Space Lectures

Monthly adult evening lectures, each followed by a short planetarium show.

These Wednesday lectures are aimed at a level a little above most popular science lectures, so come prepared to exercise your brain and learn the science behind the headlines. The speakers are chosen from the best academic speakers in the UK, with a talent for explaining difficult concepts and the knowledge to give the very latest news from the research community. 

Although the primary audience is adults, older children are also welcome to attend.


4:30pm lecture £8/£6

6:30pm lecture £10/£8  

Multiple bookings: 5-for-4 ticket offer for phone or in-person bookings only. You must book all five tickets at the same time, specifying all dates and times. The cheapest ticket is free. 

Groups of 15 people or more from recognised organisations can save 20% off the ticket prices for this event (offer also applies to After Dark ). Please visit the groups page for further information.


Lectures run on the second Wednesday of the month, except for February and April 2018 (third Wednesday).

This years dates are September 13, October 11, November 8, December 13, January 10, February 21, March 14, April 18, May 9, June 13 and July 11.

Click the title for further information:

13 September 2017 - What is new in our Solar System?

Dr Robin Catchpole (University of Cambridge)

Lecture: Space missions to Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn and Pluto, as well as visits to comets and asteroids, have revealed an amazing range of landscapes, from the burning heat of Mercury to the smooth Methane seas of Titan. The presence of water in some unexpected places holds out the promise of possible life elsewhere in our Solar System. In this talk we will see some of these images and the rich and varied picture they reveal.

Robin Catchpole works as an astronomer at the Institute of Astronomy, Cambridge, having retired as Senior Astronomer at the Royal Observatory Greenwich in July 2004. After obtaining a BSc at University College London, he was posted to the Royal Observatory at the Cape of Good Hope, S Africa (now known as the South African Astronomical Observatory) and spent the next 24 years, working first at the Radcliffe Observatory in Pretoria and then at the SAAO in Cape Town. He then obtained his doctorate at the University of Cape Town on The Properties of the SC Stars and the Chemical Composition of UY Cen, under the supervision of Prof. Brian Warner. In 1991 he returned to the Royal Greenwich Observatory in Cambridge, until it closed in 1998, when he moved to Greenwich as Senior Astronomer. 

He has authored and co-authored over 120 research papers and articles and used a number of telescopes around the world including the Hubble Space Telescope. Research interests include the composition of stars, exploding stars, the structure of our Galaxy and galaxies with black holes at their centres. His current research interest is in the structure of the Bulge of our Milky Way Galaxy, as shown by Mira variables. 

Since 1996 he has given over 900 popular lectures in the UK, S Africa, Hong Kong, New Zealand and Spain to over 44,000 people. Has also given 420 TV and Radio interviews and participated in a number of programmes relating to astronomy.

Robin regularly lectures at the Cambridge International Science Summer School and for Summer Schools at Downing and Pembroke Colleges as well as on numerous Cruise Ships and at Game Lodges in South Africa and Namibia. 

11 October 2017 - Rosetta and Beyond: ESA's Interplanetary Mission Operations

Dr Paolo Ferri (ESA)

Lecture: The European Space Agency has truly entered the era of interplanetary mission operations only about 20 years ago, when the Rosetta mission was approved and the necessary infrastructure developed to achieve such a pioneering mission. Since the beginning of this century, thanks to the experience gained with Rosetta and the other two planetary missions Mars and Venus Express, ESA has become a major world player in interplanetary operations, with an infrastructure and a know-how that put it on the same level as NASA in most of the fields of solar system exploration.

Rosetta is the first and only mission in the history of spaceflight to rendezvous with a comet nucleus and drop a lander module onto its surface. From an operations engineering point of view the challenges of this mission were enormous. Flying in the proximity of the nucleus required the development of an accurate model of the comet and the forces acting on the spacecraft that it generates. This had to be done while the spacecraft was already flying in this unknown environment, a highly risky and unconventional way of flying in space. The Philae lander delivery operations at a distance of 511 million kilometers from Earth was the highlight of the mission, but the two years operations in proximity of the comet, completed with the final landing of the mother spacecraft on the surface on 30 September 2016 have achieved revolutionary scientific results in comet and solar system science.

