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Astrophysics Research Centre

School of Mathematics and Physics

Archive of Past Events

Michael West Lecture: Einstein’s Gravity From The Transit Of Mercury To The Detection Of Gravitational Waves

Professor Parick Brady, Center for Gravitation, Cosmology & Astrophysics, University of Wisconsin
Monday 9th May, 8pm in the Larmor Lecture Theatre, QUB

One hundred years ago, Einstein predicted the existence of gravitational waves. Scientists recently announced the first direct detection of gravitational waves from a pair of black holes that collided about a billion years ago in a far-away galaxy. These travelled across the Universe at the speed of light causing tiny changes in the curvature of spacetime that were measured using the LIGO detectors on 14 September 2015. This observation marks the end of a century-long quest to understand and measure Einstein's gravitational waves. It also marks the birth of gravitational-wave astronomy: a whole new way to observe the Universe.

Please note, we expect this lecture to be very popular so register early to avoid disappointment.

2016/05/09 00:00 · David Young

18-28th February 2016 -- ARC at the Ulster Museum for the NI science festival

We had a great time last year at the NI Science Festival, so we'll be back again this year with a range of workshops, talks and interactive activities!

2016/02/28 00:00 · David Young

27th February 2016 — Public Lecture on Pluto

Details to follow!

Pluto and Charon.

Image credit: NASA/JHUAPL/SWRI

2016/02/27 00:00 · David Young

15th December 2015 — Astrophysics Research Centre at W5 to celebrate the launch of Tim Peake

Image Credit: ESA–S. Corvaja, 2014

Image Credit: ESA–S. Corvaja, 2014

On 15th December 2015 Tim Peake, the first UK astronaut to be selected by the European Space Agency, launched to the ISS in a Soyuz rocket. To celebrate the launch events were organised across the UK, including W5's Destination Space which QUB's Astrophysics Research Centre contributed multiple activities to.

Planispheres. Image Credit: W5

During the day hundreds of people visited our planeterrella and learnt about the earth's aurora. There were several talks throughout the day were we explained to primary school children how to see the ISS in the night sky, how to use the planispheres we distributed to find out in what stars are visible in the sky and through which constellations the ISS appears to move. The colouring competition for primary school children, Ask-an-Astronomer booth and play dough Solar System were also a great success.

The Colouring Competition & Play Dough Solar System

2015/12/15 00:00 · David Young

27-29th January 2016 Work Experience In Astrophysics Research Centre, QUB

We are now inviting applications for a small number of students to undertake a work experience placement in the Astrophysics Research Centre at Queen’s University Belfast. This is a 3-day programme suitable for A-S level students studying physics and maths during 27-29 January 2016 inclusive. The programme will include practical experience analysing real astronomical data as well as lectures by staff and students on their research and careers in science.

Places are strictly limited. The deadline for applications is December 17, and applications must be submitted online at the following address:


Selection will be based on the 100-word statement associated with each application.

2015/12/10 09:46 · David Young

Michael West Lecture: Exoplanets and the search for extraterrestrial life

Professor Ignas Snellen, Leiden Observatory, Leiden University
Thursday 27th August, 7:30pm in the Larmor Lecture Theatre, QUB

A true revolution is unfolding in the study of planets orbiting other stars than the Sun. Soon we can start to search for life on planets like Earth. Do we know what to look for, and what to expect?

Professor Ignas Snellen from Leiden University is a world leading expert on the study of exoplanet atmospheres using ground-based telescopes.

2015/08/27 00:00 · David Young

2015 McCrea Lecture: Are Comets the Givers and Takers of Life?

The Royal Irish Academy 2015 McCrea Lecture

Professor Monica Grady CBE, Faculty of Science, The Open University

Professor Monica Grady Comet image from Rosetta

On Friday 26th June 2015 at 7pm, Professor Monica Grady of the Planetary and Space Science Department at the Open University gave the Royal Irish Academy McCrea Lecture 2015. She was part of the Rosetta science team at mission control when the landing of the Philae space probe occurred. In her talk she introduced the topic of comets and explained why some people think they may have led to life on Earth and possibly its destruction through mass extinctions. She give a highly entertaining personal account of the Rosetta Mission, her involvement in it, and reported on some of its latest results. She finished by the 140 attendees that the mission still had over a year to go, and that many more scientific discoveries would be announced in the coming months.

