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.

Cancelled due to adverse weather conditions. Friday 1st February. Dr Victoria Scowcroft. “Beacons in the Night: Mapping the Universe with Variable Stars.” BRLSI, 7.30pm


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.


4th January 2019, Deborah Ireland – Hasselblad and the Moon Landing

Hasselblad and the Moon Landing

On 20 July 1969, as part of the Apollo 11 space program, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first people ever to set foot on the Moon. Their iconic small steps were captured forever by the camera the astronauts carried with them: the Hasselblad 500EL. The remarkable images taken with this camera provide an enduring record of one of humankind’s most extraordinary adventures: but the development of the camera involved a great leap in technology that lasted almost as long as the space program itself. The Hasselblad & The Moon Landing looks at the history of the Apollo 11 mission through the lens of the Hasselblad, while narrating the parallel tale of the challenge to create a camera that could work on the Moon. It considers the cameras used, and the photographs captured, during the Space Race between Russia and America; looks in detail at the experience of taking photographs on the Moon for the first time; and reflects on the processing, preserving and legacy of those images, and the part they play in the enduring conspiracy theories that claim the Moon Landing to have been a grand hoax. The second half of the book presents a commemorative album of photographs taken in space using the Hasselblad 500EL. While the Apollo 11 astronauts left their three cameras behind on the Moon, where they remain to this day, they brought back film magazines containing 1,400 photographs. A selection of the finest of these is shown alongside the mission timeline and transcripts of the conversations between the astronauts and mission control at Houston, completing a beautiful commemorative guide to mark the 50th anniversary of one of humankind’s most remarkable achievements.

Debbie Ireland has spent 19 years working in photography, having held the positions of assistant curator of the Royal Photographic Society’s archive and head of the AA World Travel picture library.