Honorary Graduates No.2 – Nigel Henbest

Posted by mjs76 at Jan 27, 2012 10:20 AM |
Leicester astronomy alumnus with a ticket for space.

It’s been a busy old week for astronomy in Leicester. Here at the University, we presented four public lectures on astronomy, three of them tied into the BBC’s Stargazing Live event. Over at the National Space Centre, Sir Patrick Moore (an old friend of ours who is a Distinguished Honorary Fellow and a contributor to our Leicester Exchanges site) officially opened the Sir Patrick Moore Planetarium. At the start of the week, astronomers were squinting Northwards hoping for a glimpse of an unusually strong Aurora borealis (unsuccessfully, alas). And today, Nigel Henbest picks up an Honorary Degree at De Montfort Hall.

Born in Manchester, raised in Belfast, Nigel studied Astrophysics here at Leiceter where he met Heather Couper, forming a lifelong friendship which would produce innumerable books and television programmes about space and astronomy. In fact, his first published article was in the newsletter of the University’s Physics Society.

After postgraduate study at Cambridge, he returned to Leicester to help with the development and installation of equipment to monitor the Sicilian volcano Mount Etna. In the days before GPS, Henbest navigated his Landrover across Europe using The World Atlas of Wine!

Together with Heather Couper and Stuart Carter, Nigel Henbest set up Pioneer Productions to make science programming. Over the years he has written nearly 40 books and hundreds of magazine articles (and a stage play) about astronomy. He has been Astronomy Consultant to New Scientist, Media Consultant to the Royal Greenwich Observatory, Editor of the Journal of the British Astronomical Association, Chairman of National Astronomy Week and External Assessor on Astronomy to the Open University.

Last March, Nigel and Heather - who now run the media science consultancy Hencoup Enterprises - came back to Leicester to present the annual Alumni Lecture. Heather already has an Honorary Doctorate of Science, awarded in 1994. Nigel collects his this afternoon in the 4.00pm Graduation Ceremony.

And in less than two years' time, all being well, Nigel should finally make it into space for real, having already bought a ticket for the Virgin Galactic spaceship!

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