Ian Ridpath

Ian William Ridpath (born 1 May 1947, Ilford, Essex) is an English science writer and broadcaster best known as a popularizer of astronomy and a biographer of constellation history. As a UFO sceptic, he investigated and explained the Rendlesham Forest Incident of December 1980.

Ian Ridpath
Ian Ridpath in 2015
Ian Ridpath in 2015
BornIan William Ridpath
May 1, 1947 (age 71)
Ilford, Essex
OccupationWriter, editor, encyclopedist, broadcaster
ResidenceBrentford, Middlesex
Notable worksOxford Dictionary of Astronomy; Norton's Star Atlas; Star Tales
Notable awardsKlumpke-Roberts Award of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific

Life and career

Ridpath attended Beal Grammar School in Ilford where he wrote astronomy articles for the school magazine.[1] Before entering publishing he was an assistant in the lunar research group at the University of London Observatory, Mill Hill. He now lives in Brentford, Middlesex.

He is editor of the Oxford Dictionary of Astronomy[2] and Norton's Star Atlas, and author of observing guides such as The Monthly Sky Guide[3] and the Collins Stars and Planets Guide[4] (the latter two with charts by Wil Tirion, and both continuously in print for over 25 years). His other books include Star Tales,[5] about the origins and mythology of the constellations, and the children's book Exploring Stars and Planets,[6] now in its fifth edition. He is a contributor to the Dorling Kindersley encyclopedia Universe, and a former editor of the UK quarterly magazine Popular Astronomy. He is also currently editor of The Antiquarian Astronomer, the journal of the Society for the History of Astronomy.

His early books on the subject of extraterrestrial life and interstellar travel – Worlds Beyond (1975), Messages from the Stars (1978) and Life off Earth (1983) – led him to investigate UFOs. But he became a sceptic, a position reinforced by his findings about the Rendlesham case. He was one of the first to offer an explanation for the so-called Sirius Mystery[7] involving the supposedly advanced astronomical knowledge of the Dogon people of Mali, west Africa.

He was a space expert for LBC Radio from the 1970s into the 1990s, and was also seen on BBC TV's Breakfast Time programme in its early years. It was for Breakfast Time that he first investigated the Rendlesham Forest UFO case.[8]

His star show Planet Earth ran at the London Planetarium from February 1993 to January 1995; it was the last show to use the planetarium's original Zeiss optical projector.[9]


In 2012 he received the Astronomical Society of the Pacific's Klumpke-Roberts Award for outstanding contributions to the public understanding and appreciation of astronomy.[10] In 1990 he won an award in The Aventis Prizes for Science Books (in the under-8 children's books category) for The Giant Book of Space.

Other interests

From 1993 to 1995 he was Race Director of the Polytechnic Marathon from Windsor to Chiswick, Britain's oldest marathon race which traced its origins back to the 1908 Olympic Marathon. In that role, he was involved in a public controversy over the ownership of the Sporting Life marathon trophy, originally awarded to winners of the Polytechnic Marathon, which was claimed in 1994 by the London Marathon.[11] The Polytechnic Marathon was last held in 1996.

A keen astro-philatelist, he is chairman of the Astro Space Stamp Society.[12]

Selected bibliography

  • Stars and Planets Guide. Collins (UK). ISBN 978-0-00-823927-5. Princeton University Press (US). ISBN 978-0-691-17788-5.
  • Monthly Sky Guide. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-13369-2.
  • Gem Stars. Collins. ISBN 978-0-00-717858-2.
  • Times Universe. Times Books. ISBN 978-0-00-716930-6.
  • Exploring Stars and Planets. Philip's. ISBN 978-1-84907-144-4.
  • Star Tales. Lutterworth. ISBN 978-0-7188-9478-8.
  • Oxford Dictionary of Astronomy (ed.). Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-921493-8.
  • Norton’s Star Alas and Reference Handbook (ed.). Dutton. ISBN 978-0-13-145164-3.


