AN astronomer from East Lancashire is feeling out of this world after clinching a top business award thanks to the Lancashire Telegraph.
Adam Whittaker's social enterprise, Source Science, has been named regional Local Business Accelerator winner for the north west.
The initiative, backed nationally by Dragons' Den judge Deborah Meaden, is being spearheaded by the Newspaper Society.
It aims to seek out the nation's most promising young businesses and help them accelerate their success with free advertising and expert advice.
Judges were Mike Damms, chief executive of East Lancs Chamber Commerce, Lancashire Telegraph advertising head Andy Phelan and Aileen Evans, executive director of Hyndburn Enterprise Trust.
Source Science provides a series of free adult learning courses in astronomy and physics with Darwen Academy and elsewhere across East Lancashire.
Director Adam Whittaker, 35, from Burnley, who runs the business with Erica Dobie, said: “I am delighted. It is a regional award so will give us greater credibility and impetus to move forward.
“It means the company looks strong, given the recession we're in, so it’s a good sign for us.” He said more people were interested in space and astronomy due to the popularity of TV shows such as Stargazing Live with Dr Brian Cox and The Sky at Night.
He said: “It is very much in the zeitgeist.
“There has been a big boom with Brian Cox, but I grew up watching Carl Sagan. It is slowly becoming fashionable again.
“Anyone who knows science, knows it is the way forward in any economy.
“Everybody is curious about space but academia is so far removed from ordinary people.
“It is as much about science fiction as fact, as most of the missions were first thought of by sci-fi writers like Isaac Asimov and Arthur C Clarke and not from a Phd thesis.”
Adam, who went to Habergham High School, is working on a book called Wish Upon a Star, chronicling his trip to India to teach poverty-stricken children about astronomy, and has a new podcast at clearskiespodcast.com.
He is also set to offer summer internships for teenagers to carry out academic research at UClan with research fellow Dr Victor Debattista.
Source Science will now go forward for the national finals and the chance to win a year’s mentoring from Deborah and an ad campaign devised by a top London ad agency.