Astronomy Talks

Covid 19 Announcement

The Royal Observatory Visitor Centre is closed due to the Coronavirus pandemic. We are not confirming any new group bookings at the current time, and there are no public events taking place on site.

Online Astronomy Talks

We are very excited that we can now offer talks from astronomers and engineers online! Follow the links below to book talks in our 2021/22 season.

You can watch past talks from the 'Previous Talks' section below.

Thank you for your continued support.

The Astronomical Society of Edinburgh is also holding free online-streamed talks on their You Tube channel. Visit their events page to find out more.

11 October 2021 | 19:00 - 20:00 BST

The ESA Comet Interceptor Mission

Comet Interceptor is a mission that will meet a yet-to-be-discovered comet as it enters the inner Solar System for the first time. It will launch in 2029 and wait in space for a suitable comet to pass by. Join us in this talk to hear about the latest work on this exciting project!

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25 October 2021 | 19:00 - 20:00 BST

In Pursuit of Darkness

Look up at night. How many stars can you count? Surely, it’s not many. How about you now try on a remote mountaintop under clear skies and the aid of a gigantic telescope? In this talk we will review the elements that affect astronomical viewing and their impact on the selection of sites to build modern telescopes.

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8 November 2021 | 19:00 - 20:00 GMT

Astrophysics Through the Pandemic

Like all aspects of life, the world of Astrophysics research has been greatly impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic, but not all for the worse. Learn how we had to adapt, how it affected research, and what lessons we plan to take from this going forward as the world opens up.

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22 November 2021 | 19:00 - 20:00 GMT

Missions to Near Earth Asteroids

This talk will describe the two recent missions which have taken samples at Near-Earth Asteroids, Hayabusa-2 at Ryugu and OSIRIS-REx at Bennu. Hear about the scientific results from the orbital phases of the missions, the dropping of surface landers, and how the material is returned to Earth. The talk will be illustrated with amazing images from these missions.

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6 December 2021 | 19:00 - 20:00 GMT

Black holes in the Universe: where, what, and why?

In 2015, a merging pair of black holes was directly detected for the first time. Since then, the number of detections has grown substantially. This talk will describe the new catalogue of black holes and highlight some surprising features that pose new challenges for our understanding of these elusive objects.

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13 December 2021 | 19:00 - 20:00 GMT

Festive Fun!

A fun festive edition of our popular What's Up! talk, with the latest space news, stargazing tips and fun demonstrations! Suitable for a family audience and children aged 6+.

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Previous Talks

21 June 2021 | 19:00 - 20:00 BST

What’s Up: Putting the Science into Stargazing!

Matjaz Vidmar

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!

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07 June 2021 | 19:00 - 20:00 BST

The Extremely Large Telescope: what, why and how?

Sandi Wilson

The Extremely Large Telescope is currently under construction high in the Atacama Desert in Chile. This talk will explore the incredible engineering behind the largest optical and infrared telescope in the world, introducing the science instruments we are building for it here at the Royal Observatory Edinburgh.

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24 May 2021 | 19:00 - 20:00 BST

Countdown to Launch

Olivia Jones

2021 is an exciting year for astronomy, with the launch of the highly anticipated James Webb Space Telescope (Webb). Webb, NASA’s and ESA’s flagship mission, will revolutionise astronomy. It will be the largest and most powerful telescope launched into space, and it has strong Scottish connections with one of the key instruments built here at the Royal Observatory Edinburgh. Here I will talk about the engineering of Webb and its key science objectives as we look forward to significant astronomy discoveries when it is launched.

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10 May 2021 | 19:00 - 20:00 BST

Light and Dark. A Story of the Cosmos

Marika Asgari

Light is the main observable in cosmology, but most of what we "see" with this light is how the dark universe behaves. We will explore how the light from millions of distant galaxies are used to shed light on the nature of dark matter and dark energy.

