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Greetings from... Tokyo, where I was doing a major review of the AKARI space satellite data archive for the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency. It completed an all-sky survey of infrared sources to aid our understanding of how galaxies were formed and how star and planet systems are born. The agency wants to measure the impact of the legacy data in informing current research and follow-up observations.

I had a great time... Eating Japanese food and drinking saké at the AKARI conference 'sky banquet' on the 43rd floor of the Tokyo Dome hotel. This was my third visit to Japan – I have collaborators in Sapporo and Tokyo – and I really enjoyed it. A fascinating country, many interesting technologies and lots of very smart people to talk to about science.

It was a great trip... And now I’m back at the Open University where I’m an astrochemist, researching star and planet formation. I’ve come full circle from the sub-millimetre spectroscopy I did with Professor Paul Davies for my PhD in Cambridge, detecting spectra from radicals formed in the upper atmosphere, halo-oxides and HFC photoproducts. Though I left atmospheric spectroscopy for astrochemistry, I’m now using those skills and the knowledge from my PhD in my current research; last week I was hunting for halo-oxide signatures in interstellar spectra, and with one of my PhD students we are developing a unique experiment employing gas phase sub-mm spectroscopy to study the complex molecules found in star-forming regions of the universe.

The picture shows... Me at the Red Gate at Tokyo University.

Dr Helen Fraser (1994-98), Senior Lecturer in Astronomy, Open University