Speakers 2018

The lecture programme has now been finalised and we would like to thank all our speakers for giving up their time to come along to the festival.

See the main Astronomy Festival page for further details of the festival programme and camping etc.

As an educational charity we do need to cover the cost of expenses etc. and therefore each lecture costs just £3 per person.

Please note the lecture on the Friday evening only is FREE of charge 
Friday Evening Speaker 7.30pm
Dr Simon Steele (lecturer in astronomy at UCL)

Simon has a PhD in astrophysics studying star formation in distant galaxies. Formally an Education Specialist at the Smithsonian Institution and NASA, he has worked to make cosmology more accessible to the public, through schools, museums and science centres, and wrote the first ever Braille book on multi wavelength astronomy. Simon is currently a lecturer in Astronomy at UCL, and teaches with their Certificate in Astronomy programme.

Title: 'There and Back Again: A Quick Jaunt to the Centre of the Milky Way.'
Saturday Speakers
Jane Green FRAS (author, broadcaster and registered school's speaker)

Saturday 1st September 10.45am 

Head-hunted for her international award-winning business skills, Jane’s career began at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office but she took the ‘road less travelled by’ and went to sea instead, becoming a senior officer for sixteen years with a leading British cruise line. Whilst sailing the world her love for astronomy began. Armed with a Degree course in Astronomy and Planetary Sciences, nightly cocktail parties soon became astronomical tours and subsequent successful theatre lectures.

An elected Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society (FRAS), she is a presenter, motivational speaker, best-selling author, broadcaster and registered schools speaker, weaving her special magic for select clients in corporate team-building events to capacity audiences of all ages.

Jane co-presented the pioneering theatre show TOUR OF THE UNIVERSE – a national tour that included the presenters of BBC television’s Sky at Night programme and other high-profile guests and was described by Professor Chris Lintott as ‘A first, and a triumph!’.

A guest on BBC Radio Four Midweek, and BBC Two’s Stargazing Live, as well as national and regional BBC Radio, she is currently resident astronomer for BBC Sussex & Surrey Radio, Uckfield 105FM and a co-host of Astronomy FM: Under British Skies.

Having also co-presented with the late Sir Patrick Moore CBE FRS, celebrities and media professionals, she was invited to be the Inaugural Speaker for the Sir Patrick Moore Memorial Lecture at Holmewood House School, the school where Sir Patrick himself taught for eight years.

She has been featured in various astronomy publications and scripted a live television/theatre interview with the second man on the moon, US astronaut Edwin ‘Buzz’ Aldrin.

Her book, the Haynes Astronomy Manual, is an international bestseller and a new edition has recently been released.

Jane’s motto is ‘Look up, Live it, Love it!’ Her enthusiasm for planet Earth and the science of astronomy is infectious. She adores her subject and knows that you will too. For more information ww.janegreenastronomy.co.uk

Title: 'The Dish'

On 21 July 1969, the Apollo 11 astronauts walked on the Moon. It’s not hyperbole to say that the entire planet held its collective breath and none more so than the crew of the CSIRO Parkes Radio Telescope – ‘The Dish’ – who had been tasked by NASA with transmitting the television signals capturing Armstrong’s epic first steps.

In 2000 the story of how this historic television coverage was achieved became the target of a beguiling and effortlessly funny Australian movie in which the Director, or ‘Dish Master’, played by Sam Neill, steered ‘The Dish’ and his eccentric team through a series of mishaps and disasters that threatened to hijack the recording of mankind’s greatest moment and ruin Parkes’s finest hour.

To commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the Moon landing, and the vital role Parkes Radio Telescope really played, this meticulously researched talk sifts informative fact from entertaining fiction, revealing the true behind-the-scenes tale of what really happened in a sheep paddock near Parkes and who was responsible for the priceless television coverage of mankind’s momentous ‘giant leap’.
Dr Colin Forsyth (research associate at UCL's Mullard Space Science Laboratory)

Saturday 1st September 12.15pm

Colin is a scientist specialising in the physics behind the Sun-Earth connection, the aurora and space weather. His research aims to predict the timing and impact of intense auroral events that can potentially disrupt communications, damage electric systems on the ground and disable spacecraft.

