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Norwich Science Festival: Mark Thompson on why Norfolk is the perfect place for stargazing

PUBLISHED: 06:00 13 October 2017 | UPDATED: 15:55 17 October 2017

Mark Thompson explores the wonders of science. Picture: Steve Ullathorne

Mark Thompson explores the wonders of science. Picture: Steve Ullathorne

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A man who has reached for the stars and become a household name in the world of astronomy will be returning to the Norwich Science Festival.

Peer in to space with Mark Thompson. Picture: JMA Photography Peer in to space with Mark Thompson. Picture: JMA Photography

If you have ever seen Mark Thompson on television, you’ll know that he has a passion for astronomy and science.

And now the 43-year-old is hoping that passion will be infectious, as he helps as patron to launch the Norwich Science Festival - a nine-day extravaganza aimed at getting people of all ages enjoying science.

He said: “I have been to festivals around the country but to see something like this in my own city, and to be able to promote science is brilliant, it makes me proud to be involved.”

Mr Thompson, 43, is hoping to take festival goers deep into the universe as he hosts a number of events that will have people throwing their heads back, and staring at the stars.

Mark Thompson, Spaceship Earth. Picture: Steve Ullathorne Mark Thompson, Spaceship Earth. Picture: Steve Ullathorne

He said: “Norfolk is one of the best places in the country to see the night sky”.

He added: “I got interested in astronomy when I was 10 when my dad took me to the Norwich Astronomical Society. I didn’t have that much knowledge but I remember seeing Saturn through a telescope.

“To see a planet for real against a velvety black sky got my imagination really excited.”

And he said while the array of telescopes out there may seem daunting, a pair of binoculars is great choice for a beginner.

Discover the planets with Mark Thompson. Picture: JMA Photography Discover the planets with Mark Thompson. Picture: JMA Photography

One of his top tips for newcomers to astronomy is to buy a red torch, so that you can still see star charts without ruining the 40 minutes it takes for your eyes to properly adapt to seeing in the dark.

Joining an astronomy club and subscribing to specialist magazines are also recommended by Mr Thompson.

He said: “Now for the most exciting bit, and that’s to get outside and start learning your way around the night sky. You will be amazed what you can see. Those bright stars which aren’t on your planisphere are probably planets and on your first night under the stars you may have already spotted satellites, meteorites and the occasional aircraft.

“One of the best places around to see the stars is Kelling Heath – every year they hold the largest star party across the UK where hundreds of amateur astronomers meet under the pitch black skies of north Norfolk.”

Norwich Science Festival logo 2017. Norwich Science Festival logo 2017.

Mr Thompson said: “I want to get kids excited about science. That is what I want to do with my shows and with the Norwich Science Festival.”

“Who doesn’t like huge gas explosions or taking a piece of phlegm out of your mouth and studying the amazing DNA? This is science live. I challenge anyone not to be excited by this.”

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