The Helix Nebula
Members of the University of Exeter's Astrophysics Group prepare for the astronomy open evening JOHN FFOULKES
STARGAZERS at the city's university are offering people the chance to explore the universe.
The astronomy evening at Exeter University will offer a host of activities for adults and children.
The University of Exeter Astrophysics Group is hosting the free event tonight to mark the International Year of Astronomy.
It includes a talk by science writer and broadcaster Ian Ridpath, and the astrophysics group will share its latest discoveries with talks, pictures and movies and will give hands-on demonstrations.
Dr Jennifer Hatchell, of the university's School of Physics, said: "As astronomers, we work with beautiful images of space and exciting new ideas everyday.
"The International Year of Astronomy is a chance for everyone to experience these things, and we look forward to sharing them with our visitors."
The researchers work with some of the world's most powerful supercomputers and telescopes, including the Hubble Space Telescope, and have worked on some major space missions.
Guests can find out more about how this research is changing our understanding of how stars and planets form.
An exhibition of astronomy images will be on display and visitors will have the opportunity to try out telescopes and binoculars.
If the weather permits people can join the university astrophysicists in guided observations of the moon, planets and star clusters.
The University of Exeter has one of the UK's largest astrophysics groups, working in the fields of star formation and planet research.
The group focuses on one of the most fundamental problems in modern astronomy — when do stars and planets form and how does it happen?
They carry out numerical simulations to study young stars and their planet-forming disks.
The university's research helps to put the sun and the solar system into context and understand the variety of stars and planetary systems that exist in Earth's galaxy.
Over the next three years, the university is investing £80m in five areas of scientific research, one of which is extra-solar planets.
The open evening will begin at 7pm at the Peter Chalk Centre, at the university's Streatham Campus, and booking is not required.
For further details, go to www.astro.ex.ac.uk/ iya2009.