Online Workshop for Human Worlds

7 children were engaged with across 2 x 1-hour online workshops on Blackboard in November 2020.  

The aim of the workshop was for the children to learn that:

  • Stars are round/spherical and not pointed as they sometimes appear in pictures.
  • Our Sun is a star, and it is average sized. 
  • How our Sun’s size, and colour compares to other stars that are visible in the Winter sky e.g. Betelgeuse and Rigel in the Orion constellation.
  • That Stars go through a life cycle, and that big/massive stars like Betelgeuse end their lives in an explosion called a Supernova.
  • That University of Southampton astronomers use Supernova to measure distances in the Universe (by looking for Supernova in distant galaxies).
  • That Dark Energy is causing the Universe to accelerate in it’s expansion and that we have no idea what Dark Energy is. 

Participants were asked to upload their work onto this online ‘padlet’ notice board. 

Padlet showing art work by participants and workshop leaders

Following this online workshop, 60% (3/5) stated they were likely to do their own reading on Supernova and Dark energy research. 60% (3/5) knew the correct shape of stars, 80% (4/5) correctly identified the correct colour of stars, 80% (4/5) knew that a ‘Supernova’ is the name of the bright explosion that happens when stars die, 60% (3/5) correctly chose that UoS astronomers use Supernova to measure distances in the Universe and 40% (2/5) correctly chose that ‘dark energy is a mysterious energy that cause the Universe to accelerate’.

Graham (a father of Sarah, age 10 who attended the workshop) tweeted after the event about enjoying the workshop and hinted that his daughter would like some space related Christmas presents this year as a result of her attending. 

Colouring-in sheet and Activity packs 2020

As part of the competition promotion, we also produced an online colouring in sheet with a supernova on the front and links to learn more about Supernova and the research on the back. It was printed and distributed to 300 households in Southampton and the nearby area to those deemed to be low socio-economic areas. There were 358 downloads of the colouring-in sheet from the #SotonAstroArt competition page and 69 people went from the art website onto BBC bitesize link to learn about the lifecycle of stars; 50 went onto learn more on our Supernova group website ( and 40 went onto the official Dark Energy Survey website. 

As part of the competition promotion across the 2020 lockdown we also produced an online #StressLessSupernova colouring in sheet with a supernova on the front and links to learn more about Supernova and the research on the back (to download this colouring in sheet click the ‘Download’ button below).

Online Lockdown Competition 2020

During the first lockdown in 2020 we held an online art competition open to all ages. We produced several videos on our SotonAstrodome YouTube channel which were viewed 313 times.

 There was also a press release to advertise the competition:

This was seen by 102 unique visitors.

37 pieces of art were submitted to the competition with 9 prize winners and photos of the winning artists (two of which are shown here: Lexi Turner on the right and Madelina Kay below), their artwork and explanations of their art and what they learned (where given) are on our Competition page

Another press release was produced at the end of the competition, summarising it and advertising the online workshop here:

This was seen by 35 unique visitors.


Following the #SotonAstroArt exhibit and workshops at the John Hansard Gallery, Southampton as part of Hands on Humanities Day 2019 the project was awarded ‘Best Engagement Activity (based on Public Feedback)’.

The award was presented by the Public Engagement with Research unit (PERu) at the UoS.

A selection of Photos from this award winning event at the John Hansard Gallery are shown below:

Bespoke Planetarium Shows

As part of the 2017 and 2018 #SotonAstroArt exhibits and workshops for Hands on Humanities Day on the Avenue Campus at UoS the SotonAstrodome team put on 5 free planetarium shows for the general public.

The bespoke mobile planetarium show started with an introduction to the photographic plates of the night sky, the use of sky surveys, the ‘Harvard Computers’ and the ‘Dark Energy Survey (DES)’ outside the planetarium.

Then inside the Astrodome the public were introduced to the concepts of the celestial co-ordinate system of right ascension and declination and how sources (stars and galaxies) appear to move overhead during the course of the night, due to the rotation of the Earth. They were then introduced to how UoS astronomers use surveys like DES to understand the physics of our accelerating Universe!

#SotonAstroArt at Conferences

Communicating Astronomy with the Public

Sadie gave an accepted talk at the ‘Communicating Astronomy with the Public (CAP)’ conference in Japan 2018 to an audience of 45 Science communicators from across the world on the #SotonAstroArt project. It was accepted to the Conference proceedings which was emailed to the 446 conference participants from 53 countries.

The proceedings are also available to download online for free from here:

SEPnet Symposium

A poster produced by Dr Sadie Jones was made about the #SotonAstroArt project and was presented at the SEPnet Outreach & Public Engagement: 10th Anniversary Symposium. The poster was presented during the poster session and the symposium was attended by over 100 Physics communicators, academics and SEPnet partners.

These Photographic Plates are a Fire Hazard!

This week the Head of Astronomy and the Physics and Astronomy Building manager have asked me (Dr Sadie Jones, Astronomy Public Engagement Leader) to try and get rid of some astronomy plates. We need to get rid of them because they are contained in three massive filling cabinets.

These three cabinets (pictured below) are full of Astronomy Photographic plates BUT they are currently a fire hazard, if people have to come out of the back of the large lecture theatre in an emergency they will not have enough space to exit the building safely…!!!

…So we started off by emptying the plates from the cabinets. Each plate is in a plastic sheet and hangs in the cabinet on hooks. Physicists and Astronomers started to swarm towards the Outreach and Public Engagement office to try and acquire a piece of the sky (most were astronomers who have an attachment to a certain area of the sky because of their research – for example my own research is on a galaxy called NGC 4051 so I made sure that I ‘saved’ this particular photo from being ‘thrown away’.

I did some posts on social media about the fact we had all these plates to get rid of and it got reposted 100’s of times.

Soon I was getting emails flooding in from artists who wanted them…then I panicked with overwhelm about how to the logistics of sending out the work to the artists would work.

Luckily artist Jo Tidey agreed to help me. We had a ‘collection day’ where artists could come int the building and pick up some plates to take home and then we had a packing day where we used discarded cardboard boxes to pack up the plates and send them out. And the rest, as they say is history!

Artists looking at the plates they wanted to take…
I think having these plates all over the floor at the lecture theatre entrance might have actually been more of a health and safety risk than the 3 cabinets hehe!