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Seeing the science in space

Bringing stories from the Hershel Space Observatory to UK school children, teachers and international media.

Herschel space observatory iamge

Scientists working on the Hershel Space Observatory launched a public engagement programme to bring stories of science to school children, teachers, and international and UK media.

The SPIRE group has routinely recognised those pieces of research that will reach out best to the general public, and have been able to convey this interest in very engaging terms.

Jonathan Amos BBC News Science Correspondent

Seeing the science

The campaign illuminated the University's scientific involvement in the Herschel Space Observatory, a €1 billion astronomical satellite launched in 2009 and operated until 2013.

Herschel observed the Universe with three scientific instruments, one of which (SPIRE) was built by an international team led by the Cardiff Astronomy Instrumentation Group.

The PR campaign promoted inspirational scientists and provided up-to-date media materials, a schools programme and an outreach website to fire media and public interest in the UK SPIRE team and Herschel.

Inspiring with SPIRE

SPIRE is a large multinational project (18 institutes in eight countries, including six in the UK), with a total budget of around €90M. The project started in 1998 following approval by the European Space Agency. The Cardiff Astronomy Instrumentation Group came to lead the project to construct and operate SPIRE, which was delivered to the Herschel spacecraft for installation in 2007.

Deep impact

The programme took space science into schoolrooms across the UK, and provided exciting media insights into science and technology.

Teachers were enthusiastic. "One of the most fulfilling weeks of my professional career was when the Cardiff Astronomy team came over to Monkton. To see the enthusiasm engendered in the pupils, not only in that last week, but in the months and years afterwards – indeed, they are still talking about it!" said Sam Chilcott, Monkton Combe science teacher.

In years to come, Herschel's database of observations will open up new scientific frontiers and the outreach programme with educators and the media will continue. To date, Herschel has produced over 1040 refereed scientific papers, about 40 per cent of which use SPIRE instrument data. In 2014, the SPIRE team was awarded the Royal Astronomical Society Group Achievement Award

Meet our experts

Professor Matt Griffin

Professor Matt Griffin

Head of Astronomy Instrumentation Group
Cardiff Hub for Astrophysics Research and Technology (Co-Director)

+44 (0)29 2087 4203

As well as creating projects and partnerships with communities, we also welcome the public at many of our events and activities.