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Ryan Milligan - solar guides


Ryan Milligan


Ryan MilliganHow did you get interested in Astronomy?


I grew up in Ardglass, a small fishing village in County Down, Northern Ireland. The clear night skies made it perfect for star- gazing – this coupled with my love of sci-fi sparked my interest in astronomy.


However after leaving school I became a truck driver, and although I enjoyed it, I knew it was not what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.


When I finally decided to enroll at Queen's University in Belfast to study astronomy, I kept up my truck driving to fund my studies.



It was during my time at Queen's I became interested in the Sun, particularly in solar flares.




Japanese streetWhere do you work now?


During my graduate studies I had the opportunity to spend my summers at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, near Washington DC. I enjoyed working there so much, I ended up moving there after I graduated and have remained ever since. I work on a satellite called RHESSI which observes solar flares in X-rays and gamma-rays, although I also use observations from various other spacecraft, for example from Hinode. Hinode is operated from Japan, a very beautiful country. The cities, like Tokyo, are very crowded and busy.


I am now back in Northern Ireland working at the Queen's University Belfast.


Do you travel much?


Diamond ring eclipseMy friends often tease me about how much I travel! I never seem to be in the office these days! Working as a solar researcher offers some incredible experiences to travel to workshops and conferences all over the world.


Even in my spare time I like to go off exploring countries that I've never been to before. In 2008 I took the Trans-Siberian railway from Moscow to Beijing by myself. It took about 3 weeks, but the main reason for going was to the see the total solar eclipse in Siberia - one of the most breathtaking sights nature has to offer.


What do you do in your spare time?


The Answer on stage

As well as travelling and photography, I love mountain biking. There are some beautiful trails around the rivers and parks in Washington so I try to get out as much as I can. I also enjoy listening to live music and going to rock concerts. In fact, I recently got to go back stage at an AC/DC concert in Toronto where some friends of mine were the opening act!


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