I chose the name Starry Night because, although I started out as a graphic designer, I am now an astronomer and work in the Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics (JBCA) at The University of Manchester.
Also, the painting "The Starry Night" is by one of my favourite artists, Vincent van Gogh, and Don McLean wrote a great song about Vincent, which I even learned to play on the piano.
As an astronomer, my research interests include planetary nebulae, the chemistry of molecular clouds, and the role of dust in the interstellar medium. My photo pages show some of the places I have visited to make observations with optical and radio telescopes.
I have been an associate lecturer for the Open University and a support scientist for NRAO's Green Bank Telescope.
As part of my commitment to public outreach, I give talks on astronomy to adults and children of all ages, and have also been interviewed on local radio.
However, I have not given up being an artist and continue to design web sites and printed brochures.
I am presenting the talk "Matter Between the Stars: The Physics and Chemistry of the Interstellar Medium" at
Nottingham Astronomical Society, British Geological Survey, Nicker Hill, Keyworth NG12 5GG at 8:00pm on 4 July 2013
Currently I am giving the talks How I Wonder What You Are: The Birth, Life and Death of Stars and Matter Between the Stars: The Physics and Chemistry of the Interstellar Medium. I give these talks to astronomy societies, science cafés, schools and companies. I have also spoken on local radio, have podcasts available on iTunes and a set of videos on YouTube. Please contact me if you are interested in having me give one of these talks.
Dates and Venues
Listen to my broadcasts on The Birth, Life and Death of Stars via my
You can also watch videos of me speaking on the same subject.
Life at Owlers
Views from Owlers today looking south towards Mytholmroyd and Cragg Vale and east along the Upper Calder Valley towards Sowerby.
The Galaxy, you know, is not simply a flat ovoid of any sort; nor is the periphery a closed curve. Actually, it is a double spiral, with at least eighty percent of the inhabited planets on the Main Arm. Terminus is the extreme outer end of the spiral arm, and we are at the other - since, what is the opposite end of a spiral? Why, the center.
Second Foundation, Isaac Asimov (1953)
The stars, like dust, encircle me
In the living mists of light;
And all of space I seem to see
In one vast burst of sight.
Isaac Asimov (1955)
(Black) is like the silence of the body after death, the close of life.
Wassily Kandinsky (1911)
My Book List
One of the books that I have read and enjoyed recently:
Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson
The Starry Night by Van Gogh
and V838 Monocerotis
To me physics is all about figuring out how the Universe works. Ultimately its findings are deeply philosophical, and it is this that makes physics (and astronomy) so fascinating. Not that I expect an answer as to why we are here or the meaning of life. Such quests are based on the notion that we occupy a special place in the Universe, which we do not. However, the ability to perceive ourselves and the Universe around us, should unite and motivate us in the continuing quest for knowledge and understanding, rather than focus on the trivial things that divide humanity (age, race, nationality, religion, sexuality). That quest, to me at least, gives meaning and purpose to our short time in this vast Universe.
Great new album from my mate Steve Tilston:
My birthday is listed in the papers as Aries but this is the sun sign which somebody with my birthday would have had when Ptolemy
codified all that stuff. Because of the precessional shift of approximately one whole zodiacal sign over the AD era, my sun sign is in fact (if you can call it a fact) Pisces. If astrologers were doing something that had any connection with reality, this presumably ought to make a difference. Since they aren't, it doesn't. Scorpio could go retrograde up Uranus and it wouldn't make any difference.
Richard Dawkins (1995)
I designed the new brochure for the Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics.
My web site gallery depicts the web sites that I have created since 2000.
Web Sites That I Maintain
Life at Owlers
Oliver Perks' Wartime Blog
The Xgear Project
Mytholmroyd Walkers' Action
Halifax Café Scientifique
and more Quotes
Why do you write to me 'God should punish the English'? I have no close connection to either one or the other. I see only with deep regret that God punishes so many of His children for their numerous stupidities, for which only He Himself can be held responsible; in my opinion, only His nonexistence could excuse Him.
Albert Einstein (1915)
More Einstein Thoughts.
Atop NRAO's Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia
I started my career in the late sixties, working as a graphic artist in design studios and advertising agencies in London.
In the mid-eighties I got involved with computers and the subsequent desk top publishing revolution. This led to working for a large
corporation producing multilingual publications and multimedia.
I have also run my own company, Geodesy, providing production services for print and the web (see my article on Multilingual Web Publishing in the Seybold Report).
Despite my creative abilities, I always had a strong interest in science, and physics and astronomy in particular. When I was a young boy my father took me to the London Planetarium and bought me a planisphere - a simple set of plastic disks that showed the positions of the stars at any time or place. In the intervening years I have lost the little device, but not my fascination with the stars.
In 1989 I started studying for a physics degree with the Open University, and finally obtained my BSc in 2002. Towards the end of my studies I became increasingly interested in astrophysics and at the same time discovered that studying for PhD as a mature student was not entirely 'pie in the sky'. In 2002 I was offered a PPARC funded PhD research studentship at the University of Manchester, which I completed in 2006. At the beginning of 2007 I took up the post of Support Scientist for the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) at the Green Bank Telescope (GBT) in West Virginia.
Currently I am a visiting research fellow and SAGE-Spec research associate in the Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics (JBCA) at The University of Manchester. Little did I realise where studying with the OU would lead me!
Interests and Activities
Horse riding in Montana
I am an Honorary Auditor for the Royal Astronomical Society, President of the Halifax Scientific Society and the local organiser for Halifax Café Scientifique. I am a founder member of Fusion - The Open University Physics and Astronomy Society and edited their Newsletter and Web site. I also served on the committee of Nexus - the student section of the Institute of Physics and designed their new logo.
I am also a fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society, a member of the Institute of Physics, a member of the International Astronomical Union, a member of the American Astronomical Society and a member of the Royal Society Of Chemistry Astrophysical Chemistry Group.
I am a friend of the Royal Academy, member of the National Trust and friend of Westonbirt Arboretum.
In the course of my two careers I have travelled extensively and visited the US, Mexico, Tobago, Chile, Eire, France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Czech Republic, Russia, Malta, Greece, Turkey, Egypt, Israel, Kenya, South Africa, India, Thailand, Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan and Japan.
I like to read science (fact and fiction), general fiction, philosophy, biography and art history (see my book list). Other activities include gardening, painting, photography, a little sailing, some horse riding and playing the guitar.