  1. ^ Ridpath, Ian. "LinkedIn". Retrieved 6 April 2016.
  2. ^ Oxford Dictionary of Astronomy
  3. ^ The Monthly Sky Guide
  4. ^ Collins Stars and Planets Guide
  5. ^ Star Tales
  6. ^ Exploring Stars and Planets
  7. ^ "Investigating the Sirius "Mystery"". Archived from the original on 2003-02-17. Retrieved 2007-10-13.
  8. ^ Rendlesham Forest UFO report by Ian Ridpath
  9. ^ Zeiss projector
  10. ^ ASP 2012 Award Winners
  11. ^ "The Sporting Life trophy". Retrieved 2007-10-05.
  12. ^ Astro Space Stamp Society

External links

Alexander Jamieson

Alexander Jamieson (1782–1850) was a Scottish writer and schoolmaster, now best known as a rhetorician. He has been described as effectively a professional textbook writer. After the failure of his school, he worked as an actuary.

Cancer (astrology)

Cancer (♋️) is the fourth astrological sign in the Zodiac, originating from the constellation of Cancer.

It spans from 90° to 120° celestial longitude. Under the tropical zodiac, the Sun transits this area between approximately June 21 and July 23, and under the sidereal zodiac, the Sun transits this area between approximately July 21 and August 9.In astrology, Cancer is the cardinal sign of the Water trigon, which is made up of Cancer, Pisces, and Scorpio. It is one of the six negative signs. Though some depictions of Cancer feature a lobster, the sign is most often represented by the crab, based on the Karkinos, a giant crab that harassed Heracles during his fight with the Hydra.

Celestial cartography

Celestial cartography, uranography, astrography or star cartography is the fringe of astronomy and branch of cartography concerned with mapping stars, galaxies, and other astronomical objects on the celestial sphere. Measuring the position and light of charted objects requires a variety of instruments and techniques. These techniques have developed from angle measurements with quadrants and the unaided eye, through sextants combined with lenses for light magnification, up to current methods which include computer-automated space telescopes. Uranographers have historically produced planetary position tables, star tables, and star maps for use by both amateur and professional astronomers. More recently computerized star maps have been compiled, and automated positioning of telescopes is accomplished using databases of stars and other astronomical objects.


A constellation is a group of stars that forms an imaginary outline or pattern on the celestial sphere, typically representing an animal, mythological person or creature, a god, or an inanimate object.The origins of the earliest constellations likely go back to prehistory. People used them to relate stories of their beliefs, experiences, creation, or mythology. Different cultures and countries adopted their own constellations, some of which lasted into the early 20th century before today's constellations were internationally recognized. Adoption of constellations has changed significantly over time. Many have changed in size or shape. Some became popular, only to drop into obscurity. Others were limited to single cultures or nations.

The 48 traditional Western constellations are Greek. They are given in Aratus' work Phenomena and Ptolemy's Almagest, though their origin probably predates these works by several centuries. Constellations in the far southern sky were added from the 15th century until the mid-18th century when European explorers began traveling to the Southern Hemisphere. Twelve ancient constellations belong to the zodiac (straddling the ecliptic, which the Sun, Moon, and planets all traverse). The origins of the zodiac remain historically uncertain; its astrological divisions became prominent c. 400 BC in Babylonian or Chaldean astronomy, probably dates back to prehistory.

In 1928, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) formally accepted 88 modern constellations, with contiguous boundaries that together cover the entire celestial sphere. Any given point in a celestial coordinate system lies in one of the modern constellations. Some astronomical naming systems include the constellation where a given celestial object is found to convey its approximate location in the sky. The Flamsteed designation of a star, for example, consists of a number and the genitive form of the constellation name.

Other star patterns or groups called asterisms are not constellations per se but are used by observers to navigate the night sky. Examples of bright asterisms include the Pleiades and Hyades within the constellation Taurus or Venus' Mirror in the constellation of Orion.. Some asterisms, like the False Cross, are split between two constellations; others, like the Summer Triangle, share stars across several constellations.

Indus (constellation)

Indus is a constellation in the southern sky created in the late sixteenth century.

Janina coat of arms

Janina is a Polish nobility clan coat-of-arms. Borne by several noble families descended in the-male line from the medieval lords of Janina (the eponyms of the clan) or legally adopted into the clan upon ennoblement.

