Ever since Jesus was born, people have been pondering on the identity of the Christmas Star that led the Wise Men to the newborn baby. Two things are certain: the first is that the star was clearly not a usual or previously known star; the second is that it all depends on when the birth took place. Studying the stars might tell us that the millennium of Jesus’ birth is some way from the year 2000…
Heather Couper was the Gresham Professor of Astronomy between 1993 and 1996.
After studying Astrophysics at Oxford University, Professor Couper ran the Greenwich Planetarium, and later became President of the British Astronomical Association and Gresham Professor of Astronomy. After presenting two TV series, she and two colleagues set up Pioneer Productions, now one of the leading factual TV companies in the UK. She was the producer of Universe and of the international award-winning programme Electric Skies.
On 2 June 1999, asteroid 3922 Heather was named in her honour.
At the time of her appointment to the Gresham Professorship in 1993, she wrote the following:
How did the universe being? Is there life elsewhere? What's a black hole? Every day, I'm asked questions like this - questions ostensibly about astronomy, but which serve as marvellous springboards into all the other sciences. Because of this, I've always wanted a platform where I could address the "top twenty" questions about the Universe. But how - and where? Broadcasting? Writing? Too remote. But face-to-face lecturing? Absolutely. That's why I'm delighted to have been appointed Gresham Professor of Astronomy, in order to have the opportunity, in Sir Thomas Gresham's words, to explain - as best I can - the "new learning" in the field of the sciences.
All of Professor Couper's lectures can be found here.