Talks & Courses

Lightning Course: Alien Moons

Icy crusts, volcano-covered surfaces, hydrocarbon lakes. These are just some of the features that we find in a few of the moons of the Solar System. They are unique and intriguing places, and in our Solar System we find a diverse range of compositions and environments, shapes, sizes and even formation history. Come discover these alien worlds at the Royal Observatory with Astronomer Tania de Sales Marques!

This course will explore the following questions:

Facing the Sea: Joshua Reynolds, Artistic Enterprise and Eighteenth-Century Port Cities

After two years training as a portrait painter in London, Joshua Reynolds returned to his hometown of Plymouth in 1743. Still in his early 20s, he would paint dozens of portraits over the next five years before leaving for the Mediterranean. The busy naval port provided a springboard for this young and then little-known artist, who would later achieve lasting fame and become the first President of the Royal Academy.

Othering the English: Dutch National Identity and the Sea, 1600-1815

Early-modern navies were not just a sum of their ships, dockyards and sailors - they were also cultural constructs. Successive Dutch regimes used various media to associate themselves with sea power, emphasizing how a strong fleet served the nation’s interests. Individual politicians and officers also used propagandistic tools to underline their own personal relevance. Artists and authors, such as the van de Veldes and Cornelis van Wieringen, eagerly catered for these agendas and fed a public appetite for naval subjects.

Lightning Courses 2019/2020

Lightning courses are short, one-day courses that allow you to delve deeper on a topic in astronomy, led by a Royal Observatory astronomer.

There are a range of topics covered by these courses, from how to take photos of the night sky to life on alien worlds to understanding Einstein’s theories of relativity. The courses offer an introduction into different subjects in astronomy and no prior knowledge of astronomy is needed.

Past Lightning Course topics include:

Lightning Courses: The Search for Exoplanets

The search for exoplanets is one of the youngest fields of research in astronomy, and yet is one of the biggest and fastest growing. Robotic telescopes and probes producing vast quantities of data are throwing out new candidate exoplanets at an alarming rate, and future missions will improve on this even further. In this course, Dr Greg Brown will take you through the problems and solutions in the search for exoplanets, from the techniques used, to the wealth of information gained, all with the aim of reaching the holy grail of exoplanet research, a true Earth twin.

If the Weather Permits - Living in the Arctic


15:00 - 15:15 Arrival 

15:15 – 15:30 Claire Warrior, Senior Exhibitions Interpretation Curator, on the curation of the Polar Worlds Gallery at the National Maritime Museum

15:30 - 16:00 Screening of ‘If The Weather Permits’

16:00 - 16:45 Naulaq Le Drew, on life in the Arctic

16:45 – 17:00 Refreshments

17:00 – 18:00 Visit to the Polar Worlds Gallery


Sailor craft: maritime making in the long nineteenth century

Nineteenth-century sailors were proficient and prolific makers, who could carve, knot, sew and tattoo. These men worked with what they could find; they shopped or traded for materials and scavenged for shipboard scraps. Sailors used their craft skill for utility, for their personal enjoyment and for the benefit of others. This talk will focus on objects and accounts which give us a sense of how, why and for whom sailors crafted.

The demography of the Victorian Navy

The national censuses have been used to create databases of occupation, birthplace, age and marital status for all the men in almost all of the Royal Navy’s ships that were in commission in 1861, 1881 and 1901. Analyses of these databases show that the demography of the Royal Navy changed greatly, both geographically and over time, in response to Admiralty policy and variations in the social and economic conditions around the British Isles.


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