Screen grab of Dr Becky Smethurst during the Stargazing Oxford@Home event

Stargazing Oxford@Home

Astronomy and astrophysics

For the last ten years, we have thrown open the doors at the Department of Physics for our Stargazing event – an afternoon and evening of fascinating talks, hands-on activities and, not surprisingly, telescopes. Not wanting to disappoint this year, the team rose to the challenge of pandemic-proofing the event and Stargazing Oxford@Home was born.

The event was live-streamed on the Department of Physics YouTube channel on Thursday 28 January with a packed programme from 3-9pm. Up until 6pm, family-friendly craft activities, kids Q&A sessions and talks were the order of the day while the second half of the event took a deeper dive into all things astrophysics.

Dr Becky presenting

Becky Smethurst (aka Dr Becky) hosted the event and her infectious passion for space combined with a carefully planned programme meant more than 5,500 people from across the globe joined the livestream over the six-hour period with an average audience at any given time of nearly 300; a further 2,000 people have since viewed the recording.

‘We couldn’t have hoped for a better response,’ comments Becky. ‘For last year’s Stargazing event, we had 1,209 people through the doors; the event has always been extremely popular but we are constrained by the limitations of the venue. By taking the event online, we knew we had the potential to reach a lot more people but we didn’t expect it to be this successful!

Interactive and engaging

‘What was brilliant too was that we had more than 1,700 live chat messages, plus heaps of images of homemade comets and toilet roll Solar systems sent in, which really showcases just how engaged people were. I know I speak for myself and my colleagues when I say that it’s a pleasure and a privilege to share our enthusiasm and our work with people beyond the university and to be able to reach so many people is fantastic.’

Dr Belinda Nicholson, Becky’s fellow outreach coordinator for the Astrophysics sub-department will now take over organising a socially distanced in-person outdoor Stargazing event for later in 2021 (pandemic dependent) so keep an eye on the website for updates.


A recording of the livestream is available on the Department of Physics YouTube channel where you can catch up on all of this:

  • 3.00pm Astrocrafts for kids - you will need a toilet roll and a pen
  • 3.40pm Stargazing for kids with Abingdon Astronomical Society
  • 4.00pm Kids Q&A panel
  • 4.30pm Astrocrafts for kids - you will need a small stick, foil, cling film, tape and string/ribbon
  • 5.00pm Talk: General relativity for kids with Dr Adam Ingram
  • 5.15pm Talk: Exoplanet explorers with Laurel Kaye
  • 6.00pm Stargazing: what to look out for in the night sky with Professor Chris Lintott
  • 6.15pm Detecting dark matter with Muhammad Hamza Waseem
  • 6.30pm Dark matter and His Dark Materials with Professor Kimberly Palladino
  • 6.45pm Taking the best photos of the sky (plus Q&A) with Abingdon Astronomical Society
  • 7.15pm Pulsars: the most extreme stars in the Universe with Dr Jakob van den Eijnden
  • 7.30pm Lunar trailblazer: searching for water on the Moon with Dr Katherine Shirley
  • 7.45pm Telescopes and binocular advice for beginners with Abingdon Astronomical Society
  • 8.00pm Building a telescope detector during a pandemic with Professor Gavin Dalton
  • 8.15pm Q&A panel

A recording of the event can be found here: