Royal Observatory, Greenwich appoints Black Hole specialist Marek Kukula as Public Astronomer

Dr Marek Kukula, distant galaxies and quasar expert, has been appointed the new Public Astronomer.

The Royal Observatory Greenwich (ROG) has appointed distant galaxies and quasar expert, Dr Marek Kukula as its new Public Astronomer. The appointment, assisted by the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) is part of a continuous programme by the Museum and STFC to develop its astronomy and public engagement activity.


Dr Kevin Fewster, Director at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich said: ‘Marek brings considerable breadth of experience to the Royal Observatory. His impressive scientific resume, coupled with a wealth of experience in the science communication sector, gives the Royal Observatory, Greenwich a respected and capable public representative. Marek’s background is in both astronomy research and public engagement and he is familiar with current trends in both education and the research community. This coupled with his passion and experience of communicating science, bringing astronomy events to isolated and non-traditional audiences and his ability to explain complex astronomy knowledge concisely and vividly made him the ideal candidate. His appointment is part of a key initiative to help the Royal Observatory develop its profile and its worldwide brand to become a focus for public engagement in astronomy activity nationally and internationally’.


Specialising in the study of supermassive black holes and the evolution of galaxies, Marek has 15 years of science research in UK universities, including five years as a PPARC Advanced Fellow at the University of Edinburgh’s Institute for Astronomy and two years at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, home of NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope.


Marek is a member of the Science and Technology Facilities Council’s (STFC’s) Small Awards funding panel for public engagement in astronomy, particle and nuclear physics, covering a range of projects in museums, universities, schools and science centres. As a researcher he has successfully secured over £500,000 in research grants from the UK and US governments as well as time on the Hubble Space Telescope and other international observatories worth several £million.


In his role as Public Astronomer, Marek will ensure the Royal Observatory engages with the Observatory’s one million visitors and wider public, the academic research community and the media to promote and foster understanding and interest in current astronomical research and phenomena through its learning programmes, planetarium shows and public activities. Providing both astronomy and broader science communication expertise, he will represent the ROG on issues related to modern astronomy and space science, sustaining the reputation of the re-developed Royal Observatory as a centre of excellence for all audiences nationally and internationally.


Prior to joining the Royal Observatory, Marek was Course Organiser for Science and Nature at the University of Edinburgh’s Office of Lifelong Learning, where he was responsible for delivering a broad programme science education courses for the general public. Previously he was a research fellow at the University of Edinburgh, carrying out research into quasars, black holes and distant galaxies and developing astronomy teaching materials for secondary schools and training courses for Physics teachers. Marek also worked with Researchers in Residence, a UK-wide scheme funded by Research Councils UK and the Wellcome Trust, which matches young researchers with local secondary schools and trains them to bring their enthusiasm and knowledge into the classroom.


Marek who took up his post on 4 August 2008 said ‘We are currently in an extremely exciting period for astronomy, with spectacular new discoveries being made almost every day. I hope I can convey some of that excitement and help to explain how modern astronomy continues to change our view of the Universe and our place within it. With the International Year of Astronomy taking place in 2009, the Royal Observatory, Greenwich will play a major role in providing astronomy activities as part of the IYA programme and I’m really looking forward to exploring ways of increasing the scope of public engagement and bringing the latest discoveries to a wider audience’.


With a PhD in Radio Astronomy, Marek has a strong background in science communication. He has written for magazines and websites, delivered talks and lectures internationally and has considerable broadcast media experience – covering topics as diverse as practical astronomy, cosmology, astrobiology, planetary science and the history of astronomy.


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Media interviews:


The ROG's Modern Astronomy team is dedicated to the Public Understanding of Science and its experts are available to give radio and TV interviews on astronomy – at the historic Observatory site or in the studio.


The Observatory offers a short notice service to media stations looking for comment/ interviews on any aspect of modern astronomy – discussing new discoveries and space missions, telling people what to look for in this month's night sky, or talking about old favourites like black holes, is there ‘life’ and the origins of the universe.


For studio quality and interviews at short notice an ISDN line is available.


Issued August 2008 by the National Maritime Museum Press Office.


For further information or images, please contact: Sheryl Twigg or Nigel RubensteinNational Maritime Museum Press OfficeTel: 020 8312 6790/6732Email: press@rmg.co.uk


NOTES TO EDITORS



  • The National Maritime Museum, Royal Observatory Greenwich and the Queen's House, all situated within two hundred acres of Royal Greenwich Park land, at the heart of the Maritime Greenwich World Heritage Site – and tell the story of Britain and the importance of, and connection with, the sea, ships, time and the stars and their relationship with people.

  • Designed by Christopher Wren, the Observatory is home of Greenwich Mean Time and the Prime Meridian and one of the most important historic scientific sites in the world. Since its founding in 1675, Greenwich has been at the centre of the measurement of time and space. Visitors can stand in both the eastern and western hemispheres simultaneously by placing their feet either side of the Prime Meridian line. Today the Observatory galleries and Peter Harrison Planetarium will help unravel the extraordinary phenomena of time, space and astronomy.

  • The Science and Technology Facilities Council ensures the UK retains its leading place on the world stage by delivering world-class science; accessing and hosting international facilities; developing innovative technologies; and increasing the socio-economic impact of its research through effective knowledge exchange partnerships.

  • The Council has a broad science portfolio including Astronomy, Particle Physics, Particle Astrophysics, Nuclear Physics, Space Science, Synchrotron Radiation, Neutron Sources and High Power Lasers. In addition the Council manages and operates three internationally renowned laboratories: the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, Oxfordshire, the Daresbury Laboratory, Cheshire, and the UK Astronomy Technology Centre, Edinburgh. The Council gives researchers access to world-class facilities and funds the UK membership of international bodies such as the European Laboratory for Particle Physics (CERN), the Institute Laue Langevin (ILL), European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF), the European organisation for Astronomical Research in the Southern Hemisphere (ESO) and the European Space Agency (ESA). It also contributes money for the UK telescopes overseas on La Palma, Hawaii, Australia and in Chile, and the MERLIN/VLBI National Facility, which includes the Lovell Telescope at Jodrell Bank Observatory. The Council distributes public money from the Government to support scientific research. Between 2007 and 2008 we will invest approximately £678 million.

  • The International Year of Astronomy 2009 aims to help the citizens of the world rediscover their place in the Universe through the day and night time sky, and thereby engage a personal sense of wonder and discovery. All humans should realize the impact of astronomy and basic sciences on our daily lives, and understand better how scientific knowledge can contribute to a more equitable and peaceful society.