Think Space lectures

Essential information

Royal Observatory, Peter Harrison Planetarium
Session times: 
Time: 5.15–6.15pm
Session price: 

Join us for a rare opportunity to hear astrophysicists talk about the latest research in the fields of astronomy, physics, planetary geology and space exploration.

Following certain sessions, students are invited to attend a telescope session after the lecture, during which they can ask all of their astronomy-related questions and practise their stargazing skills.

Where do these lectures take place?

Lectures typically take place on selected Tuesday evenings in the Peter Harrison Planetarium at the Royal Observatory Greenwich from 17:15 – 18:15. The telescope session starts after the lecture and ends at 18:50 (weather permitting).

When do these lectures take place?

The lectures for the 2018/19 academic year will occur on the 16th October, 16th November, 15th January, 5th February, 26th February and 26th March. Due to speaker availability, the November lecture will occur on a Friday evening instead of the usual Tuesday evening. For more information, see the schedule below.

How do I book?

We offer a limited number of free tickets for school age visitors aged 13 and over. To book your free tickets for schools, please sign up to the mailing list here and we will contact you when tickets are released.

I missed a lecture, do you record them so I can watch it back?

We don't record the lecture live but we do record a special podcast with each speaker. Listen to previous Think Space speakers talk about their career background and research in our Career Choices podcasts on SoundCloud here.

Think Space Mailing List

Keep up to date by joining our mailing list.


Upcoming Lectures

16th October 2018

Propulsion in Space: ExoMars 2020

Dr Ray Davis

Dr. Ray Davies - ExoMars Think Space Lecture

Mars is one of the best studied planets in our solar system, but many mysteries still remain. One of the future missions designed to answer some of these questions is the ExoMars 202 rover. But how exactly will it get to Mars in the first place, and what goes into designing and building such a complex carrier system to get to Mars? Dr Ray Davis will give us an insight into the complex world of transporting some of the most sophisticated machines ever built far across the solar system.

TBC April 2019

The adventures of the Curiosity Rover in Gale Crater: exploring Mars by robot

Professor Sanjeev Gupta (Imperial College London)

This event was originally scheduled to take place on 16 November 2018. Due to unforeseen circumstances this event will be rescheduled.

Professor Sanjeev Gupta - Mars Curiosity Rover - Think Space Lecture

The Mars Science Laboratory rover, Curiosity, touched down on the surface of Mars on August 5, 2012 in one of the most audacious planetary landings ever. This car-sized rover has been successfully exploring Gale crater since then, conducting an investigation of modern and ancient environments on the surface of Mars. Join Professor Sanjeev Gupta as he describes the rover's explorations and adventures, and discusses its latest findings.


15th January 2019

How many ways can you make a star explode?

Dr Charlotte Angus (University of Southhampton)

Dr Charlotte Angus - Supernova - Think Space Lecture

Supernovae, the dramatic explosions which occur at the end of a star's life, are amongst the most energetic events to appear in our night sky. They are sometimes so luminous, that we are able to see them out to great cosmic distances.  But exactly how does a star explode, and how many ways can it happen? Join Dr Charlotte Angus as we explore the underlying physics which determines the ultimate fate of a star, and the different ways we can use these brilliant explosions to understand the very nature of cosmic expansion. Find out how supernovae are found in large all-sky surveys, and discover some of the new and exotic types of explosions they are uncovering.


5th February 2019

Protecting Earth from the ravages of the Sun

Dr Colin Forsyth (University College London)

Dr Colin Forsyth - Solar Activity - Think Space Lecture

The Sun bathes the Earth in light and also in a stream of charged particles that fly through the solar system at over 1.8 million mph. As these particles reach the Earth, they collide with Earth’s protective magnetic field, getting captured and trapped in the space around us. Dr Colin Forsyth helps us discover how this stream of particles changes, modifies the particles trapped on the magnetic field and results in the aurora, the Van Allen belts. Also, find out what we are doing to understand and prevent space weather from impacting on our lives.


26th February 2019

Observing the Cosmic Dawn with Radio Waves

Thomas Binnie (University College London)

Thomas Binnie - Early Galaxies - Think Space Lecture

The next generation of radio telescopes will begin in the coming decade with the Square Kilometre Array. The SKA aims to turn the deserts of Western Australia and South Africa into vast retinas with which we will observe the Cosmic Dawn - our Universe's first stars. With a huge gap between observations of quasars (highly energetic galactic centres) 9 billion years ago, and the Cosmic Microwave Background (a snapshot of the Universe shortly after the Big Bang) over 13 billion years ago, the SKA is hoping to fill in the missing 4 billion years of the Universe's history when the earliest galaxies formed. Join PhD researcher Thomas Binnie of Imperial College London as he describes the incredible insights the SKA is expected to give us in the future!

