This is a light-hearted and personal look at the life of a professional astronomer and the breadth of what it can entail. In addition to university research and teaching, perhaps surprisingly, it can be packed with ‘interest’ in the widest sense of the word, including excitement and a wealth of amazing opportunities. As well as describing the life of an observational astronomer this lavishly illustrated talk contains many amusing and exciting anecdotes; from flying in an RAF Comet above the North Sea at 45,000 feet, testing Faraday’s assertion that there is no electrical charge inside a conducting volume, to exploits and close encounters with molten lava in Hawai‘i — all in the name of astronomy. In fact observational astronomy has changed over the last 50 years and the name of the game now is ‘data’; however, for young students of today the breadth of career opportunities astronomy provides has never been greater.
Professor Ian Robson has been Head of Dept of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Central Lancashire, Director of the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope in Hawai‘i, Director of the UK Astronomy Technology Centre at the Royal Observatory Edinburgh, and Director of the Science and Technology Facility Council’s Technology Department. He has undertaken extensive research in the fields of active galaxies and submillimetre astronomy and wrote an undergraduate textbook on Active Galactic Nuclei. Professor Robson is very active in outreach and was the first President of the International Astronomical Union’s (IAU) Commission for Communicating Astronomy with the Public. He led the UK programme for the International Year of Astronomy in 2009. He was the IAU Assistant General Secretary for 2018–19 and has been President of the Society for Popular Astronomy and Royal Scottish Society for the Arts. He was Vice President of the Royal Astronomical Society from 2021 to 2023. Professor Robson has been awarded the RAS Service Award 2024 in recognition of his extensive contributions to astronomy across this wide range of activites.