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Ian Ridpath, astronomy writer and lecturer: Ten Questions

Astronomy lover, writer and broadcaster Ian Ridpath can be found teaching star gazing tourists about the heavens on a number of cruise ships and tours around the world. He shares his answers to AAA’s Ten Questions…

Ian Ridpath, photo credit Max Alexander
Ian Ridpath, photo credit Max Alexander

What’s the best thing about your job?

I’ve been fortunate enough to turn my hobby (astronomy) into a profession – writing and talking about it. Tours to see the northern lights are one of the highlights.

If you could change one thing about your job what would it be?

It would be nice to call up clear nights to order when I want to show a group of people the sky. Astronomy is a continual battle with the weather.

What’s something about your role that you wish people understood?

My aim is to explain basic astronomy to those who would like to know more. Even though we live in the space age, most people know less about the night sky than those who built Stonehenge.

What’s your favourite thing to do on your day off?

Can’t say that I ever have a day off. But I like to get out for a run every so often. I used to do marathons but don’t have the time or energy for the training any more.

Read: Glamping Yorkshire style in luxury tents, yurts and domes

What’s a cheap and cheerful food secret you (usually) only tell your friends?

Reindeer biscuits, as I call them. They’re a Norwegian speciality, rather like malted milk biscuits. The Norwegian name is Gjende. Oh, and hot bratwurst sausages at the Christmas market in Hyde Park. But don’t tell anyone.

If money was no object, where would you go for lunch or dinner?

The Dorchester in London has top-class food and service, although the decor is odd.

Where do you take a friend when they come to visit?

Depends on the friend!

What’s the best shopping experience in town?

There can’t be much better shopping anywhere than the West End of London.

Is there a local tourist cliché that’s actually worth doing?

Two experiences that in my experience are as good as people say are the Moscow metro and Disney World. But for natural phenomena, there’s not much to beat the northern lights.

Is there a tourist attraction nearby that you can’t believe you still haven’t visited yourself?

For me a “tourist attraction” is something with an astronomical connection. On the Hurtigruten route, I still have to visit the monument at Hammerfest which marks the northernmost point of a 19th-century survey chain used to determine the size and shape of the Earth. This monument is a World Heritage site and I want to get to it some day.

Amanda met Ian when she was part of his astronomy group with Bentours on board the MS Midnatsol in Norway, searching for the Northern Lights.

You can find out more about the trip by checking out my pieces on the excursions on offer on the Hurtigruten cruise of Norway and a look at what it’s like to stay in a cabin and a suite on board. 

You can also get Sydney travel tips from Andy Richards from Understand Down Under Tours’ Ten Questions

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