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Laura Watson - solar guides


Laura Watson


What do you do?


Laura WatsonI am now doing graduate work on cosmology at Imperial College London. I studied astrophysics at University College London (UCL).


My course involves both practical astronomy at ULO (University of London Observatory) and theoretical topics such as relativity and cosmlogy.


I found working at the observatory so enjoyable that I went on to train new students on the use of the telescopes at ULO.


Over the summer I studied extra-solar planets, which is a very hot topic in astronomy at the moment.


Why did you decide to study astronomy?


My obsession with astronomy started when I was a child. I can remember worrying about the Sun becoming a black hole and then swallowing us up. Obviously I know better now! I was briefly a member of Cambridge Young Astronomers and then did GCSE Astronomy; it’s a brilliant course and more schools should offer it. I was also lucky enough to get my secondary school work placement at the University of Cambridge, which was the first time that I came across Sun|trek’s hot solar adventures.


Image of M82 obtained at OHP during UCL field trip.
Image of M82 taken during a UCL field trip.

I have had my own telescope for seven years. The first time I saw Jupiter through it was incredible. Clearly it didn't look anything like the images that you see on TV but there is definitely something to be said for seeing it for yourself, especially if you can make out its moons and the bands across its surface. I bought the telescope in time to make use of the (very rare) alignment of all the planets from Mercury to Saturn in 2002. I was fortunate to have a dad who was enthusiastic enough to stay out in the cold to help me image the Moon and planets with a webcam. The year 2009 is the International Year of Astronomy (link) with lots of exciting activities and opportunities for school students and everyone else to use telescopes.



Have you travelled a lot?


In terms of astronomy, I have been to Observatoire de Haute-Provence (OHP), an observatory in southern France. I have also been to New York with my sixth form’s robotics team, Systemetric (so named as we were the only Brits there and hence the only team using the metric measurement system). Unfortunately our robot decided to attack another team during its autonomous mode (which was not allowed) but we were allied with the awesome Pink Team from Florida and won the state championship! Other places that I’ve visited are South Africa, Spain, Menorca, Paris, and of course all over the UK.


Systemetric-Pink alliance about to enter arena. A mini mural that I did in South Africa.

Systemetric-Pink alliance about to enter arena.                       A mini mural that I did in South Africa.

What do you do in your spare time?

My new-found interest is rock climbing, with real rocks, although I think I'm going to have to take up indoor rock climbing as there aren't many rocks in London!


I've always loved music, playing clarinet, piano and a bit of saxophone, especially as part of a jazz band. Drawing and painting are very therapeutic. I also enjoy salsa dancing as it's a brilliant work out and a great way to meet loads of new people.



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