2015/06/26 00:00 · David Young

Solar Eclipse, Jupiter watch and Stargazing live at Queen's

On Friday 20th March we took part in a series of outreach events associated with the solar eclipse and the BBC's Stargazing live programme. In the morning we hosted public viewing of the solar eclipse, which reached a maximum solar coverage at 09.30 and lasted about 2 hours. In the evening, we provided public observing with telescopes in partnership with the Irish Astronomical Association. We also took part in the Stargazing Live programme on BBC2, by taking spectra of the supernovae found through the citizen science search. We answered many questions on the Stargazing Live twitter feed about supernovae and exploding stars.

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Observing the solar eclipse in front of Whitla Hall

At 08.35 the cloudy skies cleared over Belfast, with almost perfect timing, to allow the large crowd gathered in the grounds of Queen's to get excellent views of the solar eclipse. There were over 600 people who turned up to view the eclipse over the one and a half hour period, along with the local media (Irish News and Barra Best from the BBC.

We distributed over 350 pairs of special eclipse glasses and some spectacular images were provided by telescopes adapted with special solar filters that were set up by the Irish Astronomical Association.

In the evening the Astrophysics Research Centre, together with the Irish Astronomical Association, set up telescopes to show the Jupiter. Although cloudy at the start, the skies cleared around 20:30, providing the public great views of the largest planet in our solar system. The video below shows a time lapse of the eclipse.

 Near maximum Near the end

Looking at the eclipseObserving the solar eclipse

Observing the eclipse The partially eclipsed Sun

 Prof. Alan Fitzsimmons talks about the Solar EclipseLooking at the Eclipse

Looking at VenusObserving Jupiter

Looking at JupiterObserving the largest planet in the solar system

2015/03/20 00:00 · David Young

Northern Ireland Science Festival 2015

In February 2015 we participated in the first NI SciFest. Friday 27th February saw the adults-only LaTeLaB at the Ulster Museum, where over 900 visitors visited the various demonstrations and shows. We made comets, showed how aurora are created, and (unsuccessfully) tried to avoid the scientific cocktails. The following day saw our Sunwatch at Queen's. Despite the cloud and rain approximately 250 people saw the exhibits and Planeterrella, listened to the talks on the Sun and the upcoming eclipse, and helped with the colouring competition and playdough Solar system!

Crowds enjoying the first ever NI SciFest

How to build a playdough solar-system

2015/02/27 00:00 · David Young

Lawrence Krauss gives Michael West Lecture

On October 22, 2014 the Larmor Lecture Theatre at Queen's University Belfast was filled with nearly 270 people for the Michael West Lecture entitled Journey to the Beginning of Time given by Prof. Lawrence Krauss.

During the talk Professor Krauss discussed what could potentially be the most exciting discovery of our time, the signature of gravitational waves in the early universe.


Prof Lawrence M. Krauss, Arizona State University
22nd October 2014, Larmor Lecture Theatre, 7.30pm

Prof. Lawrence M. Krauss is an internationally known theoretical physicist and acclaimed teacher and lecturer. His studies include the early universe, the nature of dark matter, general relativity and neutrino astrophysics. He is currently the Foundation Professor in the School of Earth and Space Exploration and Physics Department, and Inaugural Director of the Origins Project at Arizona State University. Origins will become a centre for research and outreach on origins issues, from the origins of the universe, to human origins, to the origins of consciousness and culture.

He is the author of many acclaimed popular books, including, 'The Fifth Essence: The Search for Dark Matter in the Universe', 'Atom: An Odyssey from the Big Bang to Life on Earth…and Beyond' and his newest book 'A Universe from Nothing: Why there is something rather than nothing'. In 2013, he starred in a new full length feature film documentary called 'The Unbelievers', which follows Krauss and colleague Richard Dawkins around the world as they discuss science and reason.

