To New Horizons (….and I don’t mean the mission to Pluto!)

astronomy, phd, travel, university
So, finally I have a bit of time to blog since about the past couple of months. I can finally sit, think, and write about the past few months or so.My PhD is taking over my life, not that I’m complaining. I have been really enjoying it. I’ve been working through my datasets and soon I will be able to start my photometry. I have had to put that aside for the time being though due to report writing, a literature review and oh yeah, a trip to the United States, to California where I spent a fair time working at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and a couple of nights observing at Mount Palomar. 😀 I spent my time in preparation for that, determining which comets are best observed for the time we need and generating finder charts for those. My job is pretty much leading to take hold of data from a large programme called SEPPCoN (Survey of the Ensemble Physical Properties of Cometary Nuclei) which will form the bulk of my thesis and this observing run was part of that. So work has been rather busy but exciting. There will be more on my trip to America to follow in a separate blog. I have so many photos which I have already posted on Picasa and via Facebook but I really have so much to tell about this. 😀

It is now getting a little strange I don’t have exams any more! My housemates are all preparing for theirs. Is it weird to miss them? Maybe. I suppose it’s the thought of having been examined for the last 11 years or so and now for the first time I’m not. By no means am I complaining! 🙂 I have more than enough work! I guess now I really feel that I am really starting my PhD. America has given me a thirst for travelling across the continents and living the dreams I have had for many years; seeing the world, observing the universe and exploring different cultures. As I’m starting to write about my work I feel the pieces drawing together and that I am really along the road rather than at the very start of it.

I was delighted to have been short-listed for a Sir Arthur Clarke Award last month. They are extremely well respected in the space science community. Unfortunately I didn’t win the award but nonetheless it was a fantastic honour to have been nominated for the student award. www.kent.ac.uk/news/stories/spaceoscar/2010 It was a great shame I couldn’t make the UK Space Conference where the awards ceremony marks its culmination. Kudos to Áron Kidsi though for winning – it was well deserved!

Home is good. I’m kind of sad to have to leave as I explained in a previous blog. http://rjmlaird.blogspot.com/2010/01/time-sure-goes-quickly-when-youre.html I’ve secured a room in Woolf College for next year (although I do wish the university would tell you what room you have!) I will however need to find somewhere to leave between the end of June and September! I am told that you can’t apply to campus accommodation until the start of June, despite even offering a deposit for somewhere on campus for peace of mind I have somewhere. I am reassured however that there will be somewhere but I am still not happy about this. Considering things are settling down (a little) after my trip from the US, a few phone calls might be in order! Grr, how I hate bureaucracy sometimes!

From one trip to another…albeit a slightly shorter one. I am looking forward to seeing a friend in Copenhagen for a weekend trip. It is almost going to be a flying visit. Then in August I plan to see my good friends Ania and Alex in Romania…I miss you guys! Before that there is a chance I am off to Chile to the European Southern Observatory (depending on funding) as part of my research and much closer to home, I am thinking on a related topic I might be going to Belfast in Northern Ireland for a meeting in June; we’ll see. These next few months or will involve a fair bit of travelling which I am really looking forward to. (Well that’s if we’re not grounded to volcanoes and such like ;p )!

Canterbury seems to be coming alive more which is pretty cool. As the weather is improving and the nights are later some of the attractions are running now such as the boat rides and the ghost tours which I am looking forward to doing at some point. I should really visit the seaside by Dover and Whitstable although I guess having lived at one most of my life the attraction has sort of worn off. As I’m gradually getting (back) into photography, I’m particularly looking forward to seeing the white cliffs lit by the summer sunshine.

Canterbury is growing on me. Sure, there are a couple of things that would like to fall into place still, but I know they will. I know my situation is better than many others in the world – that is enough to make me feel thankful of where I am and what I am doing. I’m probably the most happy and content for the first time in quite a while now. I’m finally living my dream! 😀

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