After Rosetta ESA is focusing again on Mars, with the two ExoMars missions, in cooperation with Russia: the first one already orbiting Mars since October 2016. After the only partial success of its test landing module Schiaparelli, which crashed on the surface but managed to validate most of the systems required to complete this operation, the second ExoMars mission, scheduled to launch in 2020, will land a scientific platform and a rover on the surface.Other missions in preparation for the coming years are BepiColombo, a mission to Mercury in cooperation with Japan; Solar Orbiter, for close observation of the Sun; and finally Juice, a mission to the icy moons of Jupiter, scheduled for launch in 2022 and arrival at the Jupiter system in 2030.

This lecture will recall the Rosetta mission and its spectacular and unique operations, describe the ExoMars missions and their operational and development status. Finally the future missions to Mercury, Sun and Jupiter and their operational challenges will be briefly introduced.

Paolo Ferri joined the European Space Agency in 1984, supporting the science operations of the EXOSAT X-ray astronomy satellite. In 1996 he was nominated Spacecraft Operations Manager for the Rosetta mission, in which he was involved for the following 20 years. Dr. Ferri continued to lead the flight operations until August 2006, when he was nominated head of the newly created Solar and Planetary Mission Operations Division, in charge of ground segment management, mission operations preparation and execution for all ESA solar and planetary science missions.

Since February 2013 he is Head of the Mission Operations Department, in charge of mission operations preparation and execution for all ESA unmanned missions. As of today there are 17 satellites in flight under the responsibility of his Department, and 10 more space missions in the areas of science and Earth observation are in preparation for launch before the end of the decade. His passion for space is combined with his interest in education and outreach. Thanks to the popularity of the Rosetta mission, which has been the project of his life and on which he has worked for the past 20 years, he has been lecturing to a large number of Universities, schools and general public audiences, bringing the subjects of space exploration and operations closer to a large audience of enthusiastic people of all ages. For the historical achievement of the Rosetta mission Dr. Ferri has been granted various awards, among which the Sir Arthur Clarke Award and the Galileo Medal of the City of Padova.


8 November 2017 - From the Bay of Fundy to Black Holes

Professor Don Kurtz (University of Central Lancashire)

Lecture: Tides are mysterious. Why are there two tides per day? What causes Spring and Neap tides? What are Earth tides? Tides on other bodies in the solar system can lead to moons disintegrating – this is where the rings of Saturn come from. Stars have tides and there are now the amazing, new tidal "Heartbeat Stars". Tides from some black holes would tear a person apart, so don't get too close! This richly illustrated lecture looks at tides from the Earth to colliding Galaxies. 

Don Kurtz was born in San Diego, California, to an American father and Canadian mother. He obtained his PhD in astronomy from the University of Texas at Austin in 1976, then spent 24 years in South Africa at the University of Cape Town, where he was Professor and Life Fellow. Don has dual British and American citizenship and has been Professor of Astrophysics at the University of Central Lancashire since 2001. He was recently a vice-president of the Royal Astronomical Society and serves on many international committees. He is frequently invited to speak internationally to both professional astronomers and to the public. Don observes with some of the largest telescopes in the world, has over 2000 nights at the telescope, and over 470 professional publications. He is the discoverer of a class of pulsating, magnetic stars that are the most peculiar stars known. He is co-author of the fundamental textbook “Asteroseismology”. He is an outdoorsman and has travelled widely. Don enthusiastically gives many public lectures per year to diverse audiences all over the world on a wide range of topics. He is a regular guest on BBC Radio Lancashire and has appeared in prime time on the BBC's "Stargazing Live" with Dara O'Briain, on the BBC One Show, and on the "Sky at Night" with Patrick Moore.


