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David Williams - solar guides


Hi, my name's David Williams:


Where did you grow up?

I'm half-Welsh and half-Irish, and my family did quite a bit of moving around in these two countries when I was at school. The high school I went to was in a little place called Ballygawley in County Tyrone, Northern Ireland - some people would think that it's in the middle of nowhere!

Image of Ballygawley

Sometimes it used to feel like that, especially at the weekend, when there weren't many other kids about. The best thing about that school, though, was the activities outside of class-time - like school plays, or foreign trips like the one to France. Later I moved to a school in Omagh, about 16 miles up the road, which was a big town compared to Ballygawley. Of course, it was nowhere near as big as Belfast, but I thought it was great because there were shops, arcades, a swimming pool and a cinema!


Image of David WilliamsThis is me on a boat-trip to the Skellig Islands off the Kerry coast.


Where do you work?

I went to university in Belfast, where I studied astronomy, but I now work at the Mullard Space Science Laboratory in Surrey. It's a really interesting place to work, as we do everything from designing and building satellites to analysing the data from them. (The only thing we can't do is launch them - we're much too close to Gatwick airport, and I don't think people would like to see huge rockets screaming past their plane window!)

I know work on the HINDOE spacecraft and spend a lot of time in Japan.


Image of loops coming from the SunDo you travel much?

Being a solar physicist is a great job, and you get to travel a lot, if you want. In the last two years, I've been to Greece, Spain, Washington DC and Los Angeles - and it was all for work! This week I'm off to New Mexico to observe the Sun for two weeks. It's a tough job, but someone's got to do it.

Courtesy of National Solar Observatory/Sacramento Peak, Sunspot, New Mexico.


Image of David outside the White House in the USAHere is a picture of me taken in front of the White House in Washington DC, just over a year ago. You can see that it's a long, long way from the fence to the actual house.


What do you do in your spare time?

I played the trumpet and piano at school, but you need a lot of room to have your own piano, so I stick to the trumpet. It's quite hard work playing it right now, because I need to practise more. But I want to join a local band, so it'll be worth sticking to it. I'm trying to find a place to go parachuting, too, because I used to do this with some friends from Belfast and it's an amazing experience.


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