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26 April 2021 | 19:00 - 20:00 BST

Active Galactic Nuclei and Tidal Disruption Events

Philip Short

A tale of hungry black holes and unfortunate stars. At the centre of every galaxy lies a supermassive black hole. Some of these black holes are in an 'active' state, pulling in a steady stream of material from the surrounding area. While in this state these black holes have a significant effect on their host galaxy's evolution. Other supermassive black holes, like the one at the centre of the Milky Way, are dormant. But even dormant black holes will occasionally feast on an unsuspecting star that strays a little too close...

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12 April 2021 | 19:00 - 20:00 BST

The Discovery of Gravitational Waves

Mario Kalomenopoulos

The detection of gravitational waves some years ago, opened a new window to the Universe, created a media fuss and gave a Nobel Prize for Physics! But what is the story behind this discovery? What about the discovery claims of the 60s? And where does Glasgow fit into this mystery? In this talk, we'll try to answer these questions (and maybe some more) concerning the discovery of these mysterious waves.

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22 March 2021 | 19:00 - 20:00 GMT

The Life Cycle of Galaxies

Romeel Davé

Our most powerful telescopes reveal a universe filled with galaxies that come in a dizzying range of shapes, sizes, colours, and environments. How this diverse population arose over 14 billion years from the primordial Universe is a fascinating and complex story that astronomers are only now beginning to piece together. It's a story worthy of a Hollywood movie, including lurking villains, dangerous neighborhoods, and powerful explosions that put a Michael Bay movie to shame. In this talk, I'll tell the life story of galaxies as we now understand it, by combining multi-wavelength galaxy surveys and state of the art supercomputer simulations.

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8 March 2021 | 19:00 - 20:00 GMT

Growing Supermassive Black Holes

James Aird

We now know that supermassive black holes, with masses of millions to billions of times the mass of the Sun, are found at the centres of most galaxies (including our own galaxy, the Milky Way). But where do they come from and how do they get so big? This talk will describe how astronomers are able to see growing black holes and why we think they play a key role in shaping the Universe.

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22 February 2021 | 19:00 - 20:00 GMT

What does the future of our Universe look like?

Daniele Sorini

Although we still have several open questions, decades of observations and theoretical modelling have allowed us to reconstruct the past of our Universe. But what will our Universe look like way after the Earth and the Sun will cease to exist, and may intelligent life still develop in the far future?

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8 February 2021 | 19:00 - 20:00 GMT

How You Can Contribute to Science

Bryan Gillis

Working scientists often receive messages from people who want to contribute to science in some way. Learn about various ways the public can participate in scientific research, from helping with outreach and education to art projects which incorporate scientific research and results.

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25 January 2021 | 19:00 - 20:00 GMT

Weird New Worlds

Beth Biller

With literally thousands of exoplanet candidates discovered to date, we now know of a few relatively Earthlike worlds -- and many many more planets very different from those in our own solar system! Beth will discuss what we know already about these worlds and what we will be learning in the next decades.

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11 January 2021 | 19:00 - 20:00 GMT

How do astronomers model gravity?

Michael Peterson

Newton's simple formulation of gravity perfectly describes our solar system. However, at galaxy-size scales, understanding the subtler effects of gravity is best accomplished through computer simulations. I'll describe the state-of-the-art simulations that model gravity and the historical work in the field, along with some novelties astronomers uncovered along the way.

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14 December | 19:00-20:00 GMT

What’s Up: Putting the Science into Stargazing (Festive Edition!)

Martin Black, Alistair Bruce & William Taylor

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!

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07 December | 19:00-20:00 GMT

Asteroids in 3D

Agata Rozek

Near-Earth asteroids! They're just what it says on the tin: asteroids that come close to Earth (astronomically speaking). Understanding our small space neighbours means knowing how they form and evolve. Come and discover how optical and radio telescopes are used to learn how asteroids look like.

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23 November | 19:00-20:00 GMT

Can Additive Manufacturing be a Game Changer?

Hermine Schnetler

In this talk, we look at the possibilities of using additive manufacturing (3-D printing) in the production of integrated-components for use in astronomical instrumentation designs.

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09 November | 19:00-20:00 GMT

Things that go Bang in the Night

Andy Lawrence

Throughout history we have been fascinated by unexpected and violent cosmic events such as comets and novae. Today, we are systematically monitoring the sky trying to catch such things that go bang in the night. Andy Lawrence will look at what we have learned and the mysteries still to solve.