List of people from the London Borough of Redbridge

Among those who were born in the London Borough of Redbridge, or have dwelt within the borders of the modern borough are (alphabetical order):

Simon Amstell, comedian, television presenter, screenwriter and actor. Attended Beal High School

Bernard Ashmole, archaeologist who gives his name to the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford

Kenny Ball, trumpet playing English jazz musician

Thomas John Barnardo, social reformer

Nina Bawden, author

Raymond Baxter, TV presenter

Tony Bayfield, rabbi and leader of the Movement for Reform Judaism in the UK

Nigel Benn, former boxer

Sidney Bernstein, Baron Bernstein, media entrepreneur

Jet Black (real name Brian Duffy), drummer with The Stranglers

John Boardman, classical art historian, "Britain's most distinguished historian of ancient Greek art"

Geraldine Van Bueren, human rights lawyer

Ken Campbell, comedian and actor

Stuart Conquest, chess player

Michael Coren, columnist, author, public speaker and radio host

The Dooleys, 1970s pop act

Noel Edmonds, TV entertainer and presenter

Julia Fernandez, actress

Bill Fraser, TV actor, The Army Game; ran a sweet shop in Ilford Lane between bookings

Steven Haberman, actuary and professor

Georgina Hale, actress

Jon Hare, computer game designer

Eva Hart, one of the last remaining survivors of the sinking of the RMS Titanic on 15 April 1912; died on 14 February 1996

John Carmel Heenan, cardinal and Archbishop of Westminster

Jane Holland, poet, performer and novelist

Ian Holm, actor, known as Bilbo Baggins in the Lord Of The Rings movie trilogy

Nasser Hussain, former England cricket team captain

Ronald Hutton, historian, attended Ilford County High School

Paul Ince, footballer

Frazer Irving, comic book artist

Jessie J, singer-songwriter, attended Mayfield High School

Kathy Kirby, singer

Sophie Lawrence, actress

Jane Leeves, actor, best known as Daphne Moon in Frasier

Kenneth Lefever, civil servant

Denise Levertov, poet

Richard Littlejohn, journalist

Raymond Lygo, admiral

Victor Maddern, actor

Sean Maguire, singer and actor

Kevin Maher, footballer

Tony Minson, virologist and pro-vice-chancellor of the University of Cambridge

Geoffrey Orme, screenwriter for television and film

Tamzin Outhwaite, actress

Ruth Pitter, poet

Jenny Powell, TV presenter

Kathleen Raine, poet and critic

David Rappaport, actor

Ian Ridpath, astronomy writer and broadcaster

Amanda Rosario, British-Indian actress predominantly working in Bollywood

Fauja Singh, centenarian athletics record holder

Maggie Smith, actor

Louise Wener, musician and novelist, attended Beal High School near Gants Hill

Chris Willsher, writer, performer and singer with Bus Station Loonies

Stephen Lewis, actor who lived in Wanstead Nursing Home until his death in 2015

Anna Karen, South African born actress who lives in Ilford

Machina Electrica

Machina Electrica (Latin for electricity generator) was a constellation created by Johann Bode in 1800. He created it from faint stars between Fornax and Sculptor, to the south of Cetus. It represented an electrostatic generator. The constellation was never popular and is no longer in use.

Musca Borealis

Musca Borealis (Latin for northern fly) was a constellation, now discarded, located between the constellations of Aries and Perseus. It was originally called Apes (plural of Apis, Latin for bee) by Petrus Plancius when he created it in 1612. It was made up of a small group of stars, now called 33 Arietis, 35 Arietis, 39 Arietis, and 41 Arietis, in the north of the constellation of Aries.

