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Mark Lyons - solar guides


Mark Lyons


Image of Mark LyonsHow did you get interested in astronomy?
As a child I was very interested in Greek mythology. I had a book that showed the constellations that were named after different Greek characters. I used the book to start to identify the constellations in the sky and ever since then I've been hooked!


Image of the greek mythological constellations Orion and Taurus




(Orion and Taurus: Flamsteed, John. 'Atlas celeste'. Ed. J. Fortin. Paris, 1776. from Out of this world exhibition,


In this picture you can see the constellation of Orion, the great hunter. Legend has it that Orion was killed by a scorpion. The gods took pity on him and placed him and his hunting dogs in the sky as a constellation, along with all the animals that he hunted like the bull, Taurus. However, they were careful to put the scorpion, Scorpio, on the other side of the sky so it wouldn't bother Orion again!


Image of a collection of NebulaeThis is a picture of a collection of nebulae (dust and gas clouds) in the constellations of Scorpio and Ophiuchus. The dust in the clouds reflects light giving the blue colour, while the gas in the clouds gets heated by the nearby stars and emits red light.


(picture credit; NASA, D. Malin.)


How did you become an astronomer?
I was born in a town called Clonmel, which is in County Tipperary, Ireland and come from a large family - 12 brothers and sisters! I loved animals and always had some pets including a little Jack Russell dog. When I finished school I went to University College Dublin and did a degree in physics. I then went to Queen's University in Belfast to study astrophysics. It was there that I got a chance to work in solar physics. Then I went to Birmingham University to work with the SOHO team. I firmly believe that anyone can become whatever they want if they set their mind to it. Astronomy is a fascinating subject that's very rewarding to work in and I'd always encourage people to get involved!


Image of a cme as seen by SOHO-LASCOCoronal Mass Ejection seen by SOHO-LASCO


What's your work like?
It's very exciting. I've travelled to different observatories around the world, to places like America, Australia and the Canary Islands. I've also worked at the Goddard Space Flight Center in the USA (where SOHO operations are located). Most of my work involves analysing data on a computer, which is good since I like computers.


Working in solar physics is very interesting, especially with SOHO. The Sun is the only star we can get a really close look at, and it has a lot to teach us about how stars in general work.


What do you do outside work?
For sport I like to swim and play tennis, although I don't do these as much as I should! I like to read almost anything, but my main interest is science fiction books. I'm also learning to play the piano, but I'll not make a concert pianist just yet!


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