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.


Lectures run on the second Wednesday of the month unless detailed otherwise.

Upcoming dates include 17 October, 14 November and 12 December.

Click the title for further information:

11 July 2018 - Valhalla, Discworld and 21st Century Cosmology

Professor Bernard Jones (University of Groningen) with Marlies van de Weijgaert (University of Groningen)

Lecture: Cosmology has made gigantic leaps over the last half century. Our perception of the Universe has undergone a shift. We now ‘know’ that it expanded from a Hot Big Bang; we know its size, its temperature and how fast it is expanding, and all of this with a precision undreamt of only 50 years ago. We now have our ‘Standard Model of the Universe’.

This knowledge, besides painting a beautiful new picture of our universe, has also revealed a deeper and unexpected mystery: if our Standard Model is correct, we have no idea what 95% of the universe is made of! Will our current model ultimately go the same way as Epicycles, the Heliocentric view, Valhalla and the Discworld?

Professor Bernard Jones has been responsible for many contributions to our theoretical and observational understanding of the universe. His main interest has been the evolution of cosmic structures on both very large and smaller scales.  He was one of the first to systematically address the question of galaxy formation.  Last year, his book "Precision Cosmology: The First Half Million Years", was published by Cambridge University Press. The book was the 2017 Winner of the Choice Outstanding Academic Title.

Bernard started his career as a graduate student in Cambridge in 1968, where he worked with Dennis Sciama and Martin Rees. Afterwards, he travelled to the other side of the ocean to work with Jim Peebles in Princeton and Joe Silk in Berkeley, before returning to England in 1975 to work at the Institute for Astronomy in Cambridge for the next 6 years. In 1981, he left for the European mainland, spending two years at the Observatoire de Meudon in Paris, then moving north to the Nordic Institute for Theoretical Physics in Copenhagen, Denmark, enjoying sabbaticals in the Netherlands and the UK. Together with some colleagues he managed to set up the Theoretical Astrophysics Centre in Copenhagen.

Since 2004, he has been formally attached to the Kapteyn Astronomical Institute in Groningen, where he is Emeritus Professor. His current work is concerned with the understanding of cosmic structures through the analysis of very large observational and simulated cosmological datasets.

His wife, Janet, was also a cosmologist in Cambridge, Princeton, Berkeley, Paris and Copenhagen. Together in Denmark they decided to start a hi-tech company exploiting what they had learned in astrophysics in the computer analysis of real time and recorded video data. This year they are working on using video as the basis for an AI memory aid for the elderly.


Marlies van de Weijgaert is an astronomer at the Kapteyn Astronomical Institute of the University of Groningen in the Netherlands. She has an MSc in astronomy, and graduated in 2017 on a research project into the thermal properties of asteroids in the solar system. Her main interests in astronomy are the solar system and exoplanets. She works as a coordinator of public and educational activities at the University of Groningen, such as public events at the Blaauw Observatory, the Kapteyn mobile planetarium and DOTliveplanetarium. She is a Science LinX project leader for public outreach of the Faculty of Science and Engineering of the University of Groningen. In addition, she is project manager of SUNDIAL, a European research project in astronomy and advanced computer techniques. Recently she also became project manager of a new robotic observatory in the Dark Sky Park Lauwersmeer in the north of the Netherlands.

17 October 2018 - Our Solar System, compared to exoplanets

Dr Amaury Triaud (University of Birmingham)

Abstract: We will look at recent discoveries in exoplanets - planets orbiting other stars than the Sun. Exoplanets have surprised researchers by how different they appear to the eight planets we know so well. But are we really distinct, or just one system amongst a multitude? We will explore the properties of our planets, and those of others Suns, comparing them to one another.

From this comparison we will see how many similarities exist, and also, how many differences. Those provide us with a chance to investigate how nature produces planets.

The Lecturer: 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 postdocs 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-1 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.


14 November 2018 - It’s about time

Professor Don Kurtz (University of Central Lancashire)

Abstract: Days, weeks, months, years and more... Hear about Roman Emperors, Zulu Wars, Rider Haggard, Thomas Hardy, the English time riots, and how the days of the week got their names in an amusing and informative tour of the Western calendar.

The Lecturer: 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”.

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.


12 December 2018 - How we’ll live on Mars

Colin Stuart (RAS)

Abstract: Humans will soon make their first trip to Mars. How will we get there? What challenges will you have to overcome and what spectacular sights await the successful? In a talk packed full of stunning visuals and the latest scientific thinking, astronomy author Colin Stuart takes us on a journey to the Red Planet to witness the majesty of a Martian sunset.

Based on his two latest books – The Traveller's Guide to Mars(Palazzo, September 2018) and How to Live in Space (Andre Deutsch, October 2018) – strap in for a voyage of discovery and wonder that's truly out of this world.

The Lecturer: Colin Stuart is an astronomy author who has talked to over a third of a million people about the universe. His books have sold more than 150,000 copies worldwide and been translated into eight languages. He's written over 150 popular science articles for publications including The Guardian, New Scientist, BBC Focus and the European Space Agency.

In recognition of his efforts to popularize astronomy, the asteroid (15347) Colin Stuart is named after him and in 2014 he was awarded runner-up in the European Astronomy Journalism Prize. A Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society, he's talked about the wonders of the universe on Sky News, BBC News and BBC Radio 5 Live and been quoted in national newspapers including The Daily Telegraph and The Observer.


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

Wednesday 17 October
Wednesday 17 October
Wednesday 14 November
Wednesday 14 November
Wednesday 12 December
Wednesday 12 December
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Visual warning: as with all planetarium shows, the show taking place after the lecture includes large moving images which may affect people with photosensitive epilepsy, balance disorders and/or extreme motion sickness.