A Universe for all

From inviting visitors to try the telescopes at the University’s Bayfordbury Observatory, to taking our custom-made inflatable planetarium to science festivals, our astrophysicists are making the study of stars, planets and galaxies accessible to as many people as possible.

Shaped by ground-breaking research at our Centre for Astrophysics Research, our wide-ranging outreach and public engagement programme is designed to draw in diverse and hard-to-reach groups.

At the monthly open evenings at our Bayfordbury Observatory, one of the largest and best-equipped observatories in the country, visitors can explore our planetariums or scan the skies using one of the seven optical or radio telescopes or even atmospheric LIDAR. Subject experts from the University's Centres for Astrophysics Research and Atmospheric Research are on hand to talk and give live demonstrations.

Whether it’s a scout group wanting to learn how the moon affects the tides, or a local school or group of amateur astronomers wanting to stargaze, bespoke community events and group visits are themed to reflect particular projects or interests.

Aiming to engage with harder-to-reach groups, the Observatory also hosts events on astrophysics research for children in care and their foster carers, and children who are themselves carers. Tailor-made programmes allow for the possibility of challenging behaviour and respond to specific learning needs.

We are committed to sharing our enthusiasm about all things space-related with as many people as possible. This desire has led us to give talks at schools, contribute to music and arts festivals, and put on numerous shows with the largest inflatable planetarium the UK has to offer.

Dr Ben Burningham, Director of Outreach and Public Engagement, Vice-Chancellor's Research Fellow, School of Physics, Engineering and Computer Science

Tour of Bayfordbury Observatory

The Cosmodrome

The Observatory is home to the UK’s largest mobile inflatable planetarium, specially designed for the University to offer better disabled access. At six metres high, the Cosmodrome is as big as a house when fully inflated and can seat 100 people. Our astrophysicists bring the Cosmodrome to schools, community centres and science festivals to encourage children to engage with science and learn about the cosmos.

In a unique collaboration with the University’s School of Creative Arts, the Cosmodrome has also been converted into an immersive audio-visual space for music and arts festivals.  By day it hosts planetarium shows, lectures, workshops and audio-visual art. By night, it offers full dome views of the cosmos, accompanied by music delivered through a cutting-edge sound diffusion system.

The portable planetarium has also been used in a wide variety of settings to tell the stories of astrophysics to all age groups. It uses specialist techniques to create an interactive ‘sensory universe’ including lighting, sound and tactile experiences. It functions as a safe, accessible and stimulating space to allow visitors to ‘explore’ the history of the Universe interactively, from the origin of the cosmic microwave background to present day discoveries of habitable planets in orbit around other stars.

The ‘Sensory Universe’ project uses our portable inflatable planetarium to allow the audience to interactively ‘explore’ the history of the Universe – and give us new perspectives on our research.

Dr James Geach

Bayfordbury Observatory is the University of Hertfordshire's teaching observatory for astronomy and astrophysics. It offers students a hands-on experience with some of the latest technology in the field.

Find out more by clicking on the links below.