Press Release

Astronomers to shed light on space discoveries to mark spectacular solar eclipse

By SpaceRef Editor
March 17, 2015
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Space scientists at the University of Leicester will be taking part in a spectacular event to mark a rare astronomical phenomenon by demonstrating some of their out-of-this-world research – including how they located and identified Beagle 2 on Mars.
To coincide with Stargazing Live returning to BBC Two, BBC Learning is holding a one-off spectacular live event, open to the general public, on Friday 20 March at Leicester racecourse to coincide with the solar eclipse that will affect the whole nation, the most spectacular in the UK for 16 years. 
The University of Leicester’s Department of Physics and Astronomy will be participating in the event by providing a variety of activities aimed at schoolchildren during the day and for members of the public from 6pm to 9pm. Researchers will be on hand to explain how Leicester has been at the heart of many exciting discoveries, including tracking down the presumed lost Beagle 2 lander.
The Stargazing Live event will be open to the general public from 9am until 3pm and from 6pm until 9pm, and will encourage astronomers old and new to look towards the sky. 
Special guests will include The European Space Agency [ESA] astronaut Paolo Nespoli, who spent a total of 174 days on The International Space Station; Paul Franklin, who was the Visual Effects Supervisor from the recent blockbuster Interstellar; and Robin Ince from Radio 4’s Infinite Monkey Cage.
Professor Paul O’Brien, organiser of the University of Leicester activities, said: “The BBC’s main public event for 2015 is being held in Leicester for the first time. This is a great opportunity for the University to highlight our expertise, particularly in astronomy and space science, to the public.

“At Leicester we study objects throughout the Universe, from the Earth out to the most distant objects known. I hope that visitors to the event will leave with a better understanding of how we use facilities on the ground and in space, including many built in Leicester, to explore the Universe.

“We will reveal how Beagle 2 was found, what we think it looks like on the surface of Mars as well as show our involvement in current and future Mars missions, such as Exomars. We will show how several of the largest and most powerful astronomy facilities have Leicester-built hardware inside them and what they have told us about the Universe. We will explain how observations from ground and space reveal the interaction between the Earth and the Sun, including what happens during an eclipse. And we will explain how planets have been found around other stars using planetary eclipses.”
Professor Martin Barstow, Head of the University’s College of Science and Engineering, and President of the Royal Astronomical Society said: “Stargazing Live has been a fantastic success in generating wide interest in astronomy and science in general. I am very pleased that the BBC has again invited the University to contribute.”
Sinead Rocks, Head of BBC Learning, says: “It’s wonderful to be able to build on our longstanding relationship with Stargazing. Over the years, we’ve worked with partners and astronomy groups across the UK to capitalise on the interest that the TV shows create by giving thousands of people opportunities to get actively involved with astronomy. This March, we’ve got the added bonus of a solar eclipse to kick-start our flagship event in Leicester as well as an ambitious nationwide project to get schools involved in a live science experiment. And of course, we’ll have plenty of extra content online to inspire any armchair stargazers out there to get up and give it a go.”

This family-friendly day will be split into zones including Eclipse Central – eclipse-related experiments and explanations; Launch Pad – hands on ‘train to be an astronaut’ activities; Mission Control – coding meets the cosmos with a Dr Who coding game, science demos and telescope feeds from across the planet; and Astro Academy – where you can quiz the experts who are passionate about the mysteries of the universe.

Admission is free, but the Astro Academy has a limited capacity and so is available on a first-come-first-served basis. Children under the age of 18 must be accompanied by an adult.

More details at


SpaceRef staff editor.