Exploring the Universe together
I am a distractible astronomer who specialises in galaxy formation, machine learning including anomaly detection, and occasional planet hunting. These projects usually make use of the Zooniverse citizen science platform, working in collaboration with more than two million volunteers around the world. I'm a proud and excited member of the collaboration building the Vera Rubin Observatory, which will power the next astronomical revolution.
I am also an author, a broadcaster for the BBC's long-running Sky at Night program, and involved in all sorts of public engagement and outreach projects. Follow me on Twitter for updates and occasional opinions.
I'm excited to say I've been appointed the 39th Professor of Astronomy at Gresham College in London.
Gresham College is an extraordinary place, founded in 1597 to bring 'new learning' to Londoners and open to everyone ever since the beginning. Astronomy has been one of the seven chairs from the start. There's a strong Oxford connection, with my colleague Katherine preceeding me
The first set of six lectures start in September cover great discoveries in astronomy, from Saturn's moons to the edge of the observable Universe (or they will, when I've written them).
Sign up to the Gresham newsletter here to get ticket and broadcast details once they're announced
Interstellar Objects in a Galactic Context
A new adventure is my work in trying to understand the properties of interstellar objects passing through the Solar System, using cosmological models of galactic evolution and chemical models of planetesimal formation to understand how the properties of objects like 'Oumuamua depend on their origins, and what such objects can tell us about processes on many scales.
The first paper in this series, with Michele Bannister and Ted Mackereth, predicts the water content of interstellar objects in galaxies with a variety of star formation histories. We predict a broadly bimodal distribution, with ISOs with high mass fraction in water forming early on, and ISOs with low mass fraction in water forming later on. We're hoping this prediction will be tested by the upcoming Vera Rubin Observatory.
I'm the Lead Editor responsible for (deep breath) Laboratory Astrophysics, Instrumentation, Software and Data for the journals of the American Astronomical Society, including the Astrophysical Journal and Astronomical Journal.
I am especially interested in ensuring that those carrying out work in software development and instrument building and design get credit for the work in their traditional literature.
I also run the Research Notes of the AAS, which encourages short, moderated reports of works in progress, observational notes and - importantly - negative results.
I am a Research fellow at New College, where I help lead the Balzan Centre for Cosmological Studies. In the Department, I chair the Access and Public Engagement Committee, and am one of the team of Harassment Advisors. I was also an elected member of the Board of Visitors of the Ashmolean Museum from 2018-2022, and am still very interested in museums and museum practice.