This was the sixth lecture in the Michael West Lecture series. The lecture series is presented in association with the Irish Astronomical Association.

Prof. Stephen Smartt (Director of the Astrophysics Research Centre), Prof. Lawrence Krauss and Dr. Ernst de Mooij.
Ernst is the current Michael West fellow who works on exoplanets and public outreach at Queen’s.
Prof. Lawrence Krauss during the talk

2014/10/22 00:00 · David Young

STFC Seeing the Universe Exhibition

In May 2014 we hosted the Seeing the Universe Exhibition in the Great Hall at Queen's. From Saturday 17th May until Saturday 24th May almost 2,000 members of the public, students and school children came along to see how astronomers use the largest and most advanced telescopes ever built to unlock the secrets of the Universe.

About the exhibition

The exhibition featured stunning science images and interactive exhibits, including:

  • Scale models of ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT), The James Webb Space Telescope and the Herschel Space Observatory.
  • Hands-on exhibits including seeing the invisible, adaptive optics and micro autonomous robots
  • An interactive control desk providing details on the full spectra of wavelengths used by astronomers
  • An 8 metre interactive wall featuring an 'astronomical wow facts' screen, interactive touchscreen and a large 3D screen.
  • Historical science papers from the Royal Astronomical Society (RAS) & the Thomas Harriot trust

The exhibition was manned by astronomy students and young researchers from Queen's, explaining the exhibits and answering any questions.

Evening events

There were also three evening events free of charge

  • Saturday 17th May, 7:00pm. "Seeing stars: science and education with big telescopes" - public lecture by Professor Paul Roche (University of South Wales). Larmor Lecture theatre, main campus, Queen's University Belfast.
  • Tuesday 20th May, 7:00pm. "Ask an Astronomer" event - public question and answers with astronomers from the QUB Astrophysics Research Centre. Canada Room, Lanyon building, main campus, Queen's University Belfast.
  • Thursday 22nd May, 7:00pm. "The last and the next 100 years in astronomy" - public lecture by Dame Professor Jocelyn Bell-Burnell (University of Oxford). Larmor Lecture theatre, main campus, Queen's University Belfast.

Lunchtime lectures

Each lunchtime from Monday 19th to Friday 23rd Dr. Robert Ryans of the Astrophysics Research Centre gave one of his entertaining lectures on The Science of Sci-fi Weapons. There were four individual lectures and a different one was be given each day, each lasting about 35 minutes. Lectures were held at 1pm in the Bell Lecture Theatre in the Main Physics Building.

The ARC-team

Emma explaining the refraction of light

Some school pupils working with the interactive displays

2014/05/17 00:00 · David Young

Michael West Lecture: The GAIA mission and the Origin of the Milky Way


Prof. Gerry Gilmore FRS, University of Cambridge
5th February 2014, Larmor Lecture Theatre, 7pm

Gerry is Professor of Experimental Philosophy, Institute of Astronomy, University of Cambridge. Throughout his career he has led efforts to understand the structure and origin of our Galaxy. Gerry played a big role in selection of ESA's revolutionary GAIA mission which will map a billion stars in the Milky Way. He is an outstanding communicator and advocate for science in society. He was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society in 2013.

2014/02/05 00:00 · David Young

2014 Moon & Jupiter Watch

Jupiter and the 4 Galilean moons: Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto.

In January 2012 we hosted a Stargazing Live Jupiter Watch event at Queen's University Belfast, and participated in another SL event at Oxford Island. The event was a massive success with around 600 people visiting to take a look at the giant planet and its moons. In 2013 we did it again!

Last year marked the return of our public star-gazing event on the evening of Tuesday 7th January 2014, though this time we started by looking at the moon before turning to see Jupiter as it rose later in the evening.

