20 March 2014

Researchers and post-graduate students from University of Hertfordshire’s Centre for Astrophysics Research will be mixing their cosmic palettes of galaxies, planets and stars with painters, actors and musicians at the University's Bayfordbury Observatory for the last Open Evening of the 2013/14 season on Friday 21 March 2014.

An exciting programme has been carefully designed, featuring a variety of artists who will gather at Bayfordbury from all over the country to support an Open Evening revolving around the synergy between art and astronomy. But how does art and astronomy mix? What will visitors to the Open Night be able to see?

Astrophysical phenomena inspire artists

Dr Marc Sarzi, from the Centre for Astrophysics Research and Open Evening organiser said: "The fantastic energies and distances involved in astrophysical phenomena, as well as the sheer beauty of astronomical images, have always inspired artists.

"In turn, astronomers have often asked artists for help, either to draw what they have seen through the eyepiece of their telescopes before the advent of cameras or, more recently, to paint objects whose existence can only be inferred indirectly, such as black holes or planets revolving other stars. In fact, at Hertfordshire, where we have discovered 10% of all such extra-solar planets, Professor David Pinfield routinely asks his brother John to draw an artistic impression of the planets he discovers. Such paintings will form one of the exhibitions that our visitors can enjoy on Friday, and there will be much more for them to see too.

"For instance, the highlight of the evening will be a very special live Science-Rapping performance from rapper and science communicator Jonathan Chase. In 2008, The Guardian newspaper identified Jonathan as being education's 'Next Best Thing' after he produced a science rap video about astrobiology for NASA. I'm looking forward to seeing how Jonathan will give our visitors a different approach to understanding by using rap to communicate scientific thinking around astronomy."

Further treats at the art & astronomy Bayfordbury Open Evening

Further treats during the evening include: 'A matter of beauty art and astronomy', an art exhibition of Angeles Munoz' paintings based on real Astronomy diagrams; 'The Starry Messenger', a University of Hertfordshire-produced movie about  Galileo, the Italian physicist, mathematician, astronomer, and philosopher who is considered to be the father of modern observational astronomy ; 'Silent Sky', a play about Henrietta Swan Leavitt (the nineteenth century American astronomer) and the women  who worked as "computers" at the dawn of modern astronomy, enacted by young actors from The Postgraduate New Theatre of the University of Nottingham; and workshops for children such as using modelling clay to understand how extra-solar planets are discovered and a spirograph to provide insights on the fascinating orbits of planet and the patterns they make.

Back again next autumn

Marc added: "All this will be going on while our researchers and post-graduate students provide expert demonstrations at the telescopes, and laboratories, with some well-known astronomy-related songs such as David Bowie's 'Starman' or Elton John's 'Rocket Man' being played throughout the evening. Friday 21 March marks the end of this season's open evenings at Bayfordbury, but we'll be back again next autumn ready to share our research and views with our visitors. Keep an eye on our website (bayfordbury.herts.ac.uk) over the summer for the next dates, which will surely include other themed events such as this."