Andrew Morse 15 Q&A

Andrew Morse is currently working on the Rosetta mission to study the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

More information here: Rosetta Mission

If you could go back in time and meet any scientific figure, what period would that be and who would you like to meet most?

AM– Michael Faraday.  A great experimentalist, instrumental in providing evidence that electricity and magnetism could be unified into a single force.  He was enthusiastic to present his ideas to the general public, starting the Royal Institution Christmas lectures.

Do you have a favourite constellation?

AM– Orion.  Clear and easy to identify it has everything from star birth, the Orion nebula, to stars nearing the end of their life.

WASNET- Another vote for Orion…..

What do you regularly observe?

AM– As a planetary scientist I am interested in the local solar system.  With a small telescope I still enjoy viewing the rings of Saturn and the moons of Jupiter.

What do you specialise in?

AM– Building instruments for space missions aiming to determine how the solar system formed and conditions during its formation

Who influenced you most to take up astronomy?

AM– Patrick Moore.  He covered a wide range of subjects with great enthusiasm

WASNET- Patrick’s enthusiasm got so many future astronomers started  his influence is incalculable. His archives are to be stored at the Science Museum in Wroughton, Wiltshire.

What advice would you give to a beginner just starting out?

AM– Enjoy the subject and make the most of any opportunities

The Drake equation,N = R * fp * ne * fl * fi * fc * L ,  attempts to estimate the number of possible civilizations in our universe, Is there life out there….?

AM– I like to think that life is quite common.  I find it encouraging that we are beginning to get some firm numbers for some of the terms in the equation and so far they have been towards the optimistic end of the spectrum.

What is the best part of being an astronomer and the worst?

AM– Meeting and talking to people who are interested in space science and exploration of our universe.  It is in our nature to explore and even though it can be incredible challenging.  Of course the worst is being told that this is all a waste of money.

If you could visit anywhere in the universe where would that be and why?

AM– Saturn’s moon Titan.  This could be a world from Science fiction, orbiting a moon with dense atmosphere orbiting a gas giant.  For me the interest is in the organics which could have been similar to processes occurring on an early Earth.

What gadget do you find indispensable as an astronomer?

AB– The computer with access to the internet.  This one gadget does so much, from controlling instruments to collecting and processing the data.

During the twentieth and twenty-first centuries our understanding of the universe has taken huge leaps forward.  Which discovery do you think had the greatest impact?

AM– Nuclear synthesis of the elements.  Almost everything, apart from hydrogen, helium and a small amount of lithium, has been produced in a stellar furnace.

WASNET– B2FH was the seminal paper that proved stars were the factories of the universe. Named after its writers it explained how stars produced all the elements we see in the universe today.

We still only know what 5% of the universe is composed of normal matter, What about the other 95%?

AM– I have to confess that I am a dark matter denier.  I accept the existence of ordinary dark matter but think that the requirement for exotic dark matter is telling us that we still have more to learn about the laws of physics – a bit like physicists looking for the luminiferous aether.  So far all experiments to directly detect it have proved negative and implied that dark matter has ever more exotic properties.  A clue is that dark energy is required to overcome the gravitational effect of the exotic dark matter

What future discovery are you looking most forward to?

AM– A theory explaining observations that do away with exotic dark matter and dark energy.  Alternatively direct experimental evidence of dark matter.

WASNET- It would be very nice to get some answer either way…

What book would you recommend for our WAS members to read on cloudy nights?

AM– Space is a funny place by Colin Pillinger.  A light hearted collection of cartoons about the history of space exploration.

As a stranded desert island astronomer you are allowed to take three things with you,  what would they be?

AM– 1) A tablet with solar power recharger.  Even without the internet and wifi connection this gadget can be used for taking pictures, making notes or even just games.  2)  My fiancé Wendy, who has agreed to this.  3).  Our cats for the company and partly a condition for item (2).