Public Talks

Monthly Talks on Astronomical Topics of Interest

Monthly Public Talks

Our popular monthly talks are for members and the public to learn about some aspects of astronomy. These talks are aimed at ‘middle of the road’ level so the talk will appeal to members of the public with no prior knowledge, newcomers as well as those who have been interested in the subject for a number of years.

Topics from imaging the night sky, through to Cosmology, we invite speakers from all over the UK and the World.

We make a small charge on the door of £3.00 to cover our expenses

Our local venue:

Clanfield Memorial Hall,
South Lane,

If you wish to view this location on MultiMap please click here

All talks start at 7:45pm unless otherwise stated

Friday, 21st April 2017

Transient Events in the Universe

A talk by Professor Jocelyn Bell Burnell

Cost: £3 for non-members

Often when we view the Universe in a new way, new and unexpected phenomena are discovered. Recent developments in detectors (for example CCDs) and in computers are now allowing astronomers to search systematically for short duration phenomena – flares, bursts and other kinds of changes in the brightness of stars and galaxies. Some such phenomena were already known (supernovae, for example), and some have been accidentally discovered (gamma ray bursts, for example). There has also recently been more systematic searching for moving objects, such as asteroids that might impact the earth.

We are now entering a new phase with more and bigger telescopes, larger data flows, and observations with new, lower frequency, radio telescopes. This talk will describe this burgeoning field and speculate on what might be found.



Please note that this talk is on the 3rd Friday, not the usual 2nd Friday.

Astronomy Now have published a date of 1st April for this talk. CORRECT date is 21st April

To ensure no-one is disappointed at the door, non-members should please email for a confirmed space from March 11th, 2017 

Friday, 12th May 2017

13 Journeys Through Space and Time

A talk by Colin Stuart

Cost: £3 for non-members

13 Journeys Through Space and Time 

Tim Peake's recent visit to the International Space Station has placed a fresh spotlight on the latest developments in space exploration. But space travel is still a pretty new area of human endeavour and our ideas about what and who might be out there have constantly shifted over the years. One place this is particularly apparent is in the famous Christmas Lectures held by the Royal Institution each year.
Last year Colin was lucky enough to rummage around in their archives and write a book about 13 of the lectures devoted to space and time. The first was delivered way back in 1881. The last was the 2015 lectures featuring a message from Tim from orbit. And how our ideas have changed. In this talk Colin will be sharing some of the stories from the lectures, along with some of his favourite anecdotes about digging through the archives including finding Carl Sagan's immigration form and Dewar's radioactive notebooks.
Copies of the book will be available to purchase after the talk.

Friday, 9th June 2017

Space Warps: Citizen Scientist Powered Gravitational Lens Discovery

A talk by Dr Aprajita Verma

Cost: £3 to non-members


Gravitational lenses are remarkable phenomena – a striking visual demonstration of Einstein’s theory of General Relativity – where the light from a distant galaxy is bent by the gravity field of an intervening massive foreground galaxy or group of galaxies lying along the line of sight. This results in an amplified, magnified and distorted image of the distant background galaxy often resulting in multiple images or complete and partial rings. The separation and distortion of lensed images is entirely determined by the total matter distribution in the intervening ‘lens’, this includes both luminous (i.e. stars) and elusive dark matter. Therefore lensing is one of the only means to weigh galaxies and constrain dark matter providing one of the most direct pieces of evidence for its existence. However, finding gravitational lenses remains a difficult task with large numbers of false positives (configurations that mimic lenses) requiring significant effort in visually inspecting the candidates. In this talk, I will discuss the gravitational lensing, its numerous astrophysical applications and the methods used to discover them. In particular, I will talk about our recent results from the Space Warps project where our Citizen Scientist collaborators have contributed to the discovery of new lenses in sensitive and wide area imaging surveys.

Friday, 14th July 2017

Brave new worlds: the planets in our galaxy

A talk by Professor Giovanna Tinetti

Cost: £3 for non-members

The Earth is special to us – it’s our home. But is it really special as a planet?

Every star we can see in the night sky is likely to be orbited by planets. There are probably a hundred billion planets in our galaxy alone. In about twenty years, more than 3000 “exoplanets” have been discovered in distant solar systems. There are planets completing a revolution around their mother star in less than one day, as well as planets orbiting two or even three stars or moving on trajectories so eccentric as to resemble comets. Some of them are freezing cold, some are so hot that their surface is molten. But beyond that our knowledge falters: What are they made of? How did they form? What’s the weather like there? Are they habitable?  

Finding out why are these new worlds as they are and what is the Earth’s place in our galaxy and –ultimately– in the universe, is one of the key challenges of modern astrophysics.

Friday, 13th October 2017

Title TBA

A talk by Professor Lucie Green

Cost: £3 for non-members

Ray Bootland Memorial Lecture

Professor Green will deliver our Memorial Lecture this year.

Friday, 10th November 2017

Astrobiology : Tour of the Solar System

A talk by William Joyce

Cost: £3 to non-members

Details to be added.

Friday, 8th December 2017

Cosmology (details to come later)

A talk by Dr Chris Pearson

Cost: £3 for non-members

Dr Pearson will talk about his work in this area - further details to follow.

Friday, 12th January 2018

Title TBA

A talk by Michael Maunder

Cost: £3 for non-members

After being fog-bound on the Channel Islands in March, 2017, Mike Maunder is returning to Clanfield this month!!

The subject of his talk will be announced later.

Friday, 9th March 2018

Title TBA

A talk by Dr Samantha Penny

Cost: £3 for non-members

Dr Penny is a Senior Research Associate at the Institute of Cosmology and Gravitation at the University of Portsmouth.