Exploring Light and Dark

Astrophysics goes on the road

The ‘Exploring Light and Dark’ scientific research exhibitions which took place during the summer of 2016 allowed visitors to find out about research into our dynamic Sun, the lifecycle of stars and a whole galaxy of interesting concepts and ideas.

Visitors were able to experience new ways of learning about scientific research through a variety of formats from audio visual exhibits, including films to interpretation boards and hands-on activities that everyone could enjoy. They were able to explore our Universe, immerse themselves in the formation of stars and run for cover to avoid violent eruptions from the Sun.

The first exhibition was in collaboration with the Beacon Museum in Cumbria, funded by the Science and Technology Facilities Council, during June and July 2016 where we engaged with over 2500 visitors who either visited the museum’s new Light and Dark Gallery which hosted our exhibition, or who took part in storytelling or choreography workshops.

The storytelling workshops incorporated some of the folklore about the Sun and the science that we now know about the Sun. These took place at local primary schools in Whitehaven and also at the Beacon Museum across a number of dates during the run of the exhibition.

The interpretive dance workshops were about the lifecycle of stars and these were delivered to junior school pupils at schools in the Copeland area. These workshops generated a wide variety of questions about stars from the pupils and the answers to these can be found on our web page at our Exploring Light and Dark section.

Feedback was extremely positive, as participants explained that they enjoyed learning about science and research in a completely new way and as an alternative to the traditional classroom arena. It created an exciting opportunity for members of the public to participate in scientific discussion directly with researchers.

The exhibition was led by Professor Robert Walsh, executive director of research at the university who said: “The University of Central Lancashire was extremely proud to work with the Beacon Museum in bringing world-class research in astrophysics, ecology and engineering to the regional community in an engaging and interactive way. I was particularly excited to be delivering one of the exhibits which, through a captivating projection display enabled the general public to see the Sun, our closest star in a completely new light.”



A smaller version of the exhibition was delivered as part of the Lancashire Encounter Festival in Preston in September 2016 where the astrophysics researchers took over a former shop unit in St. George’s shopping centre and engaged with over 500 visitors in one day. Feedback again was extremely positive with comments such as “I appreciate that real scientists came and explained what the round Sun and videos and stands meant” and also “It’s wonderful that the professors were here to talk to the future scientists”.

Images from the exhibition at the Beacon Museum can be found in our Flickr gallery.

View a video of the project, including interviews with the researchers and footage from the museum.