13 December 2017 - Giant collapsing stars and a voyage into the history of the Universe

Dr Cosimo Inserra (University of Southampton) 

Lecture: How do stars explode? How did the Universe evolve? Such questions have fired our imagination for hundreds of years. We thought we knew how to answer the former, but during the last decade new types of stellar explosions have been found.

His research on cosmic explosions, known as supernovae, tests the physics of the collapsing stars to answer the above questions. Moreover, only supernovae can produce heavy elements, such as iron, or the raw materials for planet formation like our planet. Astronomers now hunt out these supernovae billions of light-years away, and measure their brightness and geometry with the world's largest ground-based telescopes and satellites.

During the lecture he will focus on our knowledge of the explosions deriving from collapsing stars, what is their influence in our lives and in the evolution of the Universe we live in. He will then move to the latest research in the field pivoting on the unusual, the bright and the distant explosions that can unveil the cornerstones of the Universe foundation and evolution.

Cosimo Inserra is a researcher at the Physics and Astronomy department of the University of Southampton working on star explosions. He is involved in the Public ESO Spectroscopic Survey for Transient Objects (PESSTO) working amongst other things on observations and subsequent data reduction. He is involved in the Search Using Decam for Superluminous Supernovae (SUDSS) and in the Core Collapse SN section of the transient sky with GAIA. His interests extend into the very distant universe as he is part of the LSST Dark Energy Science Collaboration and the Euclid Consortium.

He obtained his PhD at the University of Catania in Italy working with Dr Massimo Turatto. During this work he spent one year at the Oklahoma University in Norman, USA. In 2017, he won the Royal Astronomical Society (RAS) Winton Capital award as one of the most promising postdoc astronomers in the UK. He is a STEM ambassador and has been involved in several outreach activities.

A native Italian speaker, he decided English and Italian weren't quite enough and is currently learning Spanish and Japanese, enjoys fantasy, sci-fi and terrible jokes.

His website can be found here: 


10 January 2018 - TRAPPIST-1, and the study of Earth-like worlds

Dr Amauri Triaud (University of Birmingham) 

Lecture: He will describe the steps and motivation that led to the discovery of the TRAPPIST-1 system. We will look at philosophical and scientific arguments and then he will show how we detected the planets, what we can learn about them and how we will remotely explore their atmospheres in the near future, in search for evidence of extraterrestrial biology.

Further reading:


A regular visitor to observatories in the Atacama desert, Amaury Triaud is the discoverer of over one hundred exoplanets. He obtained his PhD at the Observatoire de Genève in Switzerland, then moved across the globe to do post-docs at MIT, Cambridge, US and the University of Toronto, Canada before becoming a Kavli Institute fellow at the other Cambridge here in the UK.

His observations focus on planetary systems that are different compared to our own, either by the type of planets that compose those systems, by their architectures, or because of the type of star(s) they orbit. As part of the SPECULOOS collaboration, he now searches for planets the same size and the same temperature as the Earth and aims to find out if life emerged elsewhere in the Universe. The first such examples were found in the TRAPPIST-I system.

Active in outreach, he created an exoplanet exhibit at the University of Toronto at Scarborough in 2015, has been scientific consultant for a sci-fi trilogy entitled Quantika and has engaged in public lectures, debates, scientific cafés, observing nights, visits of the observatory, classroom interventions, multidisciplinary seminars, exhibits. Besides all his scientific endeavours, he enjoys fencing, photography, tango, (g)astronomy and anything creative that comes his way.


21 February 2018 - Dwarf Galaxies in the Local Group

Dr Noelia Noël (University of Surrey) 

Lecture: A “Grand Challenge” in modern astrophysics is to understand how galaxies form and evolve. Our Local Group of galaxies, i.e., the galaxies around Andromeda and the Milky Way, are the best laboratories we have at hand.

In particular the "Magellanic Clouds”, our two nearest Irregular dwarf galaxies, provide the best workplace to study galaxy formation. 