Original Announcement

The Astrophysics Research Center at Queen's University Belfast and the Irish Astronomical Association are proud to announce a Moon & Jupiter Watch on Tuesday 7 January 2014 in association with BBC Stargazing Live 2014. Come along after dark to the front of the iconic Lanyon building at Queen's, and use one of the telescopes there to view our nearest neighbour, the moon, before we turn our attention to catch the largest planet in the solar system, Jupiter, as it rises later in the evening.

Visitors can view huge craters and mountain ranges on the moon, as well as the vast 'seas' formed by lava flows 3,800 million years old. As Jupiter rises, gaze at the clouds of a planet 11 times the diameter of the Earth and 318 times as massive. Also visible will be two of Jupiter's four largest moons - Europa and Callisto.

The Moon & Jupiter Watch event is free of charge, just turn up at any time between 6pm and 9pm!

Car parking is not available for this event, so we ask drivers to park their cars on one of the many streets nearby. This will minimise the risk of any accidents, and also ensure that visitors looking through the telescopes are not blinded by car headlights.

Please be aware that this event is subject to weather conditions on the night. If it rains or snows, the event will be cancelled - please check this website for updates prior to the event to avoid disappointment. If we go ahead but clouds appear, a public lecture will be held instead by Prof. Alan Fitzsimmons of the Astrophysics Research Centre about the Aurora (also known as the Northern and Southern Lights) starting at 7:00pm. Note that there are limited seats for the public lecture and people should register in advance (the event is still free). Visitors will be led to the Larmor Lecture Theatre.

If this whets your appetite for seeing much more through a telescope, the main public observing session in Northern Ireland for BBC Stargazing Live will be held on Thursday 9 January 2014 from 5.00pm at the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum. It will be hosted by the Irish Astronomical Association and Armagh Planetarium and will feature several members of ARC.

Both the Moon & Jupiter Watch as well as the stargazing session at the Ulster Folk Museum will hopefully take place under clear and cold skies. Please take care to wear plenty of warm clothing, including coats, hats, scarves and gloves.

To view photos from Jupiter Watch 2012 click here. Below we show what the Moon will look like through our telescopes on 7th January.

2014/01/07 00:00 · David Young

Green Dragon

A beautiful photo of the aurora taken by Ting-Wan Chen.
Photo by: Ting-Wan Chen & Kai-Lung Sun
Taken 4th March 2013 in Storfjord, Norway.
Equipment: Nikon D40, ISO 800, 12mm, f/4, exposure time 30s.

2013/04/04 00:00 · David Young

C/2011 L4 (PanSTARRS) from Northern Ireland

Photo by: Pedro Lacerda
Taken 13 March 2013 at 19:24 from from Stoneyford, Northern Ireland
Equipment: Canon 40D, ISO 100, 50 mm, f/2.8, exposure 2.5 s.

2013/03/13 00:00 · David Young

Astronomy STEPS

Heather Cegla and Pedro Lacerda participated in the Science and Technology Experts in Primary Schools (STEPS) programme. They guided primary school children through a hands-on science project in the first months of 2013.

Pedro teaching pupils about their place in the Universe

Some hands-on demonstrations

2013/02/01 00:00 · David Young

Michael West Lecture: The Sun


Dr Lucie Green University College London
17 October 2012, Larmor Lecture Theatre, 7pm.

The second Michael West Public Lecture of 2012 is "The Sun" by Dr Lucie Green. Lucie Green is a space scientist who studies the Sun. She was a Royal Society Dorothy Hodgkin Research Fellow and I now holds a Leverhulme Fellowship. Dr Green also works in TV (you may have seen her in The Sky At Night) and radio, writes science articles and give talks about the UK's current research in solar system science. She was the 2009 recipient of the Kohn Award for excellence in public engagement with science.

2012/10/17 00:00 · David Young

Michael West Lecture: What if the speed of light isn't constant? What you gain and what you lose.


Prof João Magueijo, Imperial College London
2 May 2012, Larmor Lecture Theatre, 7pm.

João Magueijo has defied one of the tenets of modern physics, that the speed of light is a universal constant. His research in cosmology lies at the very frontier of our understanding of how the Universe was born and continues to evolve. Magueijo has held the prestigious St. John’s College (Cambridge) and Royal Society research fellowships, and has been a visiting researcher at the University of California at Berkeley and at Princeton University. He is currently Reader in Theoretical Physics at Imperial College, London.

