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, 13th April 2018

"The Cracking of an Interstellar Mystery"

A talk by Dr Michael McCabe

Cost: £3 for non-members

Dr McCabe is the Principal Lecturer in the Department of Mathematics at the University of Portsmouth.

This talk was planned for a future date, but he has brought it forward for us.

"In 1919 when Mary Heger first observed unusual spectral lines in the spectroscopic binaries beta Scorpii and delta Orionis she created a mystery.  It would take almost a century to find a solution and open up many more questions.  Next year will be the centenary of Heger's observations which led to an extraordinary discovery.  Let's celebrate her achievement and those of the scientists who followed her!"  

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, 8th June 2018

Blexit: Exiting the Universe via black hole

A talk by Dr Poshak Gandhi

Cost: £3 for non-members

Dr Gandhi is a member of the School of Physics & Astronomy at the University of Southampton. 

Black holes are one-way doors, cutting matter off from the rest of the universe, but we still understand very little of how their lives. A new generation of fast mutiwavelength detectors is giving us fresh insight into how these objects grow through cycles of accretion and ejection of matter. I will show some of the latest observations of these enigmatic
objects from X-rays to the radio band, reviewing what we have learnt and what more remains to be done, and emphasise the important role that dedicated amateur astronomers can play.

Friday, 13th July 2018

Optical quality and accepted standards - the relevance of Dawes' and Rayleigh criteria

A talk by John D Timmins FRAS

Cost: £3 for non-members

Our speaker, John Timmins is the founder of Peak2Valley Instruments and is a Fellow of the RAS.

John will present the basic development of optical telescopes from the late 18th century and how the accepted Dawes/Rayleigh criteria have influenced our views of optical quality. (Simply put, the resolution limit which tells you whether you can split the light from a double star system.)
The actual analysis of typical modern telescope performance surprises many amateurs.

Friday, 12th October 2018

Making a Solar System: A Recipe for Worlds

A talk by Dr Ashley King

Cost: £3 to non-members

Our Founder's memorial lecture this year will be delivered by Dr Ashley King, who is currently a post-doc research assistant at the Natural History Museum (since 2012) and a post-doc research scholar at the University of Chicago, US (since 2010) .

The solar system formed from a cloud of gas and dust around 4.5 billion years ago. Astronomical observations allow us to witness the birth of distant stars and planets, however the recipe for our own solar system is recorded in primitive extra-terrestrial materials. These include cometary samples returned by NASA's Stardust mission, or collected in the Earth's stratosphere as fluffy interplanetary dust particles, and meteorites ejected from the surfaces of asteroids.

Dr King will talk about how we are using cutting-edge analytical techniques to unlock the secrets of primitive extra-terrestrial materials, revealing details about the earliest conditions in the solar system and how the raw ingredients came together to form asteroids, comets and planets.


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.

Friday, 14th December 2018

Title TBA

A talk by Colin Stuart

Cost: £3 for non-members

Colin visiting the Group in May, 2017 and talked about some of the most exciting of the Royal Institution's Christmas Lectures.

At this visit, Colin will talk about another of his books, detailed to unveiled soon!!

Tuesday, 1st January 2019

Adventures in the Outer solar system ** TALK BEING CHANGED **

A talk by Dr Caitriona Jackman

Cost: £3 for non-members

In this talk Dr Jackman will take you on a tour of the outer solar system, highlighting the key discoveries that have been made and the biggest questions for future exploration. Results from missions such as Galileo at Jupiter and Cassini at Saturn will highlight the diversity of planetary dynamics as well as the zoo of moons, some of which indicate that they may have the conditions to harbour life.

The final portion of the talk will focus on current and future plans for solar system exploration. One short-term highlight is the NASA mission Juno which has been in orbit around Jupiter since summer 2016. Other longer-term ambitions centre around the ice giants, Uranus and Neptune, which challenge our understanding of how the Sun influences planetary systems.


Dr. Caitriona Jackman is an Associate Professor of Space Physics at the University of Southampton. She is a particular fan of planets with large-scale magnetic fields, and specialises in the study of the magnetic environments of the gas giant planets Jupiter and Saturn, as well as the terrestrial planets Earth and Mercury. She holds a Science and Technology Facilities Council Ernest Rutherford Fellowship and is keen to communicate solar system science to as wide an audience as possible. She has taken part in public outreach events as diverse as the Pint of Science pub-based festival, and the Royal Society Summer Exhibition.

Tuesday, 1st January 2019

Brave new worlds: the planets in our galaxy

A talk by Professor Giovanna Tinetti - Please note date of this talk is TBA

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.