The Magellanic Clouds are currently interacting with one another while orbiting around the Milky Way. Their close proximity allows us to resolve their individual stars, providing a unique ‘Rosetta stone’ for understanding galactic encounters and mergers. In this talk she will show how to use stars to perform "galactic archaeology", unpicking the fossil record of a galaxy’s past by forensically dissecting its stellar content. 

Noelia Noël grey up in a small Argentinean town, 800 km south of Buenos Aires. When she was five, her father built a dome on top of her home's roof and put a telescope there. That's when she became interested in the Magellanic Clouds, our two closest irregular galaxies, seen as two ''Milky'' patches on the Southern skies. She obtained her PhD in 2008 from the Institutio de Astrofisica de Canarias, after which she relocated to the Royal Observatory of Edinburgh for a postdoc position.

From Jan 2010 she worked as a Research Scientist at the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy and from Dec 2011 until Feb 2013 she did a postdoc at the ETH Zurich. Noelia joined the Astrophysics group at the University of Surrey in March 2013 and was appointed Lecturer in Astrophysics in November 2016. Her research focuses on the study of resolved stellar populations in nearby galaxies.

 Further information:

14 March 2018 - TBC


18 April 2018 - Cassini

Professor Emma Bunce (University of Leicester) 

Lecture: TBC

Emma Bunce was awarded her PhD in 2001 for her thesis entitled “Large-scale current systems in the Jovian Magnetosphere”. In 2003 she was awarded a PPARC Post-doctoral Fellowship to study Saturn’s magnetosphere, she was then appointed to the Department’s lecturing staff in 2005, and has enjoyed teaching undergraduates ever since. In 2009 she was promoted to Reader, and in 2013 she was promoted to Professor. To date, she has published roughly 90 papers in the scientific literature and her work has received national and international recognition.       

Her main research interests have focused on the giant rotating magnetospheres of Jupiter and Saturn, with a particular desire to explore and understand the mechanisms which generate the dynamic auroral emissions in their upper atmospheres. She has recently take on the role of PI on the ESA/JAXA BepiColombo MIXS instrument, and is a Co-Investigator on the NASA Cassini magnetometer team. She is also currently acting as the Deputy PI on the Imperial College (PI Professor Michele Dougherty) JUICE magnetometer, and a Co-Investigator on the JUICE UVS instrument (PI Randy Gladstone, SWRi).

13 June 2018 - The High Energy Universe

Professor Carolin Crawford (University of Cambridge)

Lecture: X-radiation is emitted only by the hottest and most energetic parts of the Universe – sites of gigantic explosions, plasma heated to millions of degrees, and where there are intense magnetic or gravitational fields. The X-ray sky is thus very different from that seen at visible wavelengths, with many of the sources powered by unpredictable flows of hot matter.

Carolin Crawford is Public Astronomer at the Institute of Astronomy and Fellow of Emmanuel College, University of Cambridge, Emeritus Gresham Professor of Astronomy and one of Britain's foremost science communicators. Professor Crawford’s primary research interests are in combining observations from different wavebands to study the physical processes occurring around massive galaxies at the core of clusters of galaxies - in particular, how they relate to the central supermassive black hole.



4.30pm Space Lecture tickets include:


Entry to upper exhibition and cafe


Lecture followed by Q&A and a short break


Planetarium show


Event ends.


6.30pm Space Lecture tickets include:


Entry to upper exhibition and cafe


Lecture followed by Q&A and a short break


Planetarium show


Event ends, Science Centre closes


Space Lectures are a fundraising event for Winchester Science Centre.

Wednesday 08 November
Wednesday 08 November
Wednesday 13 December
Wednesday 13 December
Wednesday 10 January
Wednesday 10 January
Wednesday 21 February
Wednesday 21 February
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Visual warning: as with all planetarium shows, the show after the lecture includes large moving images which may affect people with photosensitive epilepsy, balance disorders and/or extreme motion sickness.