Boyer graduate planner Michael Gooch talks about his enthusiasm for astronomy.
How did you get into astronomy?
Back in April 1997 I was nine years old and comet Hale-Bopp was clearly visible in the night sky. I was awe-struck. That was probably the first moment I realised there were many weird and wonderful things to be seen throughout the universe.
What does it involve?
If you want to get a genuine feel for what is out there, owning a telescope or even just a set of binoculars is a must. If you also own a smartphone - and who doesn’t these days? - there are many apps that will show you where and when to look for the best views.
Why do you do it?
A curiosity of the world and a desire to learn as much as I can are central to how I see myself. I have found that few things can satisfy such a deep, intense curiosity as finding out more about our place in the wide expanse of the universe.
What’s the toughest thing about it?
Standing outside at night with a telescope requires a great deal of patience. If you are not used to using a telescope, finding a small pinprick of light against a dark, unending backdrop can be extremely difficult and time consuming. Manoeuvring the telescope needs tiny, delicate refinements; a tiny breeze might nudge it just slightly but you could find Mars zooming away from view.
What’s the most rewarding thing about it?
Your patience is guaranteed to pay off. There is nothing more rewarding than the breathtaking feeling of seeing an entire planet billions and billions of miles away, up close to your eyes. After one particularly laborious session, I managed to see the reds, oranges and browns of Jupiter’s gas clouds, which would swallow the Earth whole. I also got the truly stunning view of Saturn and its rings suspended against a backdrop of stars, all in one night.
Are there any similarities between your day job and astronomy?
It is safe to say nothing will reinvigorate the fundamental aspiration of planning to conserve and enrich our surroundings more than the recognition given by astronomy that the Earth is just one infinitesimal part of a vast and wonderful universe.
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