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, 11th December 2015

The Star of Bethlehem

Talk by Dr Mark Kidger

Cost: £3 for non-members

Dr. Kidger begins with the stories of early Christians, comparing Matthew's tale of the Star and the three Magi who followed it to Bethlehem with lesser-known accounts excluded from the Bible. Crucially, Dr. Kidger follows the latest biblical scholarship in placing Christ's birth between 7 and 5 B.C., which leads him to reject various phenomena that other scientists have proposed as the Star. In clear, colorful prose, he then leads us through the arguments for and against the remaining astronomical candidates. Could the Star have been Venus? What about a meteor or a rare type of meteor shower? Could it have been Halley's Comet, as featured in Giotto's famous painting of the Nativity? Or, as he suspects, was the Star a combination of events--a nova recorded in ancient Chinese and Korean manuscripts preceded by a series of other events, including an unusual triple conjunction of planets?

Friday, 8th January 2016

APODs - Astronomy Pictures of the Day from NASA

Bob Mizon MBE

Cost: £3 for non-members

Bob will present a collection of, and discussion of some of the best NASA images.

He willI also give us a brief update on the situation in the UK as regards dark-sky protected areas.

Friday, 12th February 2016


A talk by TBA

Cost: £3 for non-members

Friday, 11th March 2016

Solar sails: an exciting glimpse of the future?

Dr. Thomas Waters

Cost: £3 for non-members


Solar sails are a novel type of spacecraft which are attracting more and more attention both from the big space agencies and smaller private commercial firms. They are essentially large light-weight mirrors, and as sunlight reflects off the mirror it imparts a tiny force. This provides the solar sail with an essentially free supply of fuel, but also solar sails are capable of a whole new class of orbits which conventional spacecraft cannot access. This talk hopes to introduce the solar sail concept, discuss some of the current and proposed solar sail missions, and sketch some of the complex dynamics in an accessible (and equation free) way.

Friday, 8th April 2016

Out of the Darkness - Pluto and the Outer Worlds

Andrew Lound

Cost: £3 for non-members

Pluto’s discovery in 1930 seemed to be the epitome of planetary discovery in the solar system; yet it was just the beginning of a new era of planetary discovery. This presentation developed to commemorate the first space craft to visit Pluto will examine the outer worlds, the dwarf planets of ice in the Kuiper belt and beyond. Illustrated with the latest images of Pluto, artwork and video; accompanied by music. Take an Odyssey into the darkness.

Friday, 13th May 2016

The (Physics of) Star Formation

A talk by Dr Dirk Froebrich

Cost: £3 for non-members

In the last few years Dr Froebrich has given his "talks" more in the style of an open
Q/A session, within a pre-defined subject. I.e. the topic has been announced
beforehand (see title). He will give a short introduction to the subject and then
the audience can ask any questions on the subject they like.

In particular he would like to advertise the citizen science project
HOYS-CAPS that Kent have been running since last year. The project website is: 


Friday, 10th June 2016

Confessions of an Astronomer

Professor Ian Robson

Cost: £3 for non-members

Professor Robson spent a decade as Director of the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope and Joint Astronomy Centre on Hawaii and was appointed as both Honorary Professor of University of Edinburgh and Honorary Fellow of University of Central Lancashire.He is also the current President of the Society for Popular Astronomy (2014 - 2016).

This is a light-hearted look at the life of a professional astronomer; as well as the research and teaching, perhaps surprisingly, it can be packed with ‘interest’ in the widest sense of the word. The talk contains many amusing and exciting anecdotes; from being marooned with a steaming helium dewar in a cablecar in the Pyrenees, flying in an RAF Comet above the North Sea at 45,000 ft and to many exploits in Hawaii. The talk covers a wide range of astronomy, is lavishly illustrated and contains not a single equation!

Friday, 8th July 2016

Rosetta at comet 67P

A talk by Kimberley Birkett

Cost: £3 for non-members

The Rosetta mission arrived at comet 67P in August 2014. Since then it has been orbiting around the comet and revealing its mysterious features in exquisite detail for the first time. In this talk we will discuss these intriguing new features and the processes that might have created them. We will also look some of the challenges the Rosetta mission has overcome that have seen it produce the most detailed images of an active comet ever recorded and successfully land a probe on the surface of a comet for the first time in human history. Studying comets tells us about how the solar system formed, so the data collected by Rosetta may ultimately lead to understanding how a life supporting planet like the Earth could have been produced by the violent collisions of the early solar system.

Friday, 14th October 2016


A talk by TBA

Cost: £3 for non-members

Ray Bootland Memorial Lecture

Friday, 11th November 2016


A talk by Dr Chris North

Cost: £3 for non-members

Dr Chris North is well known to many people from his appearances on The Sky at Night.

He is a researcher based at Cardiff University, focussing on the SPIRE instrument on Herschel Space Observatory.   He is also a member of the team behind Chromoscope (

Friday, 9th December 2016

Herschel’s Incredibly Cool Universe

A talk by Dr Chris Pearson

Cost: £3 for non-members

The Herschel Space Observatory was launched in 2009 and was the largest telescope ever put into space. The UK held a major share in the mission, assembling and testing one of the key instruments called SPIRE. Herschel looks at our Universe in infrared light, illuminating young stars being born and entire galaxies in the process of creation. I will introduce the Herschel mission, explaining why it was so important to astronomy and lead you through the story of our infrared Universe as seen by Herschel. We will travel from the distant reaches of the observable Universe looking at the cradles of creation, through spectacular images of our own Galaxy, right to the doorstep to our very own Solar System and the components that went into making life on Earth.

Dr Pearson's PhD was in “Galaxy Evolution and Cosmology" with Prof. Michael Rowan-Robinson Imperial College, London.

He has worked on cosmological galaxy surveys at infrared wavelengths for both ground based telescopes and space borne missions. He worked for 7 years in Japan on the AKARI space telescope before moving to the UK to RAL Space to work on the SPIRE instrument on the Herschel Space Observatory where he leads the team that produces all the nice maps from SPIRE .