Science Fiction at the Royal Observatory

Get your geek on at one of our events interrogating the relationship between science fact and science fiction.

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 life forms. 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 here, as well as links to some other interesting sci-fi events and websites.

Upcoming Sci-fi events

See all upcoming sci-fi events

Past events and projects

Silver Screen Science-Fiction

Our ongoing series of cult classic sci-fi films on the really big screen, at the Peter Harrison Planetarium. Past screenings have included The Thing, Sunshine, Apollo 13, Forbidden Planet, Alien and Star Trek: the Motion Picture.

The Brick Moon and Irregularity with Jurassic London, 2014

In 2014 publishers Jurassic London launched two new science-fiction-themed anthologies in partnership with Royal Museums Greenwich.

The Brick Moon is a reprint of Edward Everett Hale’s classic 1870 story in which a group of Victorian entrepreneurs launch an artificial moon into orbit to mark the Greenwich Meridian – the first fictional description of an artificial satellite. Hale’s story is paired with Another Brick in the Moon, a tongue-in-cheek sequel by award-winning author Adam Roberts, and a new introduction by the Museum’s Richard Dunn and Marek Kukula. The book is decorated by Greenwich artist Gary Northfield whose cover cleverly reimagines a classic view of the Royal Observatory taken from the Museum’s archives.

Irregularity is an anthology of new fiction inspired by 18th-century science and exploration, with an introduction by Senior Curator for the History of Science, Richard Dunn.

Longitude Punk'd (April 2014-Jan 2015)

Marking the 300th anniversary of the Longitude Act, Longitude Punk’d took the historic story of the quest to determine longitude at sea and retold it in a playful fashion through the prism of the Steampunk movement. Six prominent steampunk artists, including best-selling author Robert Rankin, took over the Royal Observatory’s historic Flamsteed House with fantastical drawings, objects and costumes that evoked a science-fiction version of the 18th and 19th centuries.

From Stars to Satellites (2014)

From Stars to Satellites told the story of satellite navigation, from the seeds of the idea in Edward Everett Hale’s 1869 science-fiction story The Brick Moon, through sci-fi writer Arthur C. Clarke’s pioneering work on geostationary orbits and on to the launch of the European Space Agency’s latest satnav system Galileo.

Ellipse (October 2013)

A short sci-fi movie from the team behind the Sci-Fi London film festival. Made in collaboration with the Royal Observatory Greenwich, Ellipse spans centuries and galaxies and features locations at the Queen’s House and in the Royal Observatory itself.

Pandemonium: The Lowest Heaven (published June 2013)

To accompany the blockbuster astronomy exhibition Visions of the Universe Royal Museums Greenwich teamed up with publishers Jurassic London to produce Pandemonium: The Lowest Heaven, an anthology of 17 new science fiction stories, featuring authors Alastair Reynolds, S. L. Grey, Matt Jones and many more. The book was illustrated with artwork and images from the Museum’s own collection and a cover by artist Joey Hi-Fi.

Alien Season (March–August 2013)

Over the summer of 2013 the Royal Observatory explored all things extra-terrestrial with an exhibition and an accompanying programme of talks, courses, movies and planetarium shows, as well as an evening course on the representation of aliens in literature, film and popular culture.

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.

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.

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 we hosted special events in the Astronomy Centre, including workshops, discussions, film screenings and a special one-off planetarium show Sci-Fi Universe.

Alastair Reynolds (2009)

Former ESA space scientist turned best-selling sci-fi author Alastair Reynolds discussed 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 and Doctor Who companion Amy Pond) came to the Observatory to meet our Public Astronomer Dr Marek Kukula and find out more about the Universe.

Science fiction links

Sci-Fi London film festival

Arthur C. Clarke Award  

British Science Fiction Association

Science Fiction Foundation


Alastair Reynolds

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