Astronomy Talks

Talks run on Monday evenings from 7:30 – 8:30pm in the Royal Observatory Edinburgh Lecture Theatre. The programme for 2017-18 starts on Monday 30th October 2017.

Download a copy of the full programme from the following link: Astronomy Talks 2017 - 2018 [PDF/2.18 MB]

Admission is £4 adults /£2 children and concessions. Children under the age of 16 must be accompanied by an adult.

Tickets must be purchased in advance through Eventbrite. Only the first 10 talks will be bookable at first, with the remaining 10 becoming available from January 2018.

The number of tickets remaining for each talk can be seen on the relevant Eventbrite page. If you would like to book an advance ticket offline, please call us on 0131 6688 404.

Season Tickets will be available to buy on the door from the start of the series at £30 adults / £15 children and concessions. Please note that a season ticket is a discount scheme and does not guarantee a place at each talk; seats still must be reserved via Eventbrite under the "Season Ticket Holder" option when they become available.

If you would like a paper copy of the programme, please call us on 0131 6688 404 or email us at to request one.

Astronomy Talks 2017 - 2018


26th March 2018

What’s Up: Putting the Science into Stargazing!

A beginner’s guide to the night sky, including a round-up of recent astronomical news and the science of celestial sights. Feel free to bring questions along with you!

Sold Out - Waitlist Available

Previous Talks 2017 - 2018


19th March 2018

You Don’t Matter!

Catherine Heymans & Joe Zuntz

A light-hearted comedy show which debuted at this year’s Fringe Festival. Not suitable for children under the age of 18.

You’re completely insignificant; just one person on planet Earth, orbiting just one star out of 100 billion stars in our galaxy, just one galaxy out of 100 billion galaxies in our Universe. You simply don’t matter! Join two astrophysicists as your comedy tour guides to the Universe.

12th March 2018

Massive stars: cosmic engines of the universe

Oscar Ramírez

Some stars more massive than the sun by at least 10 solar masses. Their intense radiation, stellar winds, chemical processing, and final explosions are dominant processes affecting the evolution of their home galaxy. This talk will present state of the art of observations and theory in this fascinating field.

5th March 2018

Astronomy Through the Ages

Vasiliy Demchenko & Ben Giblin

Before the technological revolution that initiated a Golden Age of astronomy, ancient cultures formulated their own interpretations of the universe. How did the Mayans make sense of the changing seasons? What did the Hindus believe about the beginning of the universe? Journey through history to uncover the evolution of astronomy!

26th February 2018

How to design the James Webb Space Telescope

Alan O’Brien

The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is a large 6.5 metre infrared telescope due to be launched in 2018. Astronomers will use it to observe very distant objects in ways they have never done before. Using this information they will study the history of the Universe and our origins. This talk will describe the core science goals for the JWST and the engineering required to make this incredible telescope.

19th February 2018

Finding, and characterising, planets around other stars

Ken Rice

It's been over 20 years since we discovered the first planet orbiting a star other than our Sun. Discover how to detect planets around other stars, what we know about their characteristics, and whether or not we might expect to find a potentially habitable planet in the near future.

12th February 2018

20 years of the UK Astronomy Technology Centre

Colin Cunningham

In December 1997, following a period of intense political scrutiny and dispute, the UK ATC opened at the Royal Observatory Edinburgh. How did the UK ATC come to be? And how has it been able to establish itself as one of the world’s premier organisations for building instruments for telescopes?

5th February 2018

Dwarf Tales

Rubén Sánchez Janssen

Galaxies come in a great variety, with their stellar content ranging from billions of suns to just over a few hundred stars in the so-called dwarf galaxies. Remarkably, dwarfs are the most abundant galaxy type; this talk will discuss the formation and evolution of these fuzzy and extremely interesting objects.

29th January 2018

Hubble’s Variable Nebula

John Lightfoot

In the 1920s Edwin Hubble found fame by showing that the Universe was expanding. This was one of his great discoveries, but not his first. In 1916 he found a surprising object - a nebula whose shape changes from week to week. This talk will follow the story from its discovery until the present day.

22nd January 2018

Mapping dark matter

Joachim Harnois- Deraps

We know very little about the nature of Dark Matter. We cannot explain *what* it is, but we are now able to detect *where* it is. This talk will present the first large maps of dark matter; describe how these were constructed and what they tell us about our Universe.

15th January 2018

X-ray telescopes: every photon counts!

Carolyn Atkins

1949 + V2 rocket + X-ray detector = first observation of solar X-rays! From humble beginnings, to a proposed flagship mission in 2038; this talk will provide a basic ‘how to build an X-ray telescope’ overview, as well as outline the technological challenges of the future.

8th January 2018

Expand your horizons: the mystery of cosmic acceleration

Joseph Kennedy

The universe is getting bigger. Not only that, it's getting bigger at an ever increasing rate. The explanation for why this is happening remains one of the great mysteries of science. This talk will present some of the latest ideas. Is it dark energy or was Einstein wrong?

18th December 2017

What’s Up: Putting the Science into Stargazing!

A beginner’s guide to the night sky, including a round-up of recent astronomical news and the science of celestial sights. Feel free to bring questions along with you!

11th December 2017

The Dark Universe

Joe Zuntz & Alexandra Amon

Our universe is mostly invisible dark matter. So how do you measure the invisible? This talk will show how huge surveys have mapped the dark Universe with lensing - tiny distortions to light from hundreds of millions of galaxies that has travelled across the cosmos.

4th December 2017

The Brown Dwarf - Exoplanet Connection

Johanna Vos & Clemence Fontanive

Brown dwarfs bridge the gap between giant planets and cool stars. In recent years, very low-mass brown dwarfs have been discovered which share a remarkable resemblance with the directly-imaged planets. This talk explores how we identify such objects and what they can tell us about the atmospheres of directly-imaged planets.

27th November 2017

A Cosmic Magical Mystery Tour - a Matter of Some Gravity

John Brown, Astronomer Royal for Scotland

Special extended talk of 90 minutes duration, including magical demonstrations and time for questions.

Gravity is the weakest natural force but it affects the structure of the universe on all scales. This talk addresses the nature of gravity, how it enables life to survive and the role it plays in the origin and evolution of the universe itself.

20th November 2017

Living galaxies: from birth to death and everything in between

Owen Turner

No two galaxies are the same. Some are big, some are small, some are asleep, some are hyperactive - and they even get into fights! This talk will feature how galaxies change as they age, the instruments we observe them with and how gravity is in charge of it all.

13th November 2017

The Universe in 5 numbers

Agnès Ferté

Cosmologists study the universe as a whole. It appears that it can be described by only five parameters and measuring them is at the heart of current research. This talk will explain how we are doing this by observing the light from galaxies and from the big bang itself!

6th November 2017

The Changing Scene in Astronomy

Ian Robson

Astronomers have made amazing discoveries about the Universe in which we live, through continued technological improvements. However, how astronomers actually carry out their work has changed considerably over the ages. This illustrated talk charts those changes and explores the coming era of ‘big data’ and new challenges this will bring.

30th October 2017

What’s Up: Putting the Science into Stargazing!

A beginner’s guide to the night sky, including a round-up of recent astronomical news and the science of celestial sights. Feel free to bring questions along with you!