loved during that sad and devastating conflict.

This young man continued to win many awards and plaudits throughout his long and illustrious life, and was admired the world over, despite being an amateur through and through, and with his colourful views on many topics, split people's opinions, but he did it in a way, that you still could not but admire his passion for astronomy. He played cricket until a ripe old age, whilst also helping mankind land on the Moon, and the Russians used his considerable skills too, for his maps of the Moon were the best in existence. He count count pretty much every single moonwalker as a friend, so much so, that when it came to him receiving one of the greatest awards in broadcasting, none other than Buzz Aldrin flew over to present it to him.

He played music with Einstein, and was one of the only people to ever meet the first man to fly a plane the first man in space, and the first man on the Moon, and until the day he died, dedicated his life to astronomy, outreach and engaging young and old in looking at the sky.

Above all thing he said to me once , was that his greatest legacy "was that he inspired millions of people to look up at the skies "

In honour of this great man, some years back now, the IAU granted a request to name an asteroid after him, an honour which is granted to those who find these celestial wanderers,and are then permitted to suggest a name for these bodies in honour of great people.I am sure the IAU agreed this citation in record speed.

The asteroid I pointed our telescope at today, a robotic telescope the like of which this man was instrumental in the initial formation of in Liverpool many years ago is 2602 Moore, it was an image of an object quietly moving through space, going around the Sun just like we are... taken with this telescope, remotely controlled from several thousand miles away.. taken in just a few minutes.

So this one's for Patrick, for whom this asteroid is name,  we'll hopefully use this data to help train school kids how to detect asteroids, something which could even help save our planet one day...who knows!... but..maybe, just maybe one of those kids, like millions of others across the globe, will ask "who was this man" and someone of my generation will tell them. And in doing so we may help inspire that kid to go on, and become an astronomer.. inspired not only by the image they have taken and the science they have done, but also by the man who inspired so many of us to do it.

So here is 2602 Moore, named in honour of Sir Patrick by the discoverer...This is a raw screen capture from the software we use to detect moving objects. I hope, in this topical time, when the show and its very future is being discussed, that people can look at what he achieved, and hopefully the BBC will come to a sound decision that takes astronomy broadcasting forward in to the 21st Century and beyond.