Starry-eyed but no expert on the night-time skies

Brian Cox.
Brian Cox.

I’ve always been pretty proud to say my dad is an astronomer. It is an unlikely choice of expertise, a conversation starter and likely to provoke unintentionally hilarious and uninformed responses. ‘So can he see into the future?’ being a case in point..

I’d just like to point out he is an astronomer, not an astrologer. Just saying. Just in case.

With the recent trendification of astronomy through TV presenter types including Professor Brian Cox, pretty much every other person considers themselves a stargazer.

With the recent trendification of astronomy through TV presenter types including Professor Brian Cox, pretty much every other person considers themselves a stargazer. But, from a lifetime of experience, I can assure you that staring with a look of wonder into the night-time sky spotting constellations shaped like animals and astronomy are two very different things.

I can say with absolute acceptance, that on the astronomy front, my brother, my sister and I are a complete disappointment. Not one of us possesses the in-depth mathematical skills and acute levels of concentration and determination required to systematically scour the universe to find supernovae for example – which is my dad’s long term ambition.

That is not saying we are not interested. And I can confirm with absolute assurance that we were theonly children in our vari ous schools to have a registered state-of-the-art observatory complete with fully working giant telescope in our back garden.

It was not unusual to have classrooms full of schoolchildren take a field trip to our lawn – which was (is) resplendent with a huge green rotating dome housing enough technology to rival NASA.

Needless to say, he actually was friends with Patrick Moore, a useful contact number when I was a rookie reporter looking for a good quote on starry stories.

The problem with astronomy is although it explains our very existence it is almost impossible to comprehend the enormity of the universe.

In a world where we are inherently focused on our day to day selves and family, looking up at the skies is fascinating but thinking of the inconsequential nature of ourselves in the scale of things is pretty terrifying.

But I love that my dad reaches for the stars.