Key Stage 4 Programmes at the Royal Observatory


Visitor notice: We are pleased to announce that Royal Museums Greenwich is reopening. To find out more about which sites will be open and how to plan your visit, click here.

Essential information

Key stage: 
Key Stage 4
School subject: 
Royal Observatory
Session times: 
Session price: 
£90 (maximum 30 students)

For KS4 groups we offer either a Discovery Day, Study Day or Space Spectacular Day programme.

Our education programme explained

There can be a lot to think about when organising a school trip so we have come up with a ‘to-do’ list to help you to make sure you have everything you need to make your visit to the Royal Observatory Greenwich as enjoyable as possible. This can be found at the back of the Secondary Programme Guide where you can also find full session outlines too.

PDF icon Secondary programme guide 2016-17

If you have any questions or would like to check availability, please contact our Bookings team: | Tel: 0208 312 6608 (The Bookings office is open 10.00–16.00).

Frequently Asked Questions

Our programme is very diverse so we are often asked questions about it. Below you will find answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about the KS4 schools programme. If you have any more questions please contact the booking team as they will be more than happy to help.

How much does a visit cost?

Study days now run every Thursday and are by far the most popular choice for our secondary school visitors. The cost of a study day is £90 for 30 students and includes a: planetarium show, workshop, masterclass session and self-guided gallery tours.

If you would prefer to come along to only a planetarium show or workshop you can do although this would need to be on a non-study day. The workshops are free of charge and the planetarium shows carry a charge of £90 for 30 students.

Are there activities that can follow on from my visit?

Yes, lots! We have a wide range of resources available for you to download and use for free before, during and after your visit. Find out more about: our teacher forum, a growing collection of curriculum-linked classroom resources, videos, podcasts and even blogs.  

Find out more about our teacher forum and other resources

Search and download our teacher resources

Do you have a lunch space?

Yes. We have a lunch room that can be booked by groups taking part in our full day programme. Please speak to our Bookings team for more information.

What is new this year?

Outreach visits - until this year we haven’t been able to offer outreach visits in schools. However, in the 2016/17 academic year we are releasing a small number of bookable secondary outreach slots so if you are interested please contact Liz Avery for more details. 

What is a Discovery Day?

Discovery Days are designed to be flexible visit days that run weekly (except during school holidays and Space Spectacular weeks). 

It is up to you the sessions you select for your Discovery Day; you could choose from:

  • A planetarium show
  • A workshop
  • A gallery visit
  • All of these 

What is a Study Day?

The Study Day offer is exclusively for secondary groups with specific sessions for KS3, KS4 and post-16 students themed around Astronomy.

The theme of a Study Day changes throughout the year (see here for details of the schedule) but the structure is always the same as a Discovery Day with one extra session. They offer the options of a planetarium show, a workshop and gallery visit as well as a 45-minute study session; the Out of this World Careers masterclass. 

Out of this World Careers Masterclass

In this session students take part in a number of activities designed to show them the variety of careers that exist within the STEM sector. The session will be delivered by one of the astronomy team who will speak to the group about: their own career path and how they applied physical concepts to their research, what they like and dislike about their job and what opportunities it has given them. They will also answer any questions the students have.

Galaxies and Cosmology, Stellar Evolution or Observational Astronomy Masterclass

This is a study session linked to relevant areas of KS4 and beyond specifications, drawing on cutting-edge observations and current astronomical research. 

What sessions are available for KS4?

We offer planetarium shows and workshops for KS4 audiences. Take a look at the information below to find out more about them and when they run.

Planetarium Shows

Shows take place in our state-of-the-art digital Peter Harrison Planetarium and are delivered live by Royal Observatory astronomers. Providing an inspiring, immersive and interactive learning experience, our state-of-the-art digital planetarium enable students to explore the day and night-time sky; fly through our solar system; or enjoy visually stunning pre-recorded shows about latest discoveries in astronomy. 

Each planetarium show lasts 45 minutes and can accommodate up to two classes of 30 students.

Solar System, Galaxy, Universe (45 minutes)

Explore the scale of the Solar System, galaxy and Universe and how we measure it, investigating the structure of the universe from the smallest planets to the largest galactic superclusters. 

We are Stars (planetarium show)

Please note: runs only during Space Spectacular Week in October 2016

This beautiful show explores some of the most fundamental questions of all time; what are we made of and where did we come from? Narrated by Andy Serkis this animated show investigates the origins of life and how life on Earth connects to the evolution of our Universe.


Our astronomer-led interactive workshops have plenty of opportunities to ask questions and discover new things. A combination of sound, film, large scale demonstrations and team activities are used to explain different scientific concepts.

Action Reaction: Forces In Space (45 minutes)

Students explore Newton’s laws of motion and the origins of different types of force in various astrophysical objects including gravity, the electrostatic force and magnetism. They will see a series of demonstrations of these concepts and conduct experiments investigating the effects of air pressure and electromagnetic induction. They will also carry out some simple calculations to further explore these important concepts. 

Exploring Exoplanets (45 minutes)

In this hands-on ICT-based session, students learn how astronomers discover solar systems around distant stars by making and analyzing the measurements of their own model exoplanet system. 

Solar System and Beyond (45 minutes)

Students use astronomical software and real astronomical data in this interactive ICT-based session to travel through the solar system, investigating the orbits of the planets in our solar system. They will also explore how the mathematics used to describe planetary orbits has been used to discover a massive black hole at the centre of the Milky Way Galaxy. 

Studying Starlight (45 mins)

Students learn how astronomers determine the properties of distant stars by examining spectra and applying their knowledge of the electromagnetic spectrum, the reflection, absorption and emission of light, and at KS5 the Doppler Effect. They also look through spectroscopes to identify gases and see the spectrum of the Sun. The mathematical content of this session can be tailored to the group.

The Expanding Universe (45 mins)

Students are introduced to the Citizen Science online project Galaxy Zoo, whereby members of the public can classify galaxies and contribute to scientific research. Students are given real data on galaxies from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey and plot a graph of velocity vsvs. distance. They use basic equations to determine large-scale properties of the Universe and are encouraged to think about the statistical significance of their result.

For full details of our K4 sessions see our PDF icon Secondary programme guide 2016-17

Related resources

Search and download all our teacher resources

Book a visit

Study days run every Thursday and are the most popular choice for our secondary school visitors. The cost of a study day is £90 for 30 students and includes a: planetarium show, workshop, masterclass session and self-guided gallery tours.
If you would prefer to come along to only a planetarium show or workshop you can do although this would need to be on a non-study day. The workshops are free of charge and the planetarium shows carry a charge of £90 for 30 students.

Sessions cannot be booked online, this is always done via an email or phone enquiry in the first instance.

To book a visit, telephone 020 8312 6608 or e-mail

Royal Observatory schools booking information

Plan your schools visit