Having graduated from the University of Leicester, Colin moved to the UCL Mullard Space Science Laboratory, the UK’s largest university-based space research department. There, he has led ground-breaking research into the complex physical processes behind the northern lights and the hazardous near-space environment, as well as being involved in over ten mission proposals, including the upcoming ESA SMILE mission that will image the edge of Earth’s magnetosphere.

As a committed public speaker, Colin has given talks to the Radio Society of Great Britain and the Festival of Nature, as well as appearing on the BBC’s Dangerous Earth series.

Title: Protecting Earth from the ravages of the Sun

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. Uncover how this stream of particles changes, modifies the particles trapped on the magnetic field and results in the aurora, the Van Allen belts, and find our what we are doing to understand and prevent space weather from impacting on our lives.
Dr Amelie Saintonge (associate professor of astrophysics in the Department of Physics & Astronomy at UCL)

Saturday 1st September 2pm

Amelie Saintonge studies the formation and evolution of galaxies, using radio telescope to probe the dense cold gas out of which stars are formed. Originally from Canada and having completed her PhD studies at Cornell University (USA), she held research positions in Switzerland and Germany before joining UCL in 2013 as a Royal Society Research Fellow and Reader of Astrophysics. A keen public speaker, Dr. Saintonge has recently addressed audiences at the Royal Society Summer Exhibit, the Hay Festival and New Scientist Live.

Title: “Cosmic archaeology with galaxies”

Telescopes may be the closest thing we have to time machines: the farther in space we look, the earlier in the history of the Universe we get to see. By observing galaxies across cosmic time, we can deduce how they form out of tiny quantum fluctuations very soon after the Big Bang, and how they then evolve over billions of years. Find out how galaxies have evolved from the birth of the universe through cosmic explosions all the way to the present, and how observing galaxies may be our best chance of getting to grips with dark matter and dark energy.
Christopher Jacobs, Deep Space Navigation Engineer, NASA/JPL

Saturday 1st September 3.45pm

Christopher Jacobs has worked for 35 years in the Deep Space Tracking Systems group at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena California (Caltech). Chris specializes in the use of the Very-Long-Baseline Interferometry (VLBI) technique to build reference frames (“star maps”) used for space mission navigation.

He recently chaired of a global group of 20 astronomers who are preparing the next generation international standard for celestial reference frames. His team has supported numerous interplanetary missions, such as Galileo (Jupiter and its moons) Magellan (Venus), and NASA probes to Mars, such as the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) and its rover, Curiosity. Chris as authored or co-authored over 200 scientific presentations and papers. In 2015 he was awarded the NASA medal for Exceptional Achievement in recognition of his innovations in the art of building reference frames.

He is also known for his efforts to bring astronomy to wider audiences around the globe through his public lectures on astronomy. He has been invited to speak in such diverse places as Spain, Argentina, China, Azores, and South Africa. He is looking forward to connecting with audiences in England.

"It is an honor to speak at the Observatory Science Centre, former site of the Royal Greenwich Observatory. As an astronomer who specializes in applying astronomy to space navigation the Royal Greenwich Observatory is a special observatory having established, among other things, the origin of longitude and Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) both of which are of central importance to our navigation work.”

Title: 'Stellar "GPS": Navigation in the Solar System'

How does one navigate to a planet such as Mars? Will GPS work?
Since ancient times sailors have navigated by following a path guided by markers with known locations: bottom sounding, landmarks such as mountain peaks, and of course stars overhead in the sky. In modern times the GPS satellites in the sky are providing the needed markers.
However, when our spacecraft travel to the planets they go beyond the reach of GPS signals. What then can the navigator do? Needing markers which are very, very stable in position and very far away, the modern navigator chooses beacons powered by supermassive black holes: quasars!

Yet even super-powerful quasar signals are very diluted by the time they travel billions of light years to Earth. So, we need large antennas (~30-meters) and super-cooled electronics (-270 deg C) and averaging over billions of bits of data in order to detect the quasar signals--and even that is not enough. Next, we need to link antennas from around the world into a super-antenna we call an "interferometer."