2012/05/02 00:00 · David Young

Stargazing Live at the Lough Neagh Discovery Centre, Oxford Island

The next day, QUB astronomers Chris Watson and Pedro Lacerda headed out to Oxford Island to participate in a Stargazing Live event at the Lough Neagh Discovery Centre. Again, nearly 1000 people were present including many children interested in learning about astronomy. The weather was not good to observe the skies so the action happened indoors. There were meteorites on display, a Star Dome to explore several aspects of the night skies, telescopes, an astrophotography workshop, a "how to make a comet" experiment, and non-stop Q&A with the QUB astronomers. See below some pictures of the event.

Text: Catherine Walsh (ARC) and Ken Smith (ARC)
Photos: Ting-Wan Chen (ARC) and Paul Evans (IAA), David Reid (BBC)

2012/01/17 00:00 · David Young

2012 Jupiter Watch

The fortuitous clear skies on the evening of Monday 16th January allowed the highly successful "Jupiter Watch", held in front of the Lanyon building at Queen's University Belfast as part of the BBC's Stargazing Live season.

The event, hosted by the Astrophysics Research Centre (ARC) in association with the Irish Astronomical Association (IAA), was a resounding success, with estimates of more than 600 members of the public attending to view the largest planet in our Solar System, Jupiter, along with four of its brightest moons: Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto.

Attendees ranged from young to old, from dedicated amateur astronomers to curious passers-by, and all braved the cold conditions to wait with patience to view through one of the many telescopes erected in the square. Interest waned only when clouds encroached upon the clear skies over Belfast well past 9 pm.

Many people expressed wonderment at having the opportunity to view another planet in our Solar System in such detail, indeed, many of the telescopes erected were capable of resolving the well-known Jovian moons and atmospheric banded structure of Jupiter. There were about half a dozen telescopes present, from a 5 inch refractor, to 6 inch Schmidt Cassegrain through to a substantial 16 inch Dobsonian mounted reflector.

Members of ARC and IAA were on hand throughout the night to help operate the telescopes and answer any questions from the public regarding Jupiter, the Solar System or astronomy in general.

2012/01/16 00:00 · David Young

Watching the Milky Way set

Photo by: Alan Fitzsimmons
Taken 3rd September 2011 at European Southern Observatory, La Silla, Chile.
Equipment: Canon 40D, ISO 1600, 10mm, f/3.5, exposure time 80s.

2011/09/03 00:00 · David Young

Michael West Lecture: Killer Asteroids


Dr Robert Jedicke
3 August 2011, Larmor Lecture Theatre, 7pm

Dr Robert Jedicke has had four professional careers: Canadian football player, particle physicist, software engineer and astronomer. At the University of Hawaii he leads the PanSTARRS team searching for asteroids and comets. In three years, PanSTARRS will discover more solar system objects than have been found in the past two centuries.

The current surveys for 1km near-Earth asteroids have almost completed their goal of finding 90% of the population, but the telescopes used are too small to discover more than a fraction of the dangerous sub-km objects. A renowned asteroid hunter, Jedicke is leading the search for dangerous ast

2011/08/03 00:00 · David Young

Supermassive Black Holes


Prof Reinhard Genzel
22 July 2011, Larmor Lecture Theatre, 7pm

Prof Reinhard Genzel is an expert in the astrophysics of massive black holes. He is the director of the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics in Munich, Germany and a Professor at the University of California at Berkeley, USA. He was the recipient of the 2007 Albert Einstein Medal.

Over the past two decades, compelling evidence has been obtained for the existence of black holes with masses millions of times that of our Sun. In 2008, Reinhard Genzel won the prestigious Shaw Prize for establishing the existence of such a supermassive black hole in the centre of our own Milky Way.

2011/07/22 00:00 · David Young
public/outreach/blog.txt · Last modified: 2015/12/22 14:33 by David Young

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