Science fiction at the Royal Observatory
While astronomers have studied the skies through their telescopes, science fiction writers and filmmakers have helped us to imagine what it might actually be like to visit distant worlds and interact with alien lifeforms. From the planetary romances of Jules Verne and H. G. Wells to the grand visions of Arthur C. Clarke and Stanley Kubrick, writers and filmmakers have always been inspired by space and our place in the Universe.
The events programme at the Royal Observatory often brings together the worlds of science fiction and science fact. On this page you’ll find information about all of the science fiction- related events taking place at the Observatory, as well as links to some other interesting sci-fi events and websites.
Check back regularly to find out what the future holds in store – here in Greenwich and beyond.
‘Science Fiction?’ film season in partnership with Greenwich Picturehouse
Our monthly series of sci-fi movie screenings at the Greenwich Picturehouse will begin again soon – watch out for details of dates, times and movie titles.
Science fiction links
- Sci-Fi London film festival - www.sci-fi-london.com/
- Arthur C. Clarke Award - www.clarkeaward.com/
- British Science Fiction Association - www.bsfa.co.uk/
- Science Fiction Foundation - www.sf-foundation.org/
- Ansible - http://news.ansible.co.uk/
- Alastair Reynolds - http://voxish.tripod.com/
The National Maritime Museum is not responsible for the content of external websites.
Alien Season at the Royal Observatory
From March to August 2013 the Royal Observatory will be exploring all things alien, with a new exhibition and an accompanying programme of talks, courses and planetarium shows. Alien Season includes:
- Alien Revolution: a brand-new exhibition exploring ideas about alien life in science and popular culture, from Copernicus to the Curiosity Mars Rover.
- We Are Aliens!: a new planetarium show about the science of astrobiology.
- Aliens in Science Fiction: a six-week evening course on the representation of aliens in literature, film and popular culture.
- Sci-Fi movie screenings in the Peter Harrison Planetarium: Invasion of the Body Snatchers (16 May), War of the Worlds (20 June) and It Came From Outer Space (18 July
More Science Fiction at the Royal Observatory
Watch out for some more exciting science fiction projects launching in 2013, including:
- Ellipse: a short sci-fi movie from the team behind the Sci-Fi London film festival. Made in collaboration with the Royal Observatory Greenwich, Ellipse features locations here at the Observatory itself.
- Pandemonium: The Lowest Heaven: to accompany our forthcoming exhibition Visions of the Universe we’ve teamed up with the folk at Pandemonium Publishing to bring you an anthology of brand new science fiction stories, featuring authors Alastair Reynolds, S.L. Grey, Matt Jones and many more.
Black Holes, Wormholes and Time Travel (Aug 2011)
From H. G. Wells’ Time Machine to Doctor Who’s TARDIS, time travel has fascinated science fiction writers for more than a century. As part of the Royal Observatory’s Summer Science in the Planetarium series physicist and TV presenter Professor Jim Al-Khalili explored whether our current understanding of space and time allows for the possibility of travel through the fourth dimension. Jim used the immersive visuals of the planetarium to take the audience on a tour of black holes, wormholes and temporal paradoxes.
Incoming! Or why we should stop worrying and learn to love the meteorite (June 2011)
Doomsday asteroids have been a staple of science fiction stories for decades and everyone knows that a giant meteorite may have killed the dinosaurs. But some space impacts may actually have been beneficial to life on our planet. Geophysicist and author Dr Ted Nield explained why in this talk at the Royal Observatory. Read an interview with Dr Nield about Incoming! here on the Guardian website.
Sci-Fi London Oktoberfest (2009 and 2010)
For Sci Fi London's annual mini-festival celebrating and showcasing the latest and best in cinematic science fiction the Observatory hosted a range of special events in the Astronomy Centre, including workshops, discussions, film screenings and a special one off planetarium show Sci-Fi Universe.
Greenwich Film Festival: Barbarella (July 2010)
The Observatory’s Peter Harrison Planetarium became a cinema for a special screening of this cult 60s classic. A costume competition and psychedelic lighting from Lava Lamp company Mathmos gave the Astronomy Centre a suitably groovy feel.
Former ESA space scientist turned best-selling SF author Alastair Reynolds gave a fascinating talk at the Observatory in 2009 on the links between science fact and science fiction. Surprisingly it works both ways: there’s an asteroid called Douglas Adams and the dark plains of Saturn’s moon Titan are named after fictional planets from Frank Herbert’s Dune series.
Doctor Who Confidential
In 2010 actress Karen Gillan (aka time traveller Amy Pond) came to the Observatory to meet our Public Astronomer Dr Marek Kukula and find out more about the Universe.
Karen Gillan (aka Doctor Who's Amy Pond) visits the Royal Observatory Greenwich.
Clip from Doctor Who Confidential, Series 5 Ep. 11: Extra Time. First broadcast BBC Three, 7:30pm 12 June 2010. Used by permission.