26th March 2019

Jupiter's X-ray Aurorae

Affelia Wibisono (Mullard Space Science Laboratory - University College London)

Affelia Wibisono - Jupiter Aurorae - Think Space Lecture

The Earth is not the only planet to experience the northern and southern lights – in fact almost all of the planets in our Solar System have been observed to display these beautiful light shows. Jupiter’s aurorae crown the polar regions of the Gas Giant as permanent features due to the planet’s fast rotational period and interactions between its powerful magnetic field and the Galilean moons. Our planet’s light displays are small and weak compared to that of Jupiter’s which are large enough to house the entire Earth. What’s more, they have been detected to emit radiation from almost every part of the electromagnetic spectrum, including bursts of high energy X-Rays, but how and why Jupiter produces them is still a mystery. Join PhD researcher Affelia Wibisono as we discuss how learning more about aurorae will help researchers better understand how Jupiter’s magnetic field works, and learn how new discoveries found there can be applied to the Earth and perhaps even to extra-solar planets.


Past Lectures

Our Dynamic Sun

Dr Helen Mason (Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics - University of Cambridge)

Dr Helen Mason - Solar Flare - Think Space Lecture

The Sun, our star, is approaching a quiet phase in its activity cycle. Several solar space observatories have been watching the Sun over the past couple of decades: SoHO, Stereo, Hinode and the Solar Dynamics Observatory. Join Dr Helen Mason as she reviews what we have learnt about our dynamic Sun, in particular what we know about sunspots, solar active regions, flares and Coronal Mass Ejections, and how the Sun affects the Earth's environment (space weather). The talk will also look towards future solar missions, ESA's Solar Orbiter and NASA's Parker's Solar Probe.


Cloudy with a chance of stars

Nimisha Kumari (Institute of Astronomy - Cambridge)

Nimisha Kumari - Star Formation - Think Space Lecture

The question of how stars form has intrigued humankind for centuries. While stars are formed inside galaxies, not all galaxies are forming stars, with bluer spiral and compact dwarf galaxies forming the bulk of new stars today. Join Nimisha Kumari from the Institute of Astronomy, Cambridge as she discusses what stars are made from, how they form, and why they form where they do! Find out how astronomers across the world are using telescopes on the ground and in space to understand this mysterious but vital process in our Universe!


Galaxy Evolution: black hole growth and star formation

Joanna Ramasawmy (University of Hertfordshire)

Joanna Ramasawmy - Galaxies and Black Holes - Think Space Lecture

Galaxies – the collections of stars, gas and dust that are visible out to the very distant Universe – come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. But what makes them form the way they do and how do they change over time? And how can we study them when galaxy evolution lasts for billions of years? Join Joanna Ramasawmy, a PhD researcher at the University of Hertfordshire as she discusses how astronomers have attempted to study the complex processes that drive galaxy formation and evolution. Find out about how stars are formed, or are prevented from forming, and discover just how much of it may be down to one of the most mysterious objects in the Universe – a supermassive black hole.


Stars: from dusty births to explosive deaths.

Prof Raman Prinja (University College London)

Professor Raman Prinja - Lifecycle of Stars - Think Space Lecture

Our understanding of the evolution of stars represents one of the great scientific breakthroughs of the past 100 years, bridged by the work of several Nobel laureates.  Raman Prinja, Professor of Astrophysics at University College London, will present an overview of our modern understanding of stellar evolution, from the dusty birth of stars, and their nuclear-burning lives, to ultimate demise including supernova detonations, and the bizarre end-states.  The journey will also highlight the importance of outflows, the dispersal of life-giving chemical elements, and links to the recent detections of gravitational waves.

The talk will be illustrated with the latest superb imagery from powerful telescopes in space and on the ground.


Think Universe!: The relevance of science in modern culture.

Dr Francisco Diego (University College London)

Dr Fransisco Diego - Evolution of the Universe - Think Space Lecture

This lecture starts with a review of the most imaginative myths of creation, some of which still dominate part of our culture. Then we explore the discoveries of modern science about the true nature of the Universe, from its simple and still mysterious origin, to the complexity and diversity around us today. We follow the cosmic time line from its very beginning to the development of planet Earth and its living environment.

Science deciphers Nature's powerful messages about a single human family that emerged and migrated from central Africa to populate the entire planet in only a few thousand years. Nature brings alive the wisdom of our ancestors, searching for new ways of living, in harmony with each other and preserving the fragile paradise that has always been our home.


When stars grow up: How do rocky, habitable planets form?

Emily Drabek-Maunder (Cardiff University)

Emily Drabek-Maunder - Exoplanets - Think Space Lecture

When we look up at the night sky, there is something vital to human nature that wants to know if we are not alone in the Universe.  Recent research in astronomy has continued to stoke our curiosities, where thousands of exoplanets have now been observed with telescopes.  Even though these exoplanets seem common, one of the biggest mysteries in astronomy is how rocky exoplanets form in the first place.  In this talk, we’ll hear how small but mighty dust grains in space come together to form rocky (and habitable) planets and how UK-based telescopes are being used to watch these planets as they form.