The Astronomical Unit


Talks for General Audiences

I offer astronomical observing sessions and a wide variety of illustrated talks on astronomical subjects. These have been warmly received by groups as diverse as the Women's Institute, the Rotary Club, Country Fairs, Camping Clubs and Private Parties. If there is an astronomical topic you would like that is not listed below, please do ask if I am able to do it.

Duration: Talks typically last for about an hour, which includes about 15 minutes for questions/discussion, but this can be varied to meet your requirements.

Fee: My fee will depend upon the size and type of audience, and will include the cost of travel and, where appropriate, overnight accomodation.

Queries: Please to email me using your default email client.

Booking: Please use the form at the bottom of this page.

My most popular sessions for general audiences are:

Observing Sessions

Guided observation of the night sky with telescopes and binoculars. I will teach you the basics of navigating around the sky by identifying star patterns (including finding north) and star-hopping to find some deep sky objects (galaxies, star clusters, nebulae, etc.).

If the weather is unsuitable for observing, the fallback will be either a slide-show or some indoor astronomical activities.

I can (and often do) combine observing sessions with some story-telling — feel free to mix-and-match sessions to suit your requirements.

Pseudoastronomy: (Complementary and Alternative Astronomy)

Pseudoastronomy 1: Planet X, Zetans, and Lost Civilisations

Did the ancient Sumerians describe a planet that will destroy Earth? Can astronomy be used to explain the locations of ancient pyramids and temples? Was there an advanced ancient master-race that was wiped out by a comet in 12,500 BCE? Did the ancient civilisations we know about arise out of nowhere, taught by visitors from Atlantis or other planets?

The clear answer to all these is a resounding "No!" yet the myths persist.


Pseudoastronomy 2: Hollow Moon and Flat Earth

Is the Moon an alien spacecraft?
Is Earth really a disc accelerating upwards at 9.8ms-2?
Are Daily Express astronomy headlines ever correct?

You might have thought that ignorance isn't a choice anyone would make, or that the tension between fundamentalist religion and scientific astronomy died during the Enlightenment. You'd be wrong!

Are We Alone?

In 1961, Frank Drake introduced his eponymous equation. In the half-century since then, we have a much better idea of the likely values of some of the parameters. This talk examines the state of play with respect to SETI and potentially habitable exoplanets, and examines our current understanding of the likelihood of there being similar planets to Earth. It "reboots" the Drake Equation in the light of these developments.

The Star of Bethlehem

Theories abound for the Star of Bethlehem. In this occasionally provocative talk, we look at the actual evidence and its cultural context, discuss some recent astrological and astronomical interpretations, and arrive at some definitive conclusions about the story.

Ten Ways the Universe Tries to Kill You

From gamma-ray bursts to asteroid impacts, an overview of cataclysmic events. This light-hearted but scientifically robust approach incorporates a lot of fundamental cosmological processes, from stellar evolution to galactic interaction. It can be adapted to any age-group or audience.

Star Lore and Legends (Story-telling)

Myths and legends enliven the changing night sky and show how ancient peoples viewed their universe. In addition to the tales of the gods, goddesses and heroes of Greek mythology who are remembered in the constellations, there are options of legends and lore from African, Australasian, Babylonian, Celtic, Chinese, Egyptian, Finnish, Meso-american, Norse, and Roman traditions. There will normally be both Creation and Heroic myths, which will relate to constellations or planets which are currently visible. Specific requirements can usually be accommodated.

Journey Into Space

Comet Hale-Bopp

Space probes and telescopes have, in 3 decades, taught us more about our universe than was learned in the preceding 3 millennia. In addition, they have enhanced our understanding of our own planet as is illustrated in this journey from the Sun, through the Solar System, into Deep Space, encountering clusters, galaxies, and the birth and death of stars.

Time and Calendars

The measurement of time has always been a facet of Astronomy. The phases in the development of the Gregorian calendar most (but not all!) of us use today make a fascinating story which blends science, history, sociology, religion and psychology.

Although it indicates when I am not available, this calendar should not be taken as a definitive indicator of when I am available, especially if overnight stays may be involved, as I have daytime teaching commitments that I need to honour.


Which session are you booking:
Planet X, Zetans and Lost Civilisations
Hollow Moon and Flat Earth
Are We Alone?
The Star of Bethlehem
Ten Ways the Universe Tries to Kill You
Observing Session
Star Lore and Legends
Journey Into Space
Time and Calendars
Other agreed talk

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