David Warrington, resident astronomer at the Scottish Dark Sky Observatory

I HAVE the title of Resident Astronomer at the Scottish Dark Sky Observatory. The first dark sky park in Europe was the Galloway Forest Dark Sky Park, designated in 2009, and the observatory was built through 2012. It is unusual in being an observatory that is accessible to the public.

We’ve had some memorable nights at the observatory. We have witnessed supernovae (exploding massive stars in distant galaxies); comets passing through the solar system; bright fireballs across the sky during meteor showers.

We have visitors from around the world who visit the observatory, and so my role is to tour them around, talk to people about astronomy, and hopefully show them the wonders of the night sky through our telescopes.

The hours working at an observatory are usually somewhat anti-social, as I will most often be working at night-time when the night sky is visible. Depending on the time of year, I may be working from 4pm through to the early hours of the morning or, especially during the summer months in Scotland when we lose astronomical darkness, I will start work much closer to 10pm. I am something of a night-time person anyway so working at night isn't too much of a problem.

As with many people connected to astronomy, Sir Patrick Moore was a factor in inspiring me to take on a career in astronomy and science. I purchased a telescope when I was about ten-years-old and went to see Patrick Moore give a talk about the Solar System and it continued from there.

I studied Astrophysics at the University of Hertfordshire and moved into a career of science teaching. When the role at the observatory came up, I jumped at the chance to be able to combine both astronomy and teaching.

Astronomy is obviously a very STEM [science, tech, engineering, maths] dominated subject, and that is also my background, but as we observe further and further across the night sky during a clear night, the vast distances, sizes, and scale of the universe will lead to the philosophical.

Visitors will, I'm sure, often be considering their place in the universe. It's with those thoughts that astronomy can branch out and we can approach ideas relating to the art, mythology, and history of astronomy, as well as the pure science. So the attraction of astronomy is perhaps how multi-faceted it can be.

We have seen over the past century a growth of light pollution across the planet. We need to use lights, but we don't always consider their impact and the inconsiderate glow of light has an effect on our health, the wildlife and environment around us, and our view of the night sky. Many people now grow up never having seen a true night sky.

There are still lots of dark, unpolluted locations across the world and by designating these locations as dark sky parks we can hopefully try to protect and preserve them. Scotland is home to some very dark locations, but they could, over time, be threatened.

Visit scottishdarkskyobservatory.co.uk and visitscotland.com