Conference highlights the benefits of astronomy research on wider society

A technology developed to establish the age of galaxies which is now being used to compare medical scans and a telescope project that has seen UK companies win £9 million in contracts are being highlighted at a conference this week as examples of how astronomy can benefit society. STFC’s UK Astronomy Technology Centre and the University of Edinburgh’s Institute for Astronomy have jointly organised the ‘Applications of Astronomy Conference’ (Wednesday 13 - Friday 15 October) to highlight the huge difference the study of astronomy makes not just to our understanding of the Universe, but in areas that affect us day to day.

The conference at the Royal Observatory Edinburgh will hear from University experts, STFC staff, and members of industry who will give examples of some of the biggest breakthroughs we have seen as a result of the study of astronomy. Professor John Peacock, Head of the Institute for Astronomy at the University of Edinburgh, said "Astronomy is a subject that the taxpayer values highly just for the pure satisfaction of knowing more about the universe - but even better when we can deliver extra value for the generous public support that we receive. Astronomers have a lot to offer - and have already changed the everyday world more than most people realise. Examples to date include the technology that underpins Sat Navs and CCDs inside cameras”.

The conference will not just demonstrate the wider applications that have already resulted from the study of astronomy, but also look at how future developments could result from greater collaboration between academics and industry. Information and guidance will be provided for how academics and industry can work together to develop future applications.

Ian Robson, Director, STFC’s UK ATC said; “Money spent on space is not spent in space, it is spent right here on Earth and it is on Earth that we see the benefits of these technologies flowing into our daily lives. Astronomers use cutting-edge technologies to do difficult things, but many of these skills can be applied in a host of different ways if we are clever enough to make the connection with what commerce and industry needs. The conference provides the opportunity for researchers and industry to join up their thinking and flesh out all the possibilities”.

More details about the conference including a programme across the three days can be found here.

Notes to editors

The Royal Observatory Edinburgh site comprises the UK Astronomy Technology Centre of the Science and Technology Facilities Council, the Institute for Astronomy of the University of Edinburgh and the ROE Visitor Centre.
More information about UK ATC can be found here:

More information about the University of Edinburgh’s Institute for Astronomy can be found here:


Prof. Alan Heavens, Prof. Colin Cunningham, Prof. Ian Robson (Director of Technology and the UK ATC), Prof. John Peacock (Head of the Institute for Astronomy) in front of the KMOS instrument undergoing testing at the UK Astronomy Technology Centre. KMOS is a multi-object spectrometer, a second generation instrument for one of the ESO Very large Telescopes which is being integrated and tested at the UKATC.


Lucy Stone
Press Officer
Rutherford Appleton Laboratory
Tel: 01235 445627/07920 870125

Further Information

Science and Technology Facilities Council

The Science and Technology Facilities Council ensures the UK retains its leading place on the world stage by delivering world-class science; accessing and hosting international facilities; developing innovative technologies; and increasing the socio-economic impact of its research through effective knowledge exchange partnerships.

The Council has a broad science portfolio including Astronomy, Particle Physics, Particle Astrophysics, Nuclear Physics, Space Science, Synchrotron Radiation, Neutron Sources and High Power Lasers. In addition the Council manages and operates three internationally renowned laboratories:

- The Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, Oxfordshire
- The Daresbury Laboratory, Cheshire
- The UK Astronomy Technology Centre, Edinburgh

The Council gives researchers access to world-class facilities and funds the UK membership of international bodies such as the European Laboratory for Particle Physics (CERN), the Institute Laue Langevin (ILL), European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF), the European Southern Observatory (ESO) and the European Space Agency (ESA). It also contributes money for the UK telescopes overseas on La Palma, Hawaii, Chile, and the MERLIN/VLBI National Facility, which includes the Lovell Telescope at Jodrell Bank Observatory.