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, 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 at a cost of £12.

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

15 million degrees: journey to the centre of the Sun

A talk by Professor Lucie Green

Cost: £3 for non-members

Ray Bootland Memorial Lecture

Light takes eight minutes to reach Earth from the surface of the sun. But its journey within the sun takes hundreds of thousands of years. What is going on in there? What are light and heat? How does the sun produce them and how on earth did scientists discover this? Join Professor Lucie Green, a solar physicist at UCL’s Mullard Space Science Laboratory, for a talk taking you from inside the sun to its surface and to Earth, to discover how the sun works, how a solar storm can threaten the modern technology that society relies on and more of the latest research in solar physics.

Friday, 10th November 2017

Could Life Exist Elsewhere in the Solar System?

A talk by William Joyce

Cost: £3 to non-members

This talk introduces the Astrobiology topic of 'is life likely to be common in the Universe', and considers the prospects for past or present life on Mars, and on some of the icy moons in the outer Solar System. The scientific reasons why astrobiologists are exploring these possibilities will be outlined, along with a variety of theories which are currently thought feasible.

Friday, 8th December 2017

The Oldest Light in the Universe

A talk by Dr Chris Pearson

Cost: £3 for non-members

What is the Universe made of ? Or more pertinently how much of the stuff contained in our Universe do we actually understand. From inflation, through the first 3 minutes, from the surface of last scattering through the cosmic dark ages to the present epoch, how has our Universe evolved and what clues can observations give us about its content and ultimately its fate.

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. 

Friday, 11th May 2018

The Day They Launched a Woodpecker!

A talk by Jerry Stone FBIS FRAS

Cost: £3 for non-members

Do you know ...

★ That America once sent 50 elephants to the Moon?
★ About the rocket that was given a knighthood?
★ The truth about the Zambian manned space program?
★ About the lunar fork-lift truck?
and, of course ...
★ About the day they launched a woodpecker . . . ?!?

Friday, 9th November 2018

Title TBC

A talk by Dr Paul B Rimmer

Cost: £3 for non-members

Dr Rimmer is a Postdoc at University of Cambridge Cavendish Astrophysics Laboratory of Molecular Biology.

Details of his talk will follow later.