The brightest star is now known as 41 Arietis. At magnitude 3.63, it is a blue-white main sequence star of spectral type B8V around 166 light-years distant. 39 Arietis is an orange giant star of magnitude 4.51 and spectral type K1.5III that is around 171 light-years distant.The constellation was renamed Vespa by Jakob Bartsch in 1624. The renaming by Bartsch may have been intended to avoid confusion with another constellation, created by Plancius in 1598, that was called Apis by Bayer in 1603. Plancius called this earlier constellation Muia (Greek for fly) in 1612, and it had been called Musca (Latin for fly) by Blaeu in 1602, although Bayer was evidently unaware of this.In 1679 Augustin Royer used these stars for his constellation Lilium (the Lily, representing the fleur-de-lis and in honour of his patron, King Louis XIV).It was first described as "Musca" by Hevelius in his catalogue of 1690. Subsequent astronomers renamed it into "Musca Borealis", to distinguish it from the southern fly, Musca Australis.

This constellation is no longer in use; the stars it contained are now included in Aries. The Southern Fly, Musca Australis, is now simply known as Musca.

Noctua (constellation)

Noctua (Latin: owl) was a constellation near the tail of Hydra in the southern celestial hemisphere, but is no longer recognized. It was introduced by Alexander Jamieson in his 1822 work, A Celestial Atlas, and appeared in a derived collection of illustrated cards, Urania's Mirror. Now designated Asterism a, the owl was composed of the stars 4 Librae and 54–57 Hydrae, which range from 4th to 6th magnitude.The French astronomer Pierre Charles Le Monnier had introduced a bird on Hydra's tail as the constellation Solitaire, named for the extinct flightless bird, the Rodrigues solitaire, but the image was that of a rock thrush which had been classified in the genus Turdus, giving rise to the constellation name Turdus Solitarius, the solitary thrush. It has also been depicted as a mockingbird. The boundaries of the constellation were defined as longitude 0° to 26°30' and from the ecliptic to 15° S.


The Nommo are ancestral spirits (sometimes referred to as deities) worshipped by the Dogon people of Mali. The word Nommos is derived from a Dogon word meaning "to make one drink." The Nommos are usually described as amphibious, hermaphroditic, fish-like creatures. Folk art depictions of the Nommos show creatures with humanoid upper torsos, legs/feet, and a fish-like lower torso and tail. The Nommos are also referred to as “Masters of the Water”, “the Monitors”, and "the Teachers”. Nommo can be a proper name of an individual, or can refer to the group of spirits as a whole. For purposes of this article “Nommo” refers to a specific individual and “Nommos” is used to reference the group of beings.

Norton's Star Atlas

Norton's Star Atlas is a set of 16 celestial charts, first published in 1910 and currently in its 20th edition under the editorship of Ian Ridpath. The Star Atlas covers the entire northern and southern sky, with accompanying reference information for amateur astronomers. The charts used in the first 17 editions of the Atlas were drawn by a British schoolmaster, Arthur Philip Norton (1876–1955), after whom the Atlas was named. Norton intended his star atlas to be used in conjunction with the highly popular observing handbooks written by the British astronomers William Henry Smyth and Thomas William Webb, and consequently most of the objects featured in those guidebooks were marked on the charts. The Atlas also found favour among professional astronomers, earning it the reputation of the most widely used and best-known celestial atlas of its day.

Popular Astronomy (UK magazine)

Popular Astronomy is the bi-monthly magazine of the UK's Society for Popular Astronomy, published in January, March, May, July, September and November.

Scutum (constellation)

Scutum is a small constellation introduced in the seventeenth century. Its name is Latin for shield.


Sextans is a minor equatorial constellation which was introduced in 1687 by Johannes Hevelius. Its name is Latin for the astronomical sextant, an instrument that Hevelius made frequent use of in his observations.

Star Names

Star Names: Their Lore and Meaning is an 1899 book by Richard Hinckley Allen that discusses the names of stars, constellations, and their histories.

The Sirius Mystery

The Sirius Mystery is a pseudoarchaeology book by Robert K. G. Temple first published by St. Martin's Press in 1976. Its second, 1998, edition is called The Sirius Mystery: New Scientific Evidence of Alien Contact 5,000 Years Ago.

Winter Triangle

The Winter Triangle is an astronomical asterism formed from three of the brightest stars in the winter sky. It is an imaginary equilateral triangle drawn on the celestial sphere, with its defining vertices at Sirius, Betelgeuse, and Procyon, the primary stars in the three constellations of Canis Major, Orion, and Canis Minor, respectively.

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