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At the end of a long night of Astronomy, La Palma 2013

I am an astronomer in the QUB Astrophysics Research Centre and a member of the Solar System Group. My primary research interests are in performing observations of minor bodies in our solar system, comets and asteroids. But sometimes we also study alien visitors such as 1I/’Oumuamua and 2I/Borisov.

These studies are generally based on observations performed on the UK supported telescopes in the Canary Islands (ING) and Chile ( ESO), although for the past few years I’ve also been looking at the  data coming from Pan-STARRS and ATLAS. For an idea of what these telescopes look like, here’s a picture of me standing nervously under the ESO Very Large Telescope.

My “official” University stats page is here, but in between research, teaching and admin I’ve found time to be a member of the teams allocating time on the Hubble Space Telescope, Very Large Telescope and Isaac Newton Group; a member of ESA advisory panels, and a member of Council of the Royal Astronomical Society (among other things). I currently work with lots of great people on the following  projects:

  • ATLAS – Helping discover very Near-Earth Asteroids, and working on hundreds of thousands of known ones.
  • DART – NASA’s first Planetary Defence test.
  • HERA – Going back to see the mess we made with DART – launching in 2024!
  • UK LSST Consortium – We will see lots of NEOs and other stuff.
  • SOXS – The Son-Of-XShooter spectrograph coming into operation on the NTT in 2023.

I also enjoyed working on these projects:

  • ISSI ‘Oumuamua Team – Trying to come up with our best summary of the first alien object seen in our Solar system.
  • NEOShield-2 Project – proposing how to move an asteroid, you know, just in case…
  • UK Pan-STARRS Science Consortium – Making sense of 10’s of millions of asteroid detections.
  • The Rosetta ground-based observations team – following Rosetta and comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko all around the Sun. Rosetta tweeted me once.
  • ISSI Main-Belt Comet Team – how can we measure their properties to get a better handle on ices in the asteroid belt?
At the start of a long night on La Silla, 2011