Only then, with these super-antennas and their lever arms the size of the Earth, can we pinpoint the location of the spacecraft to within about the 100 meters accuracy needed to initiate the landing sequence from the top of the Martian atmosphere. The last part of the trip is the most exciting.

First, a parachute slows the lander down enough to fly on auto-pilot (because round trip light time is ~10 minutes) using radar to guide us almost to the ground. Lastly, in the case of MSL, the Curiosity Rover is lowered from a sky crane.

Mission accomplished!
Sunday Speakers
Pete Williamson FRAS, Astronomer and Broadcaster

Sunday 2nd September 10.45am

Pete is a self employed ( Freelance ) astronomer working with The BBC as a correspondent for radio. He is the official imaging consultant for Faulkes Educational Telescope Project and owns Astro Radio the UK’s only full astronomical & music radio station. He is also along with his daughter, organiser of Solarsphere Astronomical & Music Festival which Astro Radio is the official media outlet. They are trying to bring the world of astronomy and music together and in doing so introduce the world of astronomy to a new audience whilst enthusing the young to take up science.

Pete does solar imaging and Deep Sky Imaging with robotic Telescope workshops for organisations or the individual; not just in the UK, He also has many images published in the major Astronomical Journals and books around the globe plus he writes articles for publications when asked to do so.

Astro Radio  an internet based radio station was created in 2015 and now has 12 volunteer presenters and correspondents around the UK and as far away as Porto Rico. Astro Radio is sponsored by Astronomy Now & iTelescopes Australia and is affiliated with North Wales Astronomical Society. The ethos of the station is to bring people the music of their choice with astronomical news and features embedded in the broadcasts.

Title: 'Remote Astronomy for Education & Public Access'

This talk will discuss what is available for educational establishments and the general public in the world of remote controlled Imaging Systems plus off world data.

Christopher Jacobs, Deep Space Navigation Engineer, NASA/JPL

Sunday 2nd September 12.15pm

Chris is coming all the way from America and has therefore kindly agreed to do a second lecture this weekend.

Christopher Jacobs has worked for 35 years in the Deep Space Tracking Systems group at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena California (Caltech). Chris specializes in the use of the Very-Long-Baseline Interferometry (VLBI) technique to build reference frames (“star maps”) used for space mission navigation.

He recently chaired of a global group of 20 astronomers who are preparing the next generation international standard for celestial reference frames. His team has supported numerous interplanetary missions, such as Galileo (Jupiter and its moons) Magellan (Venus), and NASA probes to Mars, such as the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) and its rover, Curiosity. Chris as authored or co-authored over 200 scientific presentations and papers. In 2015 he was awarded the NASA medal for Exceptional Achievement in recognition of his innovations in the art of building reference frames.

He is also known for his efforts to bring astronomy to wider audiences around the globe through his public lectures on astronomy. He has been invited to speak in such diverse places as Spain, Argentina, China, Azores, and South Africa. He is looking forward to connecting with audiences in England.

"It is an honor to speak at the Observatory Science Centre, former site of the Royal Greenwich Observatory. As an astronomer who specializes in applying astronomy to space navigation the Royal Greenwich Observatory is a special observatory having established, among other things, the origin of longitude and Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) both of which are of central importance to our navigation work.”

Title: 'Is Pluto a Planet?'
Dr Stephen Wilkins (Senior Lecturer in Astronomy in the department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Sussex)

Sunday 2nd September 2pm

Stephen is a senior lecturer in astronomy, and an STFC Leadership Fellow in Public Engagement, working specifically on the JWST.

His research predominantly concerns understanding the process of galaxy formation and evolution especially at very high-redshift. He works with observations from Hubble (like the Hubble eXtreme Deep Field), Spitzer, Herschel, and the Very Large Telescope amongst others. He also works with large simulations, most recently through the BlueTides project.

Stephen currently works on 3 main projects in addition to a number of smaller standalone projects while generally building towards JWST and other facilities.

Title: 'Exploring the Universe with the Webb Telescope'