How a Sunderland man swapped life working in a call centre to rubbing shoulders with celebrities and chasing the Northern Lights

Sunderland stargazer Matt Robinson has never looked back – or down – since trading in his callcentre job for one as an astronomer.

Matt swapped the city call centre to join Kielder Observatory in Northumberland as a science communicator and since has worked as an astronomer for pop and Hollywood golden couple Christ Martin and Gwyneth Paltrow.

After seeing the northern lights for the first time five years ago, he moved to Finland to work for holiday company the Aurora Zone.

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From there the 34-year-old, who Tweets as @Astromackem, took astronomy jobs in Chile and the Maldives.

Matt Robinson low lives in Norway with girlfriendMatt Robinson low lives in Norway with girlfriend
Matt Robinson low lives in Norway with girlfriend

“Just before I left the observatory, my best friend died, he was 31… so for around six months I was in a daze,” he said.

“I decided I had to live because he no longer was and I’ve never looked back.”

Working in an open-air restaurant in the Maldives, he would point out stars to celebrity guests, including Coldplay’s Martin, actress Gwyneth Paltrow and WWE wrestler Randy Orton.

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“They would dine and I’d show them galaxies, planets, tell them about the constellations,” Mr Robinson said.

Matt Robinson says the Aurora offers "a spiritual rush".Matt Robinson says the Aurora offers "a spiritual rush".
Matt Robinson says the Aurora offers "a spiritual rush".

“It was amazing, it didn’t matter how big a ‘star’ they were, they all absolutely loved it.”

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He also met his Swedish girlfriend Jacqueline at the restaurant and they now live in Norway. They were making films and advertisements, until their plans were stalled by the coronavirus outbreak.

At least the pandemic restrictions have given them plenty of time to chase the aurora borealis – a natural display of light caused by interactions between the Earth’s magnetic field, molecules in the atmosphere and the solar wind. It can be seen around the poles, with the Southern Hemisphere version called aurora australis.

Matt Robinson first saw the Aurora five years agoMatt Robinson first saw the Aurora five years ago
Matt Robinson first saw the Aurora five years ago
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“The amazing thing is, you never know what you’re going to get – it could be quite uneventful or totally unforgettable,” said Matt.

“The feeling you get when seeing the northern lights pulsing, flowing, and dancing above your head is like a spiritual rush.

“As humans, we see the sky above us and also space as difficult to reach, so therefore a place of wonder.

“To then see these lights then flowing across like rivers of light really does make you want to worship it, I’m not religious… but if I were, my god would be the aurora borealis.”

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