Friday 7th February 2020, Dr Cees Carels, “Dark Matter and Current Direct Detection Experiments”

A large fraction of the matter content of the universe is thought to be dark matter. There are numerous experiments around the world that aim to detect dark matter or infer its properties directly or indirectly, though to date there has not yet been a conclusive direct experimental detection of a dark matter interaction. Dr Cees Carels will explore the current evidence in favour of the existence of dark matter, and cover in more detail a number of modern experiments and the challenges towards direct detection.

Our lecture programme has been suspended from April 2020 onwards

Our lecture programme was suspended from the beginning of April 2020 onwards because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Therefore the planned lecture by Michael Perryman on Friday 3rd April 2020 did not take place. The title was “Hipparcos and Gaia – Space Astrometry: unravelling the formation and evolution of our galaxy”. Also cancelled for now is our May lecture which was to have been “How the Sun Paints the Sky” by Dr Robert Fosbury.

The programme will be resumed in September 2020 with lectures streamed live over Zoom complete with Q & A sessions. Tickets will be available from Eventbrite at the same price as for physical lectures (£2 for members/students, £5 for others). Please check this Events page for further details and links to purchase tickets.

Friday 6th December 2019 – Moon: Art, Science, Culture, Dr Robert Massey & Dr Alexandra Loske

Tuesday 26th November, at 7pm, Caroline Herschel Prize Lecture, Bath University – Small Stellar Systems, Big Astrophysical Questions, Dr Anna Lisa Varri, University of Edinburgh

Friday 4th October 2019, Joint WHS/BIS Lecture – William Herschel and the Rings of Uranus, Dr Stuart Eves

It is generally believed that the rings around the planet Uranus were discovered during an occultation experiment in 1977. Remarkably, however, the first possible observations of a ring around Uranus may have been made by William Herschel some 180 years earlier. This talk discusses the evidence, and then considers the factors that might have changed to prevent further observations of the rings.

Friday 6th September 2019 – Exploring the Properties of Extreme Matter using Gravitational Waves and Gamma Ray Bursts, Dr David Tsang

Dr David Tsang was born in Canada, and did his undergraduate degree in Engineering Physics and Maths at the University of British Columbia, followed by a Masters and PhD in Physics at Cornell University. He has worked as a research scientist at Caltech, McGill University, the University of Maryland and the University of Southampton. He is now a Lecturer in the department of Physics at the University of Bath specializing in theoretical astrophysics.

Thursday 6th June. Bob Mizon and others. “Building Momentum on Starlit Skies.”

Pleae note that this is an invitation only event.

Friday 10th May 7.30pm at the BRLSI. Beacons in the Night: Mapping the Universe with Variable Stars

Dr Vicky Scowcroft has kindly agreed to reschedule her lecture of 1st February which had to be cancelled because of the snow.


For centuries, variable stars have been crucial in the study of stellar populations. Astronomers have conducted rigorous observations over many decades in order to understand the physics behind their varying brightnesses. These unique objects come in many flavours, some changing regularly and predictably, with others changing erratically, sometimes lying dormant for years at a time. The changes that occur in a variable star occur on human timescales, making them one of the few astronomical objects whose evolution we can observe in real time.

However, these variables are not just fascinating probes of stellar evolution; they are also powerful distance indicators, enabling us to measure distances to objects within our Galaxy and beyond. Over the past 100 years, variable stars have made essential contributions to our understanding of the evolution of the Universe, and continue to be at the forefront of modern astrophysics to this day.

In this lecture, I will discuss the vast contributions that variable stars have made to astronomy and cosmology. I will describe how variable stars are used to create three-dimensional maps of nearby galaxies, revealing new details about their structure and evolution. I will discuss the advances in cosmology brought about through variable star studies, such as Hubble’s discovery of the expanding Universe, the discovery that this expansion is accelerating, and what this tells us about the ultimate fate of our Universe.

Background of Lecturer:

Dr Vicky Scowcroft is a Lecturer in Astrophysics at the University of Bath. She moved to Bath in 2016 as a University of Bath 50th Anniversary Prize Fellow. After receiving her PhD in Astrophysics from Liverpool John Moores University in 2010, she moved to The Observatories of the Carnegie Institution for Science in Pasadena, California, working as part of the Carnegie Hubble Program team to make the first measurement of the expansion rate of the Universe using mid-infrared observations. Her research uses variable stars as precision distance indicators in order to determine the structure of nearby galaxies and the evolutionary history of our Universe.


Friday 5th April 7.30pm at the BRLSI. Professor Mark Birkinshaw. “Variety in Astronomical Orbits.”

Variety in astronomical orbits

Gravitation dominates the dynamics of the Universe on scales larger than a few kilometres, and so orbital motion is the basic motion of bodies in the Universe. The variety of orbital motions is much wider than the set of elliptical shapes that are used as an approximation in the Solar System. In this lecture I will extend the concept or orbital motion into more general classes of orbits, such as those around rotating black holes.

Mark Birkinshaw

… is the William P. Coldrick Professor of Cosmology and Astrophysics at the University of Bristol, and also holds visiting appointments with the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory and Chalmers University. He is well-known for work on jets from active galaxies, structures in the microwave background radiation, and perturbation theory in jet physics and general relativity.


Friday 1st March 7.30pm at the BRLSI. WHS Annual Lecture. Dr Chris North. “Herschel: A Space Observatory’s Legacy” BRLSI 7.30pm

Herschel: A Space Observatory’s Legacy

Dr Chris North will recap the Herschel Space Observatory, in terms of the mission design and its science goals, and the discoveries that have been made from it. From planets to supermassive galaxies, the range of discoveries is vast. The science continues apace, even nearly 10 years after Herschel’s launch, and new results are continuing to come out. He’ll look to the future, and what upcoming missions will do to build on the legacy of Herschel.

The Herschel Space observatory was an infrared telescope and so this lecture will complement the Herschel Museum’s current theme of infrared which was famously discovered to be a constituent of the solar spectrum by William Herschel.