|Paul G. Abel
1979 (age 44–45)
|Astronomy, writing, television presentation
Paul G. Abel FRAS (born 1979) is a British astronomer, mathematician, broadcaster and writer. Currently, he is based in the Centre for Interdisciplinary Science in the department of physics and astronomy at the University of Leicester where he teaches mathematics and his research is concerned with black hole thermodynamics with Derek Raine. He has also presented the BBC's long running The Sky at Night with Lucie Green, Pete Lawrence, Chris North and Chris Lintott.
He has written for many popular astronomy magazines promoting amateur astronomy, and in particular, the science that amateurs can contribute to the field.
Abel initially read for an MMATH Mathematics with Astronomy degree in the Department of Mathematics & Computer Science at the University of Leicester, but after two years he switched to the MMATH Mathematics degree program, preferring to concentrate on the more theoretical aspects of physics, namely general relativity and differential geometry.
After graduating, he then started Doctoral work in Cosmology at the University of Sheffield. After a year however, he returned to the University of Leicester, finding his initial choice of subject "a little too left field", he then started a PhD concerned with Hawking Radiation and Black Hole Thermodynamics which he completed in 2012.
He is currently based in the Centre for Interdisciplinary Science in the department of physics and astronomy at the University of Leicester where he teaches mathematical sciences on the natural science degree. He also teaches on a number of physics courses there. His current research interests include quantum field theory in curved spacetimes and Hawking radiation.
Abel is a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society and associate member of the Institute of Physics. He is currently an assistant director of the Saturn section of the British Astronomical Association.
Abel became interested in astronomy at the age of eight after reading an astronomy section in an encyclopedia. In 1989 the Voyager 2 spacecraft reached the planet Neptune and after watching Patrick Moore present the results and findings, he decided to write to him. He did not have Moore's address at the time, and so he simply addressed the envelope "Patrick Moore". Two days later, a letter typed by Moore (on his famous Woodstock typewriter) arrived encouraging him to make a start in astronomy.
During his early years he owned a number of telescopes, but by the age of 15 he was finding the small telescopes he possessed, limited for studying the Moon and planets. As Abel was a member of the British Astronomical Association, Moore helped him secure the loan of a 4.5-inch refractor which was ideally suited for studying the Moon and Planets. In particular Abel used the telescope to monitor storms on Saturn and the polar ice caps of Mars.
During the years of 1999 to 2005, Abel was concerned with his undergraduate degree at the University of Leicester and he was unable to do much in the way of regular amateur astronomer, but he continued to use the university's 16-inch telescope, albeit in a rather random fashion. However, in 2006 he once again returned to amateur astronomy, and he now has an observatory which houses his 8-inch Newtonian Reflector used for studying the Moon and Planets of the Solar system.
Abel is a Lunar and Planetary astronomer and his preferred method of recording planetary details is to draw what is observed in the eyepiece, such is the principle of Visual astronomy. Abel learned the principles of lunar and planetary observation along with the techniques of astronomical draftsmanship from Moore who was himself one of the foremost lunar cartographers of the 20th century.
Today, most amateur astronomers choose to image their subject of study, but Abel and other visual observers have argued that if the field becomes dominated entirely by imaging the emphasis in amateur astronomy could change from science to art and there will be the danger that the subject may become one sided and unappetizing to newcomers who may not wish to invest in large telescopes and computers. He also argues that imaging makes a very important contribution to the subject, but that the combination of both visual astronomers and imaging astronomers is essential as the two methods of data collection can lead to a more balanced objective results.
At the end of 2009, after a number of appearances on the BBC's longest running TV program "The Sky at Night," Moore asked Abel to officially join the program in the capacity of a co-presenter, and in early 2010 he joined the institutional program.
Abel has written a number of Articles on popular astronomy for various astronomy magazines including The Sky at Night Magazine, Astronomy Now and Sky and Telescope. He is currently writing a book for Springer-Verlag on Visual lunar and planetary amateur astronomy (the book is due in print in early 2014), a book he hopes will encourage other amateur astronomers to try visual observation.
He recently helped Gary Bales – the producer of BBC6 Music's Lauren Lavern's show – establish the 'WOW Signal', a slot in the program whereby listeners are chosen to write and voice a message summarizing life on earth. This message is followed by a song of their choice, and the whole package is transmitted to a nearby star.
-  Interdisciplinary Science Centre, University of Leicester
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