Ian Ridpath

In the library at the Royal Astronomical Society, London. Photo: Max Alexander

Origin

Born 1947 May 1, Ilford, Essex. 


Current location

Brentford, west London.


Contact details

ian @ ianridpath.com


Career

I have been a full-time writer, editor, broadcaster, and lecturer on astronomy and space since 1972. Previously I worked for two years at the University of London Observatory and then in publishing. I am a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society (Council member 2004–07) and a member of the International Astronomical Union (IAU), as well as a member of the Society of Authors and of the Association of British Science Writers. I run my own desktop publishing system for producing books and magazines. I am currently editor of The Antiquarian Astronomer, the journal of the Society for the History of Astronomy.


Books

Over 40 book titles as author or editor. These include a series of three sky guides illustrated by Wil Tirion, the world’s foremost celestial map maker: the Collins Guide to Stars and Planets, a standard field guide for amateur astronomers (published in the US as the Princeton Field Guide to Stars and Planets); The Monthly Sky Guide, a month-by-month introduction to the stars, now in its tenth edition; and Gem Stars, a pocket guide to the constellations. All these have been continuously in print for over 30 years. 

I am editor of the Oxford Dictionary of Astronomy and of Norton’s Star Atlas. I was also General Editor of the Collins Encyclopedia of the Universe.

Three of my early books concerned extraterrestrial life and interstellar travel: Worlds Beyond, Messages from the Stars, and Life off Earth.

My favourite books are Star Tales, about the mythology and history of the constellations; The Times Universe, a pictorial tour from the Earth to the farthest reaches of the cosmos; and Exploring Stars and Planets, for children, which is now part of the Philip’s Astronomy Starter Pack.


Broadcasting

Over the years I have appeared on numerous news and current affairs programmes on radio and television, discussing developments in astronomy and space or describing what can be seen in the sky. I was space correspondent for LBC Radio and for the original BBC TV Breakfast Time programme. I subsequently moved to Sky News.


Journalism

My writing has appeared in newspapers and magazines throughout the world. From 1986 to 1992 I was editor and then editor-in-chief of Popular Astronomy, a UK magazine for amateur astronomers. I am an occasional contributor to Astronomy Now and for 10 years chaired their annual AstroFest conference, the largest event of its kind in Europe. My star show Planet Earth ran at the London Planetarium for two years, from 1993 February to 1995 January. (It was the last show to use the original Zeiss optical projector, which was subsequently replaced by a computerized Digistar.) In 1987 I wrote the script for Armagh Planetarium’s Space Odyssey, the world’s first interactive star show. For over 10 years I wrote a monthly star spot for BBC Wildlife magazine. However, I regard myself primarily as an author and editor of books.


Lecturing

I am a lecturer in the Cunard Insights programme, in conjunction with the Royal Astronomical Society, and present Stargazing at Sea lectures for other major tour operators. I also lecture regularly on Hurtigruten’s northern lights voyages, and to organizations around the UK. Click here for available lectures.


Hobbies

In the case of astronomy, I have made a career out of my hobby. Apart from astronomy my main interest since the 1980s has been road running. In 1985 I combined the two interests by running the London Marathon dressed as Halley’s Comet. My eleventh (and last) marathon was the Midnight Sun Marathon in Tromsø, Norway, which seemed a suitably astronomical note on which to finish. For three years I was Race Director of the Polytechnic Marathon, from Windsor to Chiswick, Britain’s oldest marathon race, now sadly deceased.

More recently, I have come to appreciate the merits of allowing four legs to do the running for me. I currently am a member of the Park Walk Racing syndicate at the Hampshire stables of Marcus Tregoning which owns Smuggler (a son of Derby winner Sir Percy) and Silent Partner. We are pleased to have Derby winner Martin Dwyer and ladies’ champion Hayley Turner among our jockeys.


I am also an admirer of the contemporary British artists Peter Brown and David Tress. I collect postage stamps with an astronomical theme and am chairman of the Astro Space Stamp Society. 

I am interested in the ways in which people misidentify objects in the sky and am a UFO skeptic. I observe with naked eye, binoculars, and small telescope from my home in Brentford, West London, only a few hundred yards from where Thomas Harriot made the first recorded astronomical observations through a telescope in 1609.


Awards

  • The 2012 Klumpke-Roberts Award of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific for ‘outstanding contributions to the public understanding and appreciation of astronomy’.
  • The Giant Book of Space, published by Hamlyn, was a category winner in the 1990 Science Book Prizes.
  • Highly Commended in the 1986 annual British Science Writers Awards for my investigation and explanation of Britain’s most famous UFO case in Rendlesham Forest near Woodbridge US Air Force base in Suffolk. I first investigated the case for BBC TV’s Breakfast Time and published a subsequent report in The Guardian newspaper. Further details of the case can be found here.
  • Astronomy Now lifetime achievement award (2017).


Recent publications and work in progress

  • A revised and expanded paperback edition of Star Tales
  • Astronomy: A Visual Guide (a new edition of DK Eyewitness Companion Astronomy in large format)
  • A new and expanded version of the Philip’s Astronomy Starter Pack
  • A new edition of Philip’s Star Chart.
  • A tenth edition of The Monthly Sky Guide.
  • A new edition of Collins Gem Stars.


Recent and forthcoming engagements

Queen Mary 2 M111 New York–Southampton, 2021 April 26 – May 3

Queen Victoria V125 Northern lights through the lens, 2021 October 20–November 1



Last updated: 2020 October



Tall tales:  Lecturing on my favourite subject – myths and origins of the constellations

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A favourite recreation: Hunting the northern lights in the fjords