Explore: The Astronomers’ Ball – Royal Observatory, 22/10/11

Last Saturday night I spent my evening at the beautiful Royal Observatory in Greenwich for the science-based geekery fest that is the Astronomer’s Ball. Set on top of a hill in Greenwich park, the observatory overlooks amazing views of London, with a clear view of the City with the O2 to the right and St Paul’s to the left.

The Royal Observatory

The view from the Observatory

The Astronomer’s Ball was essentially a way for adults to run around the observatory like children, without having to be graceful and let the little ones touch all the exhibits before them. There were stalls around the venue to get people involved such as Guerilla Science‘s ‘Space Travel Bureau’ which was fantastic – the actress behind the stall asked us all sorts of questions to tailor our space trip for us, and was hilarious to the end. I even got to send a free postcard from the Sun (which my mum received yesterday!) There was also ‘Send Your Message to Space’, where they were projecting everyone’s messages into space. Here’s mine:

My message to send into space!

There were talks, presentations and shows. We went to two shows in the planetarium, the first called ‘We Are Astronomers‘ narrated by David Tennant, which told us all what an astronomer actually does. The second was ‘Tonight’s Sky’ which told us what we could see in the night sky if we managed to escape the light pollution of London. And just an FYI: going in a planetarium after drinking can be VERY disorientating! One of the live narrators of the second show was comedian Robin Ince, co-presenter of the Infinite Monkey Cage on Radio 4 with Prof Brian Cox. He also did a short stand-up set as well, in the foyer where a jazz band had been playing for most of the night.

Comedian Robin Ince 

There were also tours of the various areas of the observatory, where we were shown around by people in period costume who told us of how they had discovered various planets or stars. We also got to see the meridian line which separates the east and west hempispheres; it’s shown by a green laser beam that goes as far as the eye can see.

The green laser that shows GMT

The event was a fantastic way of being able to learn amazing facts and figures and see science at work with the added bonus of interactivity, comedy and a bar! And to finish it off, we got dropped back to the other side of the river by boat! Although it was dark we could still see the sights of London, and went under all the bridges including Tower Bridge which is always beautiful.

Tower Bridge from the boat

I’ll definitely be going back to this event next year. I recommend it if you’re like me and a secret nerd! 


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