Rockets and stars: starting off the International Year of Astronomy
22 January 2009
The Sun is our nearest star and we wouldn’t be here without it. Therefore astronomy is relevant to everybody - which is why I think the International Year of Astronomy (IYA) is an excellent idea. My name is Dr Lucy Rogers, and I am chairman of my local astronomical society, Vectis AS.
As part of IYA 2009 we are taking our telescopes and binoculars out to the public at least once a month. It’s very satisfying to hear the wows of wonder as you show someone the craters on the moon, or the rings around Saturn for the first time. Children are encouraged to wonder about stars in the nursery rhyme 'Twinkle, twinkle', but after that, how much do we actually know? Everyone has seen the moon and stars and probably a planet or two, even if they didn’t realise what they were looking at. With the help of thousands of astronomical societies and observatories around the world, this year is your chance to find out more.
I am an amateur astronomer – I look at the stars for fun. I usually just look with my eyes - I don’t often use a telescope or binoculars. However, there are almost as many different types of amateur astronomer as there are amateur astronomers. Some people around the world contribute to the world’s scientific knowledge by spotting comets, supernovas and through other work. Many enjoy hunting for elusive distant galaxies while others enjoy watching the planets.
I’m a Chartered Mechanical Engineer by training, and have managed to combine my interest in all things space with some parts of my portfolio career. For example, I am the author of the book 'It’s ONLY Rocket Science – An Introduction in Plain English', which explains the basics of rocket science, from the initial idea to the completion of the mission. I am also a freelance journalist, and have written for the BBC, the Guardian and more specialist publications such as Astronomy Now Magazine. I have worked as an engineer at a company working on rockets for space tourism and I give talks on space, science and engineering. Space aside, I am also a director of a computer consultancy.
In astronomical circles, I have never found any barriers erected because I am female. In fact, I suspect it has worked to my advantage at times, because I am easily identifiable amongst so many male colleagues, which is great for networking.
Dr Lucy Rogers is a member of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers; a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society, a Fellow of the British Interplanetary Society, member of the Association of British Science Writers and a member of the Women's Engineering Society.
Lucy is the author of the book ‘It’s ONLY Rocket Science - An Introduction in Plain English’, published by Springer.