Dr Maggie Alderin-Pocock MBE is well known for presenting the popular BBC astronomy show The Sky at Night, and for over a decade she has inspired budding young astronauts, engineers, technicians and scientists all around the world with her passion for space exploration.
As someone who moved schools 13 times, and struggled for a period with undiagnosed dyslexia, Maggie has relished the opportunity in her public role to challenge perceptions about careers, class, race and gender, and encourage children’s curiosity in the universe and our solar system.
Since completing her PhD in mechanical engineering, the presenter has worked on innovative projects to advance space imaging, and to develop observation instruments for measuring the speed of light and wind.
Maggie is an honorary research associate of University College London’s Department of Physics and Astronomy and was chosen to be a part of the James Webb Space Telescope team, to extend upon the discoveries of the Hubble Space Telescope.
Here, she tells us about her passion for space, and the exciting projects she’s working on right now.
Maggie, what inspired your passion for space science, and what continues to drive it today?
“Right from the get-go, I was fascinated by space. TV programmes like The Clangers and Star Trek, and people like Neil Armstrong and Yuri Gagarin, have been great inspirations to me.
What fuels my passion for space now is that there’s just so much to discover! Space can help us in so many different ways. And I’m interested in space for the next generation, too.”
What are some of the stand-out moments of your career?
“In my career, I’ve had a smorgasbord of activities. Of course I work in TV, I explore space, but one of my favourite things of all is speaking to kids and inspiring the next generation of space scientists.
Every so often, someone will come up to me and say, ‘You came to my school! And now I’m studying physics! And then there’s that moment of panic when I ask them, ‘Are you enjoying it?’, and they say ‘yes’, and I say, ‘Phew!’ To inspire the next generation just gives me so much joy, and they inspire me too!”
What is it about space science, as an area to work in, that might appeal to aspiring young scientists?
“For anyone out there who might be considering a career in space, DO IT. The space industry is booming, throughout the UK and across the world. Space helps us understand our planet better, but it also helps us understand the universe. You can’t get better than that.”
The James Webb Telescope set off on Christmas Day, 2021
What exciting things are you working on right now?
“I’ve had a very varied career, but currently I’m working on quite a few exciting projects. I was very lucky to be one of the 10,000 scientists that worked on the James Webb Space Telescope and now one of the things I’m doing is looking at that data, and making it accessible to the public. That’s a joy in itself.
I’m also working with a major studio to do a podcast to talk about the science in a sci-fi film. It’s really just trying to get science out there to as many people as possible!”
About the James Webb Telescope
The James Webb Telescope launched off on Christmas Day, 2021, and has already used its infrared technology to send back images of distant galaxies. Scientists are using the telescope to explore the atmospheres of other planets, to reveal whether they are capable of hosting life.
Our upcoming space programme, ‘Space: Advancing the Future‘.
ITN Business’ upcoming programme, presented by Maggie, will showcase the advances in technology aiding future missions to the moon and Mars. It will explore how sustainability is at the heart of the emerging space economy, as well as the importance of international collaboration in advancing space research and exploration.