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12 October | 19:00-20:00 BST

What’s Up: Putting the Science into Stargazing

Matjaz Vidmar

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!

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Monday 22nd June 19:00-20:00 BST

CloudCatcher - How to Help Catch Clouds From Space

Caroline Cox

Clouds are beautiful. Seen from Earth, they provide a constantly changing backdrop to the sky. Seen from space, they are spectacular formations. However, clouds can be problematic for many Earth Observation missions interested in making observations of the atmosphere or land below them. I will discuss the process of identifying clouds in satellite images, specifically the Sea and Land Surface Temperature Radiometer that flies on board the Sentinel-3 satellites. I will also introduce a new citizen science project, CloudCatcher, and tell you how you and your family can be part of it.

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Monday 15th June 19:00-20:00 BST

Women in Astronomy: At the Royal Observatory Edinburgh and Around the World

Anna Lisa Varri

Great progress has been made towards a more balanced gender representation in Astronomy, nevertheless, the issue is not solved yet. We will explore the history and state of the workforce, locally and globally, and analyse some of the barriers which are still in place. The future of the next generation of women astronomers is bright - but every adult has a role to play now!

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Monday 8th June 19:00-20:00 BST

What keeps astronomers up at night?

Ciaran Fairhurst

Astronomy is ridiculously ambitious: we are attempting to chart the history of the entire universe. It's only natural that there would be some gaps. I will talk you through a couple of these "open questions" -- the problem, why it's so hard, and what is being done about it.

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Monday 1st June 19:00-20:00 BST

Illuminating the Tadpole’s Metamorphosis

Megan Reiter

Using the biggest and best telescopes, we will peer inside a little tadpole-shaped cloud and gather clues to how this little cloud in a star-forming sea will transform from a bunch of gas and dust into a star and planet system that may look a lot like our solar system.

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Monday 25th May 19:00-20:00 BST

Starlight Caught in Gelatin

Clive Davenhall

The first crude daguerreotypes of the Moon and Sun were taken shortly after the first photographic processes were announced in 1839. By the end of the century photographs were being taken of faint nebulae and extensive photographic star-charting programmes were in progress. This talk will tell the story of how photography was introduced into astronomy, and the revolution in astronomy that it caused.

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Tuesday 19th May 19:00-20:00 BST

Following the Photons

Rubén Sánchez-Janssen

Join us on a billion-year journey through the cosmos. We will follow the path of light emitted by the first stars, from their birth places to the camera detectors where we finally record it.

Along the way we will learn about the large telescopes and powerful instruments that enable the most astonishing astronomical discoveries.

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Monday 11th May 19:00-20:00 BST

Euclid: A Space Mission to Map the Dark Universe

Niraj Welikala

Dark Matter and Dark Energy account for most of the energy in the Universe. Yet their nature remains a complete mystery. Niraj will describe Euclid, which is an upcoming space mission that will map both to unprecedented precision. A team at the Royal Observatory is at the forefront of this effort by measuring the shapes of almost a billion galaxies.

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Monday 4th May 2020 19:00pm-20:00pm

Helping Scotland Launch to Space!

Matjaz Vidmar and Karina Wardak

With new applications of observing the Earth from space and spaceports planned for the North, researchers, developers and entrepreneurs often need a little help to realise their vision. In this talk, we will explore the important role of intermediaries, including our Higgs Centre for Innovation, in supporting the Scottish Space Industry.

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Monday 27th April 2020 19:00pm-19:45pm

The Very First Light

Teresita Suarez Noguez

Are we able to see the first stars and galaxies in the Universe? How do we know they are the very first stars? These early luminous objects determined the formation of structure in our Universe that led to the distribution of matter that we observe today.

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Tuesday 21st April 2020 19:00pm-19:45pm

The Simba Galaxy Simulations

Sarah Appleby

This talk will explain how we use galaxy simulations in astronomy to make sense of real data and determine how galaxies evolve over cosmic time. The Simba simulations help astronomers to understand the impact of supermassive black holes in the centers of galaxies.

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