James, Nick (Chelmsford, UK)

My main telescopeI have been interested in astronomy for as long as he can remember, certainly since the age of 8 and have been a member of the British Astronomical Association since I was 12. I am now the Director of the Comet Section. I’m also also Assistant Editor of The Astronomer Magazine. I’ve written many articles for magazines and books, and co-authored “Observing Comets” which was published in 2003 as part of Sir Patrick Moore’s Practical Astronomy series.

I find comets fascinating objects since they are so unpredictable. They can also be spectacular and the thrill of the chase in tracking down a bright comet low in the twilight is always fun. My best comet must be C/1996 B2 (Hyakutake). I had travelled to Tenerife with Martin Mobberley and Glyn Marsh to escape the UK weather and we were treated to a spectacular comet with a massive, dynamic tail at the zenith.

I observe most faint comets using a Celestron 11 HD and ST9XE from my home in (light-polluted) Chelmsford. This is co-mounted with a wider field instrument (a WO Megrez 72mm, f/6 refractor + SXVR-H18) which I use for larger and brighter objects. I also have a portable setup which I can take to places with darker skies and better horizons. If needed I also observe remotely using iTelescope and SSON.

Professionally, I’m an engineer in the space industry, leading a team responsible for implementing highly sensitive and accurate systems for receiving and processing signals from deep-space spacecraft. I am also a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) ambassador trying to encourage more young people to take up science and engineering as a career.

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